Hypocrisy row over council ‘tweeting’

Wigan Central ward Labour representative Coun Michael McLoughlin
Wigan Central ward Labour representative Coun Michael McLoughlin

Council bosses have been accused of hypocrisy over the treatment of elected members who tweet during chamber meetings.

Former independent representative Gareth Fairhurst was forced out of a meeting in 2014 after police officers were called.

The often controversial councillor had ignored warnings by the then mayor not to tweet during proceedings and refused to leave his seat.

However, Labour member Coun Michael McLoughlin tweeted during Wednesday’s budget meeting, later claiming the rules about social media have been relaxed.

The discrepancy was not missed by Mr Fairhurst though who tweeted: “Yet more evidence it is one rule for opposition and (an)other for Labour. I bet no police have been called yet.”

Coun McLoughlin, who represents Labour for Wigan Central ward and was present at the controversial 2014 meeting, said he had sought clarification of the rules since Wednesday.

He received the following reply from the town hall’s democratic services: “We do advise that the council meeting is an important meeting and members should refrain from tweeting and concentrate on the meeting and on the items being discussed.”

He therefore told the Wigan Post: “I am sympathetic to the sentiment of that message. I read ‘advise’ and ‘refrain’ to be soft words.

“My inference therefore is that the council’s position has changed since 2014, particularly, there has indeed been a relaxation.”

He said elected members have been issued with iPads, suggesting the council therefore “encourages members to tweet.”

However, a vast majority of councillors have stayed well clear of social media during proceedings since the 2014 fallout and no such explanation of any relaxation has been communicated to the chamber in the years since.