THE playing of electronic games like Solitaire is officially being banned at Worcestershire County Council.
Two months after it pledged to publish new guidance on how councillors should behave in meetings, your Worcester News can today reveal the fresh rules due to be handed to all 57 County Hall politicians.
The dossier, drawn up after a complaint was made over Liberal Cllr Fran Oborski playing the Solitaire card game during meetings, states:
- Councillors cannot play electronic games, read newspapers, books or magazines "at any point" during any meeting
- Even councillors who attend committee meetings as observers in the public gallery, as many do, are being told not to play electronic games due to "poor public perception" over it
- They can still use social media like Twitter, however "the full attention of councillors" must be on the debate or vote and they "must not be distracted"
- It also says councillors must not visit websites "which are not suitable for work" and "must ensure screensavers are appropriate"
The guidance has already been criticised by some councillors, who say it is "over the top" and "too restrictive".
It will be circulated to them for consultation before being finalised, and even asks them "to reduce" moving around or leaving the room to as infrequently as possible to avoid disruption.
It comes months after Cllr Oborski was spotted playing Solitaire on her iPad in meetings, leading to one public complaint being made and considerable media coverage including satirical magazine Private Eye.
Cllr Oborski, who previously said she used Solitaire as a screensaver, yesterday said: "Saying we can't play electronic games is fine, but for me this is too prescriptive, it's over the top.
"If it was decided that we couldn't bring in newspapers how would that affect those of us who refer to them during meetings?
"It looks like they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater."
Green Councillor Mathew Jenkins said: "Telling councillors who turn up to observe committee meetings not to play electronic games seems over the top.
"I think that's going a bit too far. But I do agree councillors taking part in meetings should not play games."
Councillor Joe Baker, from the Labour group, said: "To a certain extent I agree with it, public perception is important and we are making very important decisions.
"You've got to pay attention to what's going on around you."
The draft dossier has been drawn up by the council's legal chief Simon Mallinson and is expected to be finalised by September.