Hit or Miss? Council makes U-turn after censoring girl's school dinners blog

Dinner ding-dong

A blog by nine-year-old Martha Payne became a national talking point when her local council, Argyll & Bute, banned her from taking photographs of her school meals. The 'Never Seconds' blog, which received 100,000 visitors in its first week, had attracted the support of Jamie Oliver. The decision prompted such a national outcry that the council made a U-turn - and the council leader condemned censorship on BBC Radio 4.


John Shewell, Head of comms, Brighton & Hove City Council

Argyll & Bute's U-turn is a classic example of spectacularly screwing it up. Instead of engaging with a young person legitimately expressing her views, the council gagged her. This is an anathema to social media and the notion of democratic participation.

The council could have easily turned this around by inviting Martha to continue. It could have set up workshops with schoolchildren to discuss the meals on offer and encouraged them to blog about it. This approach harnesses the wisdom of crowds and puts the discussion into a better context.

Just because one person has a view that the council disagrees with, this is no reason to stifle discussion. Public services need to better connect with their communities - social media are one way to achieve this endeavour.


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