Portsmouth councillors criticised for ‘juvenile’ abuse on Twitter

Portsmouth councillors were criticised for abuse on Twitter
Portsmouth councillors were criticised for abuse on Twitter
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TWEETS sent by Portsmouth councillors have been labelled ‘ill-judged, petty and juvenile’ by the man who led the authority’s bullying investigation.

Richard Lingard criticised members for their online spats and said Facebook and other social platforms were ‘inappropriate forums’ to conduct council business.

He warned members should think ‘very carefully’ before using social media and the 140-character limit on Twitter is ‘no excuse’ to be rude.

And Mr Lingard called on the council to revamp its training procedures and give ‘clear guidance’ to those newly elected about the use of social media.

Another key recommendation included firm guidance being issued by city solicitor Michael Lawther about members making ‘trivial’ complaints about other members so they can be investigated.

Meanwhile, councillors were interviewed as part of the probe to get their views on the council’s political culture.

Lib Dem councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who was council leader for 10 years up until June last year, told Mr Lingard that when he arrived in Portsmouth he was ‘not used to inner city politics’ and ‘politics in leafy Berkshire’ was very different.

The report says Cllr Vernon-Jackson was ‘very surprised’ at the culture of the council when he arrived and has tried to change it.

He found it to be ‘confrontational, inward looking and deeply short-term.’

Councillor Donna Jones, Tory council leader, said she had already begun to take action in light of the document’s findings.

‘I have been horrified at the stories I have heard about particular councillors, but in particular those who have been part of the old boys’ club that have been in the council for the last 15 to 20 years,’ she said.

She added: ‘I have already initiated training sessions for councillors so they know how their actions and behaviour will be interpreted by staff, particularly if they make off-the-cuff comments.

‘I am not surprised by a couple of the councillors who have come out of the investigation looking particularly bad – that being Councillors Hunt and Madden.’

Councillors told to behave