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Council Publicity - Guidance for council officers

This section provides guidance to officers in terms of their responsibilities for managing council publicity and pre-poll restrictions. It is also provided to members for information. During the run up to an election or poll (between the date of publication of the notice of election or poll and polling day), stricter rules apply to council publicity. During this time period, additional guidance will be issued. Guidance for the 2017 Local Government Elections and the 2017 Westminster General Election can be found at the related documents section on this page.

Background

The Protocol for Multi-member Ward Working - Officers provides guidance on how councillor listings should be provided. The Protocol for Multi-member Ward Working - Members also provides guidance on how councillor listings should be provided, as well as on the use of council facilities. Appendix 1 to the Protocol provides guidelines regarding correspondence, communications, and publicity material prepared and issued using council facilities. Guideline 4 advises that the use of political tags and nicknames should be avoided.

The guidelines provided in the Protocol are designed to ensure that council facilities are not used for purposes which would breach the statutory rules contained in the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. They are also produced in accordance with the recommendation in the Councillors' Code of Conduct that councils should have in place guidance for elected members on the use of council facilities.

The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Government Publicity and the Standards Commission's Guidance on the Code of Conduct advise that it is inappropriate for public resources to be used to publicise individual councillors.

The Standards Commission's Guidance on the Councillors' Code of Conduct provides additional information, and advises that "Facilities must never be used for party political or campaigning purposes." It goes on to refer to section 2(1) of Local Government Act 1986, as amended by the Local Government Act 1988, which advises that: "A local authority shall not publish any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party."

As West Lothian Council has multi-member wards, it is appropriate that the name of the political party is used in order that members of the public may identify which surgery they would like to attend. Therefore, the council provides this information on its website, and includes this information with the circulation of the list of councillor surgeries. As detailed in the Protocol for Multi-member Ward working - Officers, wards on this list are listed by council officers in accordance with boundary commission numbering, and members for each ward are listed in alphabetical order. The names of each member and their political party are listed in the same font size.

The posting of a notice in order to advertise a councillor's surgery is providing factual information about council business. It is appropriate for council staff to circulate this information and to post the notices in council facilities. However, once the surgery notice contains an element such as the logo of a political party, it could be viewed as promoting a particular political party rather than promoting the surgery itself.

Surgery Notices - what should be accepted

When council staff are requested to produce a surgery notice or a request is made to council staff from a councillor to post or display a notice in council facilities, the notice should be checked to ensure that it is in line with guidance.

The notice can contain the councillor's name, surgery details, and the name of the party. The name of the party must be listed in such a way as to not to appear to promote the political party itself over the details of the surgery.

If in doubt, please contact the council's Governance Manager, James Millar, on 01506 281613, or Julie Whitelaw, the council's Monitoring Officer, on 01506 281626.