A local authority condemned for the “inadequate” quality of its children’s services has been criticised after launching an online “hairy mayors” poll.
Critics said Doncaster Council should concentrate on improving services for its residents rather than engaging in “inane’’ social media initiatives.
The Labour-run council - whose children’s services department was recently criticised in a damning Ofsted report - asked Twitter users to vote on a series of photographs of hirsute mayors.
In the poll the council asked people to vote on whether the next mayor it showed in a thread of historic photographs would be hairier than the previous one.
Launching the poll, Doncaster Council’s Twitter account stated: “Apparently, in a bygone era, it was customary for Doncaster’s Mayors to have magnificent facial hair.
“The game is simple - we will show you a historic Mayor, and all you have to do is tell us whether you think the NEXT Mayor is more or less follicly-blessed.”
Would you like to play a game of Hairy Mayors? pic.twitter.com/M6eMEdy67W
— Doncaster Council (@MyDoncaster) June 30, 2022
Later in the thread, above a photograph of a Victorian Mayor boasting a generous pair of sideburns and beard, it stated: “Well done to everyone who guessed that the next mayor would be hairier, although there are only a few tufts in it.
“Thicker coverage on the head, and a joined up middle section of beard give him the win.”
In a series of increasingly light-hearted posts it added: “Honestly, why didn’t 1800s photographers just pre-empt the fact we would need high-quality images with good exposure in order to play a whimsical game on Twitter in 130 years’ time?”
In another post, accompanying a photograph of a balding mayor with mutton chop sideburns, the council’s Twitter account stated: “Now, we will admit that this one will be controversial. Perhaps we could ask Wimbledon if we can borrow Hawkeye for a closer look, as the photo isn’t the best.
“However, it seems that this mayor is SLIGHTLY LESS HAIRY. We are fairly sure the top of his head is bald.”
‘On first glance I thought it was a parody account’
Lee Anderson, the Conservative MP for the former “Red Wall town” of Ashfield, in Nottinghamshire - who was himself once a Labour councillor - said: “On first glance I thought it was a parody account of a failing council with useless politicians instructing officers to waste time and money on silly social media posts. Imagine how shocked I was to see the blue tick proving it is a genuine account.
“I am sure the hard working council tax payers of Doncaster who are still waiting for their £150 council tax rebate will be delighted that their council are discussing facial hair.”
The poll has also angered local social media users, with one pointing out he had been waiting for more than two months for his Council Tax rebate, stating: “Rather have our £150 we have been waiting 8 weeks for, before games wasting time on Twitter when staff’s time could be used doing better things.”
Earlier this year Ofsted said that leadership within Doncaster Council and the arms-length Doncaster Children’s Services Trust was “inadequate” and had overseen a “significant deterioration” of social care since its last inspection.
The inspectorate said the two organisations had overseen a decline in performance, with the “contracted arrangements” between the council and trust failing to sustain quality.
Ros Jones, the Yorkshire town’s mayor, said improvements in children’s services were being made and that the departments were undergoing a significant overhaul behind the scenes.
Harry Fone, the grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “It’s completely unacceptable that the council is frittering away time and resources on pointless tweets.
“Many local residents dealing with an ever-worsening cost of living crisis are still waiting on their council tax rebates. Town hall bosses need to get their priorities straight.”
In an attempt to emphasise that the Twitter thread had some relevance to council services, it concluded by mentioning Doncaster's local history collection.
“Today's game of #HairyMayors was brought to you by Doncaster Archives. The brand new archives building will be opening to the public later this year, where you can learn all about our fascinating local history, key people and the regrettable hairstyle choices of yesteryear,” it stated.
Doncaster Council was approached for comment.