Austin Macauley 26 January 2016

FOI request reveals rise in council suspensions over social media breaches

An investigation by the BBC has found there was a 19% rise in council workers being suspended last year for breaking social media rules.

Data obtained via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that of the 51 staff involved, few were later dismissed or resigned following suspension.

Although the number of suspensions rose, the figures showed that overall there was a 4% fall in staff being issued with warnings. Some 11 workers were subject to disciplinary action for viewing porn online.

The highest number of suspensions was at St Helens Council, which took action against seven staff including several for offences involving Facebook.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council suspended two teachers for befriending pupils on Facebook while Leeds Council took action against two employees over racial comments they had made online.

Councils that confirmed they had dismissed staff following suspensions included Luton, Norfolk and Newport City.

The BBC revealed that only 169 councils provided information with 22 refusing and 27 failing to reply to the FOI request.

In a statement to the BBC, the Local Government Association said: ‘Councils are clear that while some personal use of social media at work is acceptable, it must be reasonable and appropriate in terms of both the time spent and the content.

‘The vast majority of council employees abide by that. Councils take very seriously any misuse and, as these figures show, will deal robustly with cases that are unacceptable.’

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