Introduction 

This paper has been developed to provide Wellesbourne and Walton Parish Council (WWPC) with a social media policy to safeguard those posting content and to protect and enhance the reputation of the Council.

The policy of the Council is to encourage the use of social media, to allow the Council to engage with local parishioners and stakeholders, as well as communicate with a wider and more diverse audience within the Wellesbourne, Walton and wider Stratford-on-Avon District.

WWPC has a website. It also plans to set up a Facebook page or pages. Over time the Council may add to the channels of communication it uses, such as setting up a Twitter account. In this event this policy will be updated accordingly.

This policy is designed to encourage the most appropriate and effective use of social media via the Council website and Facebook page. It also provides guidelines for Council staff and Councillors when using social media on Council business and on their own personal account.

Scope of this Policy 

This policy supplements, and should be read in conjunction with, all other policies and procedures adopted by the Council, such as the Anti-Harassment Policy, Data Protection Policy, Disciplinary Procedure, Equal Opportunities Policy, Freedom of Information Policy, Members’ Code of Conduct, Policy for Vexations/Repeated Correspondence, Press Policy and so on.

This policy covers all individuals involved with the work of the Council, including all elected and co-opted Councillors, the Clerk to the Council and all other employees and volunteers. It applies to the use of social media for both WWPC and personal purposes, at any time.

This policy does not form part of any contract of employment and it may be amended at any time.

This policy applies to the use of all forms of online activity.

Users of WWPC’s social media channels who are not covered by this policy (for example, anyone who posts on the Facebook page) will be directed to WWPC’s terms and conditions for use, which will be published on the WWPC website (see Appendix). These will include a warning that the WWPC reserves the right to delete any posts that breach this policy. 

Appropriate use of WWPC social media channels 

The WWPC website is the Parish Council’s principal social media platform. The role of the Facebook page is to support, amplify and share information on the website, as well as posting items more suitable to the Facebook format.

For example, the minutes of a Council meeting would appear on the website; reminders to find them there would appear on the Facebook page, with links.

Appropriate purposes of the WWPC Facebook page, with links to the website where needed, include to:

  • Provide and share information about the Council’s activities
  • Post notices and minutes of Council and committee meetings
  • Provide updates on Council projects
  • Advertise Council vacancies
  • Share information from partners eg police, library, District Council
  • Post or share information about local services
  • Post or share information promoting community bodies such as schools, sports clubs and local charities
  • Promote cultural events or tourism for the area
  • Link to appropriate websites or other media if they meet the Council’s acceptability criteria

Content posted on the WWPC Facebook page should be accurate, balanced, clear, informed and objective. It is not intended that the WWPC Facebook page should become a forum for the community, for example to share personal news or offer items for sale, as other social media channels already exist for this.

 Channels and responsibilities

WWPC website

The WWPC website is hosted by http://www.names.co.uk and is normally continuously available. Its address is http://wellesbournepc.com

  • Barry Saunders, the web manager, is responsible for publishing content, supplied to him via the Council nominated officers, to the website.
  • The Chairman of the Council, Vice Chairman and another nominated Councillor are responsible for approving content on the website before publication. In the Chairman’s absence the Vice Chairman will deputise.
  • The web manager and the Chairman of the Council have unrestricted access to post agreed content on the website.
  • The Clerk to the Council and Administrative Assistant also have the right to post specific items of content, eg approved agendas and minutes of meetings, at the discretion of the Chairman.
  • Monthly Committee reports to Council should be posted by the Clerk or Administrative Assistant at the same time as the Agenda of that Council meeting.
  • Councillors and staff wishing to post items of interest on the website should send them to the Chairman or other nominated person for approval and posting. 

WWPC Facebook page

The WWPC Facebook page is located at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wellesbourne-and-Walton-Parish-Council/1475636762738515

  • The Chairman of the Parish Council is responsible for posting items on the Facebook page and for replying to user comments.
  • The Chairman of the Parish Council is responsible for approving posts for the Facebook page, and any replies, before publication, and for ensuring they comply with this policy.
  • When the Chairman is unavailable, the Vice Chairman will deputise.

Guidance on using social media channels 

Anyone who is involved with the work of the Council and to whom this policy applies is expected to observe standards of behaviour online that maintain the reputation of the Council and do not bring it into disrepute, or place the Council at risk of breaching any laws.

This applies whether individuals are using social media as representatives of the Council or on their own personal account.

Specifically, individuals should not:

  • post or share any content which is derogatory or offensive about the Council, Council staff or Councillors, or about the people, businesses and agencies the Council works with and serves.
  • post or share any content deemed confidential by WWPC.
  • post or share any content or use any language which is abusive, defamatory, harassing, harmful, libellous, obscene, profane, or offensive to gender, faith, age, disability, race or sexual orientation.
  • post or share anyone’s personal information, other than basic necessary contact details.
  • post or share any content that infringes copyright or intellectual property of any company or individual.
  • post or share any photographs of children without their parent’s or guardian’s written consent.

Additional guidance for Councillors

In addition to the general points above, specific guidelines apply to Councillors and co-opted members of committees:

  1. Code of Conduct

The Councillors’ Code of Conduct applies to Councillors whenever they are representing, or claiming to represent, the Council in an official capacity as Councillor.

It also applies to Councillors’ personal conduct, if this could be regarded as bringing the office of Councillor, or the Council, into disrepute.

If a Councillor, or co-opted member of a committee, can be identified as a Councillor or co-opted member when using social media, either by his or her account name, autobiography, or by the issues he or she comments on, the Code of Conduct applies.

  1. Personal accounts v Council representation

The Code of Conduct does not apply to social media accounts run by a Councillor in a purely personal capacity, but it is important to bear in mind the provision about personal conduct. People following a Councillor’s personal social media accounts may also not be aware of the distinction.

Personal social media accounts should carry a disclaimer, such as ‘All views are personal,’ and profiles should not contain links to the WWPC website or Facebook page.

Councillors should not comment on Council business on their personal accounts, or when commenting online anywhere in a personal capacity.

These also apply to co-opted members of committees.

  1. Predetermination 

Whether posting as Councillors or on their own personal account, Councillors must avoid saying anything that may be used as evidence that they have made their mind up about a particular issue before it has been discussed by the Council.

Breaches of the policy

Serious breaches of the policy may be dealt with via the provisions of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct or the Employee Disciplinary Procedure as appropriate. Breach of the policy by a volunteer may result in the Council no longer using his or her services, and taking further action if necessary.