Harrow Council has been criticised for paying social media pages to promote good news stories without making it clear they are doing so.

Cllr Marilyn Ashton, deputy leader of Harrow Conservatives, challenged the council’s cabinet on Thursday (September 12) over regular payments to Facebook pages.

She said it was paying hundreds of pounds a month for positive stories to be posted in several local groups which have thousands of members or followers.

And she believes it is important to insist the groups make it clear that these posts are effectively sponsored by the council.

“We are engaging in paying third parties to promote the council and we are not being very transparent about that,” she said.

“I don’t take issue at all with any of the Facebook groups – they do a grand job and we do very well out of it as we find out what’s going on.

“But we do have a problem with being underhand and sneaky. We need an assurance that we will be more transparent and not seek to hide things as we have been.”

Cllr Ashton said it is important to be open with the public on these issues, particularly when it concerns “a lot of money”.

She also believes failure to clearly highlight the fact that the posts are sponsored goes against the council’s code of conduct.

Cllr Graham Henson, leader of Harrow Council, confirmed that the council does promote information through “new media” to ensure that it reaches as many people as possible.

He did not say whether it would make it clearer that these posts are paid for but proposed a “discussion with the communications team” about how to target social media influencers.