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Will Twitter come to the Council Chamber?

November 20, 2010 4:02 PM
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Several Lib Dem councillors use Twitter - contact us for account names to follow

When the Chairmen of some of the Council's Committees complained about the use of Twitter during meetings, the outcome wasn't quite what they expected!

Twitter is a form of social media. It's free and available to anyone with a mobile phone, computer or other such gadget to access the internet. The Twitter website enables people to "tweet" a message of up to 140 characters and then share it with their "followers". Subscribers to Twitter can also "follow" others. Sending out tweets during a council meeting enables members of the public to follow the proceedings. The attraction of Twitter is that it is very simple and very limited.

Opposition councillors do sometimes use Twitter during meetings. It's a way of engaging with members of the public, particularly when meetings are debating controversial topics. In September this year, when the Epsom Station development was being discussed, a local newspaper reporter who was present at the meeting sent messages via Twitter every few minutes. MPs use Twitter from the House of Commons.

Discussions concerning the complaint centred about the possibility of webcasts from the Council Chamber - this is where a meeting is transmitted live and can be viewed over the internet (Surrey CC now do this and so does Mole Valley DC) but most importantly, the possibility of a council officer tweeting proceedings. The set up costs of webcasts are huge and could not be considered at the present time, but sending messages via Twitter could potentially cost nothing. If a council employee was involved in tweeting from meetings, any messages, of course, would have to be entirely factual and non-political. Chief Executive Frances Rutter agreed to give the matter some further thought and consideration.

Tweeting from the council chamber will therefore continue provided it is not considered disruptive, but with some elderly members of the ruling Residents' Party unlikely to know what Twitter is, this story may well continue ....