Mayor’s Facebook page request turned down due to trolling fears

A request by Stone’s mayor to set up a public Facebook page has been turned down by the town council amid concerns the first citizen could be trolled by other internet users.

Stone Town Mayor Jonathan Powell
Stone Town Mayor Jonathan Powell

Councillor Jonathan Powell, the current mayor, told fellow members of Stone Town Council he wanted to set up the social media presence to highlight the work of community groups and charities he visits as part of his civic duties.

A monthly report of mayoral activities and visits is already produced and presented at monthly council meetings, but the online page would make the information more widely available to residents.

Councillor Powell said: “I have my own personal Facebook page and I put things on but I’m very careful of the people who are allowed to see the page – they are only friends of mine and it’s not open to everybody. The idea is to promote the events and organisations that put on events the town mayor is invited to and have a much larger and broader reach.”

Some fellow councillors supported the move, but others did not, with five voting in favour and five against. Councillor Rob Kenney, chair of the general purposes committee which considered the request, used his casting vote against the proposal.

Councillor Jim Davies said: “I wouldn’t want the mayor exposed to trolling or aggravation. I don’t think that’s fair on our mayor to have to deal with that.”

A report to the meeting said: “Currently the council’s press and media protocol prohibits any councillor from posting on social media in an official capacity, and in particular prohibits the reference to any position held by the writer within the council, the use of the council crest/logo and the council’s phone number. This is for good reason, and is intended mainly to avoid any confusion about whether any views expressed in the post are those of the council or those of the writer.

“These rules, however, also prevent the setting up by the mayor of a Facebook or other social media site in his official capacity, even if it only relates to mayoral activities. The town mayor, Councillor Jonathan Powell, has requested that he be allowed to set up a Facebook or other social media site related solely to mayoral activities.

“It has long been the objective of the council to set up its own Facebook site. This has, however, been delayed by the vacancy in the events and marketing post and it was decided to combine this post with the new role of heritage centre manager, so it has remained vacant pending the need to recruit to that post.

“Recruitment to this combined post will be the subject of a future report to the management sub-committee, but it is unlikely to be filled until the latter part of this year. Whilst it is clearly better to have a single council Facebook page covering all matters, including mayoral activities, it would not be possible to implement this until the new post has been filled.”

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