POLITICIANS and council staff have been given the green light to use social media sites like Twitter during meetings – despite concerns that their attention could be distracted.
On Wednesday, members at Aylesbury Vale District Council agreed the move could make them more accessible to the public.
But councillors were told that plans to broadcast meetings live over the internet had been put on hold because of an £11,000 cost.
Cabinet member Councillor Phil Yerby, Conservative, said that during a debate about the Waterside Theatre, eight people in the chamber and three members of the public had taken to Twitter.
Backing Mr Yerby, Councillor Steven Lambert, Lib Dem, said: “Coming to meetings isn’t people’s favourite way of interacting with their councillors, so this is another feather to our bow.”
Mr Yerby said it was often more distracting when councillors came to meetings badly prepared, and said: “Tweeting is allowed in Parliament, MPs are doing it during debates, though I’m not saying that’s a defence.”
Opposing the move, Councillor Chris Richards, Conservative, who was the one politician to vote against the council’s new policy, said he opposed using Twitter during meetings.
He told his fellow councillors: “I’m comfortable with the public and the media recording and texting, but I’m uncomfortable with councillors doing it.
“I’ve observed some members obviously texting during meetings, and by doing it their attention is distracted.”
Mr Richards told the chamber he would not be supporting the bid, stating: “We either do our job properly or we don’t do it at all.”
And deputy leader Michael Edmonds warned against the pitfalls of Tweeting during meetings, saying councillors and officers could end up in hot water if they made inaccurate of libellous claims on the site.
He said: “Members need to be aware of the dangers of this in certain circumstances. You need to be very, very careful.”
Mr Yerby told the chamber that the council was ‘pretty close’ to being able to webcast meetings, but he had decided to hold back because of the cost.
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