First ‘social media policy’ for Argyll and Bute Council

Argyll and Bute Council is set to adopt a social media policy for the first time – after months of negative publicity surrounding the authority’s use of modern communications technology.

The authority’s 36 councillors will be asked to consider and approve a draft policy when they meet in Lochgilphead on August 23.

The draft policy itself, and the background report accompanying it, make no mention of the social media troubles encountered by the authority over the last few months, which began with the suspension of its communications manager, Jo Smith, in February after a newspaper article reported that she had mentioned the use of ‘spy accounts’ in a talk she gave at a social media conference last year.

Those waters got stormier when an external consultant was hired to investigate the report – a step later revealed to have cost the council £30,000 – and when, in the course of his investigation, two highly respected members of the council’s communications team resigned after it was discovered they had made derogatory comments about a senior official on an internal messaging system.

The low point in the council’s troubled relationship with social media, though, came when senior officials tried to prevent Lochgilphead Primary pupil Martha Payne taking pictures of her school meals which she then published on her NeverSeconds blog, set up to help raise money for Argyll-based charity Mary’s Meals.

That tactic backfired spectacularly when followers of the blog across the world reacted furiously at what they saw as a clumsy attempt at censorship – prompting a swift climbdown from those in authority and a remarkable increase in donations to Mary’s Meals, which have so far reached £113,000.