A CALL to retrain councillors in use of social media platforms has been made in light of rising complaints against BCP Council members.

The majority of complaints made against councillors in 2021/22 – 18 of 34 – related to behaviour or actions on social media.

Conservative councillor David Kelsey said there was a “desperate need for retraining”.

Speaking at the council’s standards committee, Cllr Kelsey said: “Is there any scope in view of the various different types of complaints, and I know we only have a year left of this term of office, but it does seem to me that there is a desperate need for some retraining, particularly of our own members, with regards to social media.

“What can and can’t be said in it and how they behave and respond on it because that does seem to be a source of quite a lot of the complaints.

“Also, just in the general way that we behave towards each other. I think it may be time for some refresher training for everyone to undergo along those lines because it is really needed.”

Richard Jones, BCP Council’s head of democratic services, said officers were working on a full training schedule for members, which will take place after next year’s local elections.

“We have carried out social media training, members will be aware of that,” Mr Jones said.

“But it is certainly an area we need to consider.”

He added: “Any complaint needs to be taken seriously. It is an expression of dissatisfaction for a behaviour or action of a councillor.”

Mr Jones told councillors that the number of complaints, which had doubled from 2019/20 to 2021/22, was a concern in terms of resourcing and the impact this had on other areas of the service.

The committee heard that in March 2021 a change was brought in which allowed the monitoring officer to make an initial assessment to dismiss complaints or introduce possible early mediation.

The informal resolution through the monitoring officer was the outcome for 14 complaints in the past year.

Twelve complaints were dismissed as being no breach of the code, three were deemed outside the jurisdiction of the council. Two potential breaches were resolved informally.

Two independent investigations were carried out, one identifying a breach and one finding no breach. One case of non-compliance led to a report going to full council.

A statement from resident Alex McKinstry, which was read at the start of the meeting, said: “Twelve out of the 34 complaints against councillors have been dismissed as not breaching the code of conduct.

“As this is a proportion perhaps the committee could examine some of these ostensibly groundless complaints. Are they being assessed thoroughly given the comments about resources in paragraph 18 of the report? As a resident I would welcome more resource in this area.

“Alternatively if certain behaviours are observable even in rejected complaints, 26 complaints for instance for failing to treat others with respect, then perhaps the definitions of misconduct as set out in pages four to nine of the code need revisiting.”

No debate took place on the statement in line with council policy.