MLAs back use of social media in council meetings

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The further consideration stage of the Local Government Bill was completed, on 1 April 2014.

MLAs voted to allow the use of social media in council meetings which were open to the public.

They also backed a UUP amendment calling on councils to report back to the Assembly on the transitional rates relief scheme, allowing MLAs to consider extending the scheme.

The DUP's Peter Weir said he supported the use of social media in meetings, as long as councillors refrained from discussing issues of commercial sensitivity or around recruitment.

Sinn Fein's Cathal Boylan agreed, saying he would not be in support of opening meetings to the public where these issues were discussed.

An NI21 motion that would allow public sector workers seeking election to council three weeks unpaid leave was defeated.

An Alliance amendment, which was the subject of a petition of concern from the SDLP, also fell.

The amendment sought to include a reference to "good relations" in community planning guidelines.

The SDLP's Colum Eastwood said, "objective need and equality will not be trumped by good relations".

NI21's John McCallister said he found it "a bizarre situation to defend democracy and then sign a petition of concern in the same breath".

Part four of the debate can be viewed here.

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