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Blanket ban on broadcasting ‘shutting voters out’
Posted by 20th February 2013
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3 Comments
20
Feb 2013

While some communities still face barriers accessing the internet, for others online channels like council websites, Twitter and Facebook are important ways of finding out information.  From big decisions like planning applications, through to everyday information like whether your local school’s shut today, the internet is a powerful tool.

 

Yet in many Welsh town halls, council bosses are conducting business like it was the last century.

 

New figures obtained by the Electoral Reform Society show that authorities across Wales are failing to use the internet to engage local residents.  Just two authorities: Cardiff County Council and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority routinely broadcast full council meetings live on the internet.  Powys County Council provides a partial service while Monmouthshire and Torfaen are both exploring plans to broadcast in the future.

 

Last month, the local government minister Carl Sargeant announced £1.25million of Welsh Government funding to promote the broadcasting of council meetings and improve the range of information available to the public about their town or community council.

 

21 of Wales’ 25 local councils and national park authorities responded to the Electoral Reform Society’s survey.  We found that:

 

  • Just four authorities: Cardiff, Monmouthshire, Swansea and Torfaen actively allowed councillors to use social media networks to update voters during full council meetings;
  • 16 of the 21 authorities currently do not broadcast any council proceedings.  Only Cardiff and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority routinely broadcast all full meetings;
  • In Bridgend, Carmarthenshire, Isle of Anglesey, Merthyr Tydfil and Wrexham local councillors are barred from updating voters during full council meetings using social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook;
  • Councils’ corporate use of Twitter and Facebook also varied across Wales.  In the capital, Cardiff council’s official Twitter account had over 13,000 ‘followers’ during the survey period, followed by Swansea with nearly 9,000 and Monmouthshire  on 5,000.  At the opposite end of the table, Ceredigion had just 45 followers for its Welsh language Tweeter feed.

 

Councils with a blanket ban on broadcasting business are shutting voters out and urgently need to change.

 

Meetings in Westminster and the National Assembly are broadcast on television and online.  It’s only right that local authorities follow suit and give voters better access.

 

 

 Authorities’ policies on ‘live’ Tweeting and Facebooking during full meetings* 
 Permit activity   Have no policy  Only at the discretion of the meeting chair   Prohibited
Cardiff Caerphilly Pembrokeshire Bridgend
Monmouthshire Conwy Rhondda Cynon Taf Carmarthenshire
Swansea Flintshire Brecon Beacons NPA Isle of Anglesey
Torfaen Gwynedd Pembrokeshire Coast NPA Merthyr Tydfil
  Newport   Wrexham
  Powys    
  Vale of Glamorgan    
  Snowdonia NPA    

 

*Did not respond: Blaenau Gwent; Ceredigion; Denbighshire; Neath Port Talbot;

 

 

Local authorities and followers on Twitter (table below).

Position Council Twitter* Twitter (ENG) Twitter Welsh)

1

Cardiff 13,223    

2

Swansea 8,857    

3

Monmouthshire 5,004    

4

Vale of Glamorgan 4,500    

5

Wrexham 3,997    

6

Snowdonia NPA 3,936 3,660 276

7

Pembrokeshire 3,808    

8

Torfaen 3,305    

9

Pembrokeshire Coast NPA 2,906    

10

Powys 2,734    

11

Gwynedd 2,604    

12

Flintshire 2,548    

13

Conwy 1,550 1,436 114

14

Newport 1,354    

15

Merthyr Tydfil 1,130    

16

Bridgend 931    

17

Ceredigion 742 697 45

18

Brecon Beacons NPA 687    

19

Carmarthenshire 673    

20

Anglesey 318 198 120
  RCT 0**    

 

*For authorities operating separate  English language and Welsh language Twitter fields, these figures provide the combined total.

** RCT Twitter feed not yet launched during time of survey.

Did not respond: Blaenau Gwent; Ceredigion; Denbighshire; Neath Port Talbot; Caerphilly

 

 

 

 

 
Comments

3 Responses to Blanket ban on broadcasting ‘shutting voters out’

    Arfon Jones
    20 Feb 2013
    10:23am

    As the councillor who received ‘words of advice ‘ from Wrexham’s Chief Executive for tweeting from a council meeting, I have tried to amend our constitution but was deferred for a decision by committee. As a member of the ERS I would ask that you ask the Local Government Minister to include an amendment to the Local Democracy Bill allowing the unrestricted use of social media in ALL meetings to which the press and public are allowed.

      petermorris
      20 Feb 2013
      11:01am

      If it is good enough for the House of Commons it should be good enough for council chambers!

    petermorris
    20 Feb 2013
    11:00am

    Blimey – if tweeting is allowed in the House of Commons, why are council chambers more restrictive than them? http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/oct/13/twitter-allowed-house-of-commons