This 'Acceptable Use Policy', defines the purposes for which a Councillor cannot use their web pages. In summary these are:
- the introduction of content that may result in actions for libel, defamation or other claims for damages
- the processing of personal data other than for the purpose stated at the time of capture
- the promotion of any political party or campaigning organisation
- the promotion personal financial interests, commercial ventures or personal campaigns
- using the site in an abusive or hateful manner.
Further details are given below.
If a statement is made which exposes a person to hatred, ridicule or contempt, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his office, trade or profession in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally then the person can bring an action. If the statement is made in written form the action will be for defamation, if made orally the action will be for slander.
Councillors may not use their web pages to publish defamatory statements or material. Anyone who believes that they have been defamed by a Councillor will be able to take legal action directly against the Councillor concerned. The relevant legislation is the Defamation Act 1996 and the full text can be found by visiting: Office of Public Sector Information - Defamation Act 1996 .
A Councillor is only permitted to publish information in the context of the Councillor's official role in respect of matters of general public interest.
Councillors are responsible for content of their own webpages. The Chief Law and Administration Officer will oversee the publication of information and provide advice to Councillors, as necessary. For the avoidance of any doubt, the Council does not authorise, or in any way sanction, the publication of statements which might be construed as defamatory.
When managing webpages, Councillors may receive comments, enquiries or complaints from members of the public. Councillors may refer to (or publish) material that is based upon information drawn from the Local Authority or obtained from external sources. All such personal information should be treated with care and respect for relevant data protection law.
Anyone processing personal data must comply with the eight enforceable principles of good practice. This states that data must be:
- fairly and lawfully processed;
- processed for limited purposes;
- adequate, relevant and not excessive;
- not kept longer than necessary;
- processed in accordance with the data subject's rights;
- not transferred to countries without adequate protection.
Personal data covers both facts and opinions about the individual. It also includes information regarding the intentions of the data controller towards the individual. The definition of processing incorporates the concepts of 'obtaining', holding' and 'disclosing'.
The Councillor confirms that he or she has read the Council's own policy on data protection and accepts the provisions of it. In doing so, the Councillor acknowledges that links to and information about web pages or addresses cannot be displayed on a Councillor's web page.
The Data Protection Act applies and the full-text of the 1998 Act can be found by visiting: Data Protection Act 1998
For further details on the eight principles of Data Protection and compliance advice from the Information Commissioner, visit: Information Commissioner's Office - Data Protection Principles .
Because all web pages are funded by a Local Authority, Councillors may not use their web page to promote political campaigns and advocate political stances on issues. They may not use the web page to promote a political party or persons identified with a political party, nor to promote or oppose a view on a question of political controversy which is identifiable as the view of one political party and not of another.
Section 4 of the 1986 Local Government Act enabled the Secretary of State to issue a Code of Practice on Local Authority publicity. The original Code was amended in 2001. The Code was made more flexible in relation to publicity about individual councillors and the relevant paragraphs are:
"Publicity about individual councillors may include the contact details, the positions they hold in the Council (for example a member of the Executive or Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee) and their responsibilities. Publicity may also include information about individual councillors' proposals, decisions and recommendations only where this is relevant to their position and responsibilities within the council. All such publicity should be objective and explanatory and whilst it may acknowledge the part played by individual councillors as holders of particular positions in the council, personalisation of issues or personal image-making should be avoided.
Publicity should not be, or liable to misrepresentation as being, party political. Whilst it may be appropriate to describe policies put forward by an individual councillor which are relevant to her/his position and responsibilities within the council, and to put forward his/her justification in defence of them, this should not be done in party political terms, using political slogans, expressly advocating policies of those of a particular political party, or directly attacking policies and opinions of other parties, groups or individuals".
Representation of the People Act Restrictions
During election times (from the 'notice of an election' to the election itself), parts of Councillors' web pages will be suspended. Contact information will still however continue to be displayed.
Other Statutory Issues
Care should be taken to ensure compliance with Local Government legislation and Local Authority's policies on the following issues
- The particular legislative requirements relating to discrimination/incitement to racial hatred etc. (Anti-Terrorism, Crime And Security Act 2001 & Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000)
- Publication of obscene material (Obscene Publications Act 1959, Protection of Children Act 1978, Criminal Justice Act 1988).
The text of all legislation can be found by visiting: Office of Public Sector Information - Acts of the UK Parliament .
Elected Members Code of Conduct
Calderdale Council has provisions that govern the conduct of Councillors. Councillor's web pages should be used with due regard to the 'Members Code of Conduct', see: Members Code of Conduct [PDF 36KB] .
In the event of a Councillor having a complaint about the content of the Councillor web page of another Councillor then that complaint will be referred to the Monitoring Officer.
On a general level
- The site must not be used in a way that will bring Councillors or the Council into disrepute
- The site must promote equality by not discriminating unlawfully against any person, treating others with respect and not to do anything which compromises the impartiality of those who work for or on behalf of the authority.
- To treat Local Government Officer's recommendations or known views impartially
- Councillors must not disclose information given to them in confidence or information acquired, which they believe, is of a confidential nature without the consent of a person authorised to give it.
- Councillors must not use their Councillor web page to disclose information which the Council has considered in private session, or which they are on notice is confidential for any other reason.
- Councillors must not use their Councillor web page to secure personal advantage or secure use for themselves or others of the resources of the authority (for instance, by advertising a commercial service or by using the site to encourage the Council to purchase a particular item or service).
Tainting of Decision Making through Biased / Closed Minds
Councillors who are in positions of determining quasi-judicial processes, particularly planning and licensing applications, or determining the outcome of consultation exercises must exercise care to keep an open mind on issues which he or she may be required to make decisions.
The use of individual web pages to set out a clear position on a particular issue could well provide evidence of bias based on a particular personal interest or view, or a closed mind. This would demonstrate the artificiality of the Councillor then purporting to consider openly all issues in the determination of that matter.
To have regard to all relevant advice when reaching decisions and to give reasons for decisions
Councillors must give an accurate and even-handed account of discussions or processes that lead to decisions being taken. For example, Councillors must not give a one-sided account of the reasons for a planning application being refused.