Twitter row at Wrexham Council meeting

Reporter:

Liam Randall

A ROW has broken out after a councillor was rebuked for tweeting.

Cllr Arfon Jones – the only Plaid Cymru councillor left on Wrexham Council after May’s elections – was taken to one side and told he could not use Twitter.

Wrexham Council chief executive Dr Helen Paterson had to remind the councillor use of social media during meetings was against Standing Orders.

Cllr Jones said nothing about the issue during yesterday’s executive board meeting at the Guildhall but later on Twitter he wrote: “Imagine you are an elected member in a public meeting and you want to tell people quite legitimately what is going on... but you are banned from doing so and if you do you breach the Code of Conduct for using electronic means (Twitter). Absurd.”

At the meeting the Wrexham Council Press and public relations team were monitoring the Wrexham Council Twitter account. Press officer Gill Stevens noticed Cllr Jones had been tweeting updates on proceedings from his phone and reported the matter to Dr Paterson.

Outside the room Dr Paterson advised Cllr Jones that under the council’s constitution live transmission from meetings was not permitted without prior consent from the chairman.

Labour council leader Neil Rogers later told colleagues: “I’m concerned some members have been tweeting during the meeting this afternoon.

“Standing Order 45 of the council constitution prohibits transmission from meetings without prior permission from the chair.

“Cllr Arfon Jones has been ejected from the meeting after he was found tweeting.
“I am annoyed I wasn’t asked as chair and I would please plead that it doesn’t happen again.”

However, Cllr Jones has disputed Cllr Rogers’ version of events and said he was not ejected from the meeting.

He said: “I was invited outside by the chief executive who advised me that I shouldn’t tweet as it as it was against the constitution. I then went back in and later left of my own accord after the item on subsidised transport, which I always had every intention of leaving after.”

He added: “It’s about time we revised the consitution to allow members and visitors to use social media during meetings to aid openness and transparency.”

It later emerged that talks aimed at altering the constitution have been taking place between the council’s officers.

Standing order 45 of Wrexham Council’s constitution entitled ‘Photograph and Recording at Meetings’ states: “Proceedings at meetings may not be photographed, videoed, sound recorded or transmitted in any way outside the meeting without prior permission of the chair.

Tweeting is now allowed in Parliament, in the Senedd in Cardiff and in courts.

See full story in the Leader

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