Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Monday, 3 August 2009 11:56 UK

Debate is delayed by Twitter row

Rene Kinzett
Rene Kinzett said posting on Twitter was not disruptive because blogs could be 140 characters long

A local authority meeting to discuss sterilisation was disrupted by a row over the use of micro blogging website Twitter during council meetings.

Conservative councillor Rene Kinzett and Lib Dem counterpart Peter Black were criticised by some members for posting about proceedings on Twitter.

Mr Kinzett was further criticised after he referred to another member, David Phillips, using a derogatory term.

Councillor Ceinwen Thomas said they had "showed contempt" for the council.

Mr Black, an assembly member as well as a Swansea councillor, and Mr Kinzett had been posting messages during the council meeting on Thursday.

They made their comments on Twitter, an online service for letting people know what you're up to at any time of day or night.

Mr Black wrote: "Watching a presentation by the Gower Society on the fantastic landscape surrounding Swansea.

"Discussing respite services in Swansea.

"Wondering how so much hot air can be generated by so few councillors."

I thought it showed disrespect for the office they represent
Councillor Ceinwen Thomas

Mr Kinzett posted two messages on Twitter after the meeting was over, the second sympathising with Mr Black.

"That was a long meeting and quite bad-tempered in part," he posted.

And in a public message to Mr Black: "Thought it was crazy you being slammed by Labour group leader on Swansea Council for Twittering in meeting . . . wot a tw*t ;-)."

After the meeting, Labour Councillor Ceinwen Thomas said she believed the micro blogging "showed contempt" for the council.

"At the commencement of the meeting we were told to switch our mobile phones off," she said.

"I could only see one councillor doing it [posting on Twitter] but apparently there were two.

'Broad shoulders'

"I thought it showed disrespect for the office they represent."

Speaking after the meeting Labour group leader David Phillips said he was not concerned about the swear word used to describe him.

He said he was more interested in the debate on compulsory sterilisation at the meeting than any argument about the use of Twitter during council meetings or comments made on it.

"We can all take ourselves far too seriously sometimes," said Mr Phillips.

Referring to the swear word used to describe him, he added: "I have got broad shoulders. He is entitled to his opinion.

Twitter is one of the platforms people can use to learn about and get interested in what is going on in the council chamber
Swansea Labour group leader Councillor David Phillips

"I am more concerned that it has taken focus away from a very important and concerning debate.

"It is of much more concern to me that we seem to have councillors who are advocating forced contraception."

However, Mr Phillips said Mr Kinzett had "advanced an interesting argument about the benefits of Twitter" and said "there is a debate to be had on it".

Mr Kinzett said he believed there was room for commentary on sites like Twitter on subjects and debates that might not be normally covered in newspapers and websites.

"A councillor's opinion and small debates in council meetings are still interesting for people even if they aren't covered in the traditional way," said Mr Kinzett.

"Twitter is one of the platforms people can use to learn about and get interested in what is going on in the council chamber."

He said that "tweeting" could not be disruptive to proceedings because posts could only be 140 characters long.

He added that he followed at least 10 MPs who posted on Twitter from House of Commons debates and that some councillors were "slightly behind the times".

At least three Welsh AMs - Mr Black, Bethan Jenkins and Jonathan Morgan tweet. And at least three Welsh MPs have Twitter accounts. They are Kevin Brennan, Lembit Opik and Hywel Williams.

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