NILGA advice on social media use for Councils as 'Purdah' kicks in ahead of 2 May election

For the election in May 2019, it is recommended that council members and officers should commence a Purdah period at the latest, by Tuesday 26th March.

On Thursday 2nd May 2019, elections are due to be held for the 11 district councils in Northern Ireland, contesting all 462 seats.

There is currently no legislation in Northern Ireland like the English Local Government Act 1986, formally governing publicity and council activity during the pre-election (or ‘Purdah’) period for local government elections. Similarly, there is no directly comparable, formal Code of Practice for councils to the Code of Practice published by the English Department of Communities and Local Government in 2011.

Social Media Tips

1. It is strongly recommended that all social media platforms operated by staff are subject to the principles of Purdah.

2. When using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Flickr, explain that as a council channel of communication you are adhering to Purdah principles. It may be helpful to tweet a link to an explanation of Purdah for guidance.

3. Do not retweet or share political opinion or content posted by political parties or politicians.

4. Do not tweet, post images or share updates on matters which are politically controversial.

5. Monitor your page and delete any content which is politically controversial.

6. Do not stage a significant social media-based campaign unless it can be demonstrated that it was planned before the election was called.

7. Social media by and about the Mayor or Chairperson may be retweeted, shared or used if it is not of a political nature.

8. Disable the ability to download images of politicians during Purdah.

9. In exceptional circumstances seek permission from your communications, compliance and/or legal colleagues to tweet or retweet a comment by a politician or to use videos and images of a politician during Purdah

10. Third party social media profiles, including business partnership profiles which the council supports, should also be governed by Purdah principles. Council staff who update these profiles can either continue to add content in line with Purdah restrictions or hand over ALL admin to a non-council member of the partnership during Purdah.