To tweet or not to tweet? Councillor's '˜twit' comment sparks row

A councillor's remarks about social media have initiated a '˜tweet-gate' spat.

Not a fan of social media: Ricky Bower
Not a fan of social media: Ricky Bower

A discussion over Arun District Council’s new social media policy for councillors did not go down well with East Preston councillor Ricky Bower on Tuesday.

Expressing doubts over the merits of social media in light of recent national cases where politicians had got into hot water for things said online, Mr Bower said: “I follow the main advice and that is only twits tweet.”

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While appearing to be tongue-in-cheek, Mr Bower’s comments have sparked outrage amongst opposition Liberal Democrat councillors, who pounced on the remarks, reported in today’s Littlehampton Gazette.

Lib Dem leader Francis Oppler said: “I am asking councillor Bower to apologise immediately and unreservedly for calling local people ‘twits’ if they use Twitter.

“Many hundreds of people across Arun of all ages use Twitter to communicate with each other. It’s simply wrong for councillor Bower to insult these people and is very disrespectful.”

The new guidelines will be issued to councillors, alongside a separate policy for staff.

They were described at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting as ‘common sense’ guidelines.

Councillor Paul Dendle welcomed the policy and use of social media, which he felt was important for engagement.

He added, however, that he recommended an additional principle to the guidelines should be to do so while sober.

Mr Bower added: “There is a rule I follow and it is (that it is) safest not to do so in the first place.

“The comeback that we have seen with some people in the public eye who have circulated tweets from three, four, five years ago and now get into trouble is quit horrendous and frightening.

“Surely the best guidance is not to do it?”

Over in Worthing, Marine ward’s Edward Crouch is, perhaps, the polar opposite to Mr Bower.

He regularly updates his Facebook page with video updates, live chats and even broadcasts of meetings.

He also posts monthly time sheets to update residents on the amount of work undertaken.

According to his 2015 tally, Mr Crouch, who sits on planning and licensing committees, completed 224 hours and 47 minutes’ work.

Those interested in learning more about social media can access computer courses at the Tamarisk Centre, in Littlehampton.

What do you think? Should councillors use social media to engage with the public? Comment below.