The City Solicitor of Manchester City Council has, as predicted, said that the City Council tweeting out some [blatant and misleading] eco-tosh was NOT a breach of rules about Councils responsibilities during an election process.
So far so predictable.
What’s more suggestive/amusing is that the offending tweets have…. disappeared from the Council’s twitter feed.
On Saturday MCFly wrote a Freedom of Information Act request about the tweets and any advice the Communications team took/was given about tweeting in the run up to local elections. MCFly also wrote to the City Solicitor, who has the legal responsibility to ensure the rules are abided by. You can read both here.
And we said it would all be brushed aside.
And it was.
The full reply was this –
Dear Dr Hudson,
Thank you for your email in respect of potential breaches of Purdah.
I note your concerns that the tweets in your view exaggerated the success achieved to date, whilst trying to ensure our communications are clear and properly reflect the activity undertaken by the authority I am sorry you considered these to be inaccurate.
You have asked a number of questions:
- The tweets were generated to inform what work has been undertaken in respect of climate change as this is a key priority for the authority. They were generated by the communications team as part of their earth day content marking a significant occasion in encouraging positive action, and checked by a communications business partner planned work program.
- I note your request for an apology this seems neither appropriate or proportionate to me.
- We currently have some guidance which I will be revisiting as I do after any election to try and ensure the guidance around Purdah rules are met. All communications staff have been reminded of the pre-election guidance.
Your Freedom of Information request will be dealt with by the relevant team in the usual way.
That’s how things WORK in Manchester.
But the deletion of the Tweets? Well, a cynic might call that a tactic admission of guilt…
I’ve written back the following –
Dear Ms Ledden
thank you for your speedy reply.
I would like to know the following.
1. Do you agree that it is “extremely important that the Council’s communications are crystal clear, accurate and cannot be perceived as an endorsement of any particular party.”
(I am sure you will say yes).
2. Is there any other body to which I can appeal this matter (the Electoral Commission? An ombudsman?) or are you in fact, again, as you have been on a previous complaint about the conduct of the leader of the Council, the judge, jury and (non)executioner?
3. If the Earth Day Tweets were not problematic, why have they been deleted? Who took that decision?
If you need the last question as a FOIA before you will answer it, please do let me know and I will oblige as speedily as you have deeply considered and responded to this complaint.
Dr Marc Hudson