Bunbury Cllr and Leader of Cheshire East Michael Jones

Cheshire East Council Leader Michael Jones has hit back at suggestions he should resign after it emerged council staff were used to write personal tweets attacking his political opponents.

Critics of Cllr Jones have called for him to step down over the allegations which emerged from a Freedom of Information request.

Cllr Brian Silvester, of Willaston and Rope, said the allegations were “very serious matters”.

An FOI request by BBC Radio Stoke claims to have uncovered 50 pages of emails of “suggested” draft tweets written by the council’s media relations team for Cllr Jones’ personal twitter account.

Some are said to be political tweets, which breach the Local Authority Code of Practice on Publicity of not using council staff paid for by the public for political statements.

Cllr Silvester called it “unacceptable” and says he has reported it to Government ministers.

However, Cllr Jones told Nantwichnews: “There has been a lot of confusion over this new form of communication and it is clear the council has put in place new procedures.

“All I will say is judge me on my record. I come from the private sector and clearly my intention to communicate is not as easy in the process world of a council.

“But I have done more for transparency than any other leader and will continue to do so.

“Radio Stoke has its agenda, but I will get on with the job of delivering, which we have. These personal attacks merely show I am doing well as they do not attack my achievements, just me personally.

“It is gutter politics and that is not where I lie.”

Willaston and Rope Cllr Brian SilvesterBut Cllr Silvester (pictured, right) said: “Last Easter he (Cllr Jones) issued a political press release through the council’s media team. He apologised and said it would not happen again.

“But last June exactly the same thing happened. Now it has happened again.

“The Government has said they will not hesitate to issue legal action against councils who use public money for political propaganda purposes.

“These are very serious matters concerning the Council Leader and staff.

“I am calling on the Chief Executive to immediately investigate this latest incident and then to take the appropriate action.

“It is simply unacceptable council officers have written 50 pages of emails drafting political attacks against the political opponents of Cllr Jones and then tweeted the ones that Cllr Jones chooses.

“I have also reported this latest case to the Government and have asked them to act also.”

A spokesman for Cheshire East Council said: “Cheshire East Council’s CEO has been made aware that on a number of occasions last year, members of the media relations team gave assistance to the Leader of the Council with his new personal Twitter account.

“Although the context of this was to protect the council, this activity is not permitted and staff have been advised accordingly. The Chief Executive has taken action to bring this practice to an end.

“However, it should be stated that where the Leader and council members wish to access the council’s Twitter accounts, then the media team is able to give support and assistance, drawing on their knowledge and experience in this relatively new media platform with which members of the media team are more familiar and attuned.

“Appropriate training and development has been put in place to embed the council’s protocols in all future communications.”

7 Comments

  1. Phil says:

    I’ve seen the disgusting Mr Jones in Sainsbury’s. I’m surprised he didn’t get someone else to do his shopping for him!

  2. John says:

    Isn’t this petty spat symptomatic of almost every politician? At a time when political credibility is (deservedly) at an all-time low, all we get is squabbling, back-biting and points-scoring, and nowhere more so than in the Chronicle’s Councillors’……sorry, Letters, page. It is utterly pathetic to see how, after 13 years of Labour deceit and incompetence, and 5 years of Tory ineffectiveness, all Westminster can do is throw bricks across the floor whilst Britain falls apart, and we get exactly the same thing in local government. Parliament is mostly deserted, unless it’s the fun of PMQs or the snoutfest of MP’s expenses, and t seems to me that manifestos on the EU, Welfare, Crime and Immigration are light years away from public opinion. Some of the more difficult topics are only aired at all after being dragged there kicking and screaming, towards some bland, no-action PC compromise. I am tired of seeing the same pompous characters’ mugshots repeatedly gracing our local news whilst, it seems, they are more interested in insulting the opposition than working together. For goodness’ sake, guys, put aside the party squabbles, and do the job you’re paid to do. Don’t you realise just how low politicians’ reputations are, and have you any clue whatsoever why that might be?

  3. Barry Weaver says:

    This man is a pompous windbag who believes he can do what he wants and bully anyone who stands in his way. How any one can vote Conservative locally with him as leader, beggars belief!

    • Nigel Imby says:

      I agree, and his evasive and incoherent response to direct questions on BBC’s ‘North West Tonight’ yesterday, was a typical example.

  4. Brangane says:

    I think it would be better if councillors devoted their time and effort to running CEC properly rather than kicking political lumps of one another, as seems to be the case here. What a bunch of wasters!

  5. Nigel Imby says:

    Although it’s rather surprising that (allegedly) he relies on others to write some of his tweets I don’t think we need to lose too much sleep over this. Councillor Jones has fewer than 600 followers on Twitter. Cheshire East has a population of more than 370,000 (2011 Census).

  6. Frank Fisher says:

    It’s nothing to do with confusion regarding social media rules, nothing to do with ignorance – Jones has been caught several times doing this now, and whether it is a Tweet or a conventional press release or a leaflet, the principles of the code remain the same – you *cannot* do it. This goes beyond Jones – the ruling tory group has stuffed the councils own committee that look sat standards, so even when Jones was caught the previous times, in clear breach, nothing happened. other than – as now – he said “oh dear I’m sorry I won’t do it again”.

    And then DID do it again. He, and his cronies, are not fit for office.

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