Barrington Parish Council
Email, Social Media, and Internet Usage Policy
The council recognises that email and internet are important information and communication systems which are used during council business.
This policy provides guidelines and procedures to protect users and the council.
The email policy applies to all employees and councillors in all their correspondence.
The Council has website pages, a Facebook page and uses email to communicate. The Council will always try to use the most effective channel for its communications. Over time the Council may add to the channels of communication that it uses as it seeks to improve and expand the services it delivers. When these changes occur, this Policy will be updated to reflect the new arrangements.
The Council’s Website and Facebook Page are intended to provide information and updates regarding activities and opportunities within our Parish and promote our community positively.
- Internet usage
Staff members are encouraged to use the internet responsibly as part of their official and professional activities.
Information obtained via the internet and published in the name of the council must be relevant, referenced, and professional. A disclaimer must be stated where personal views are expressed.
The use of the internet to access and/or distribute any kind of offensive material will not be tolerated and all may be subject to disciplinary action.
The Clerk’s and Responsible Financial Officer’s Laptops are the property of the council. The council reserves the right to monitor and access internet traffic and access data that is composed, sent, or received through its online connections.
- Unacceptable use of the internet.
Unacceptable use of the internet by staff and councillors includes, but is not limited to:
- sending or posting discriminatory, harassing, or threatening messages or images
- using computers to perpetrate any form of fraud, and/or software, film or music piracy obtaining, hacking into unauthorised websites.
- sending or posting information that is defamatory to the council, its services, councillors and/or members of the public.
- introducing malicious software onto council laptop and/or jeopardising the security of the council’s electronic communication systems
- sending or posting chain letters, solicitations or advertisements not related to council business or activities.
- passing off personal views as those representing the council
• accessing inappropriate internet sites, web pages or chat rooms
Use of email is encouraged as it provides an efficient system of communication.
Councillors should have a dedicated .gov.uk email account for council business and communications.
Email should be regarded as written paper documents for the purposes of production, use, retention, and disclosure and can be called upon under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Personal information should be kept in accordance with the principles established in the General Data Protection Regulation.
Emails fall under the GDPR regulations and can be subject to Freedom of Information Requests. The council reserves the right to open any email file stored on the council’s computer system.
The following guidelines for email use should be observed by all staff members and councillors:
- All BPC published documents will be accessible.
- use appropriate language to avoid unintentional misunderstanding.
- respect the confidentiality of information contained within emails, even if encountered inadvertently.
- check with the sender if there is any doubt regarding the authenticity of a message.
- do not open any attachment unless certain of the authenticity of the sender.
- only copy emails to others where appropriate and necessary, consider whether reply to all is required.
- emails which create obligations or give instructions on behalf of the council must be sent by the Clerk or Proper Officer only, not councillors.
- Councillors are expected to abide by the Code of Conduct and GDPR regulations in all their work on behalf of the Council.
- emails must comply with common codes of courtesy, decency, and privacy.
The Clerk’s email account is monitored mainly during office hours, Monday to Friday, and we aim to reply to all questions sent as soon as we can. An ‘out of office’ message should be used when appropriate. The Clerk is responsible for dealing with email received and passing on any relevant mail to members or external agencies for information and/or action. All communications on behalf of the Council will usually come from the Clerk, and/or otherwise will always be copied to the Clerk.
Councillors and the Clerk may use SMS as a convenient way to communicate at times. All are reminded that this policy also applies to such messages.
- Facebook page
The Parish Council Facebook page will be used as a noticeboard with commenting denied unless the Council requires it, and it is agreed.
We retain the right to ask the Facebook page owners to remove comments or content that includes:
- obscene or racist content
- personal attacks, insults, or threatening language
- potentially libellous statements.
- plagiarised material; any material in violation of any laws, including copyright.
- private, personal information published without consent.
- information or links unrelated to the content of the forum
- commercial promotions or spam
- alleges a breach of a Council’s policy or the law.
Sending a message/post via the Council Facebook page or local Facebook Group will not be considered as contacting the Council for official purposes. We will not be obliged to monitor or respond to requests for information through these channels. Instead, it specifies direct contact with the Council’s clerk by emailing.
The Council’s response to any communication received not meeting the above criteria will be to either ignore, inform the sender of our policy, or send a brief response as appropriate. This will be at the Council’s discretion based on the message received, given our limited resources available. Repeat offenders will be blocked from the Facebook page. If the post alleges a breach of a Council’s policy or the law the person who posted it will be asked to submit a formal complaint to the Council or report the matter to the Police as soon as possible to allow due process.
The site is not monitored 24/7 and we will not always be able to reply individually to messages or comments received. However, we will endeavour to ensure that any emerging themes or helpful suggestions are passed to the relevant people or authorities. No personal/private information should be included in any social media posts.
- Parish Council Website Pages
Where necessary, we may direct those contacting us to our website to see the required information, or we may forward their question to one of our Councillors for consideration and response. We may not respond to every comment we receive particularly if we are experiencing a heavy workload.
- National Emergencies
In times of national emergency, the Council will follow advice and instruction from statutory bodies and National Association of Local Councils (NALC). The council is a member of our county association CAPALC.
- Reporting and sanctions
If a councillor receives an email from the Clerk which they believe is contrary to the guidance provided in this policy, it should be reported to the Chair and Vice Chair who will consider use of the council’s formal disciplinary procedure.
If the Clerk receives an email from a councillor which they believe is contrary to the guidance provided in this policy, the Clerk is entitled to consider use of the council’s grievance policy.
Only software purchased by the council shall be installed on the council’s computer system. Software licences shall be retained.
Video Conferencing e.g., Zoom. If this medium is used to communicate please note that this policy also applies to the use of video conferencing. No recording of meetings is undertaken without prior agreement of all parties included.
- Website and Social Media Sign Off Procedures.
Any post added to the Facebook Page is carried out by the Parish Clerk. In the absence of the Parish Clerk the 2nd Admin will add posts with the Council’s agreement.
The Parish Clerk, or 2nd Admin in their absence, can immediately post anything which has a detrimental effect on the Parish e.g., road closures, flooding, direct information from NALC, CAPLAC or SLCC and information relating to an incident of National Importance/significance. All other posts to be authorised by the Chair or Vice Chair.
Posts will remain on the Facebook Page for visibility and history except in the case of vacancy posts which will be removed at closing date.
Website maintenance to be carried out by Parish Clerk and/or 2nd Admin.
Approval not needed for:
- addition of Agendas, Minutes and Parish Council Meeting dates
- alterations of existing content to correct errors, update existing information.
- deletion of out-of-date material if not being updated.
Approval needed for:
- new articles on any area other than those stated above.
If 2nd Admin carrying out above sign off is needed by Chair or Vice Chair.
Reviewed and updated May 2022