Guidance notes for Councillors
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Guidance Notes on Content for Councillor websites
This guidance is issued to help councillors ensure they stay within the rules when publishing content on their website. It also offers useful assistance to those viewing the websites as to what is and what is not permitted.
This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Terms and Conditions for creating a website using essexinfo.net.
Terms and Conditions
Councillors using essexinfo.net to create a website are entirely responsible for the content of that website. The essexinfo.net team is not responsible for approving any content published on a councillor's website and does not authorise or sanction any statement so published.
All councillors must confirm that they accept the essexinfo.net 'Terms and Conditions' before they can proceed to create a website. As part of the 'Terms and Conditions', councillors confirm that they will abide by the Members Code of Conduct of the Authority to which they are elected.
A councillor is only permitted to publish information in the context of their official role in respect of matters of general public interest. This has been described as the councillor's ‘community leadership role'.
A councillor may:
- Publish their name, other personal details and details of how they may be contacted, for example addresses, surgery times etc.
- Give details of areas of specialism and personal interest
- Publish news and updates about activities in their division or ward
- Give an accurate and even handed account of discussions or processes that lead to decisions being taken
- Use a ‘My Politics' section on their website to link to external websites of a political nature.
However, a councillor may not use their website to:
- Promote political campaigns and advocate political stances on issues
- Promote a political party or persons identified with a political party
- Promote or oppose a view on a question of political controversy which is identifiable as the view of one political party and not of another
Other Key Restrictions
Prejudicial Interest - Tainting of decision making through biased/closed minds
Councillors who are in positions of determining quasi-judicial processes, particularly planning and licensing applications, or determining the outcome of consultation exercises, must exercise care to keep an open mind on issues upon which he or she may be required to make decisions.
Use of individual websites to set out a clear position on a particular issue could well provide evidence of bias based on a particular personal interest or view, or a closed mind. This would demonstrate the artificiality of the councillor then purporting to consider openly all issues in the determination of that matter and care should therefore be taken where these issues might apply.
Other Statutory issues
Councillors must not:
- Disclose information given to them in confidence or information acquired, which they believe, is of a confidential nature without the consent of a person authorised to give it
- Use their councillor website to disclose information which has been considered by the authority to which they are elected in private session or which they are on notice is confidential for any other reason
- Use their councillor website to confer on or secure for themselves or others an advantage or disadvantage
- Use their councillor website to secure use for themselves or others the resources of essexinfo.net or the Essex Online Partnership (for instance by advertising a commercial service or by using the website to encourage members of the EOLP to purchase a particular item or service)
Care should be taken to ensure compliance with legislation and Local Authority policies generally. The text of all legislation can be found at http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts.htm#acts
Representation of the People Act Restrictions
During election times (from ‘notice of an election' to the election itself), most parts of Councillors' websites must be suspended.
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