Council staff warned over social media misuse

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One council worker in Wales was sacked for misusing social media last year and others warned, the BBC has learned.

The 14 cases of misuse by council staff recorded in 2012 included suggestive comments, threats, and criticism of the authorities concerned.

Powys council sacked one worker and gave final written warnings to two others, while Gwynedd and Torfaen also reported three cases each.

Ten Welsh councils said they had recorded no misuse of social media.

The figures were obtained in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by BBC Wales' Welsh-language news website, Newyddion Ar-lein.

'Inappropriate' comments

Powys council recorded three cases of misuse of Facebook.

One employee "sent messages of an inappropriate and suggestive nature to a learner through Facebook".

This person was immediately suspended and their fixed term contract was later terminated.

Two employees received a final written warning, one for "posting worrying comments" and the other for "bringing the council into possible disrepute by posting inappropriate comments".

In a statement Powys council said: "The use of social media within the council is limited during core working hours unless staff members request access for business purposes to update information for the public.

"In which case, they have to submit a business case to our communications team for approval."

Start Quote

Whilst social media can be useful for letting residents know what the council are up to and for increasing transparency, it's important that it's not misused”

End Quote Matthew Sinclair TaxPayers' Alliance

In Gwynedd, three council employees received a written warning for disparaging the council on Facebook.

There were three cases of misuse in Torfaen in 2012, but the council would not release details claiming it would be "contrary to the principles of the Data Protection Act".

There were disciplinary procedures in Swansea after a council employee "made threats and inappropriate comments" on Facebook about other staff.

In Bridgend, one staff member was disciplined for misuse of Twitter outside the workplace.

One Ceredigion council employee received a written warning for criticising the council's services on Facebook.

In Caerphilly an employee received "advice and support" after posting inappropriate comments outside the workplace on Twitter.

One case was recorded in Carmarthenshire, where an employee made inappropriate comments outside work hours on Facebook, for which they received a written warning and was monitored for six months.

An employee of Rhondda Cynon Taf council was given an informal warning following "inappropriate and personal comments" on a website.

There was one investigation into alleged misuse of social media in Newport council in 2012, but it was decided that "there was no case to answer".

No cases of misuse were recorded in Blaenau Gwent, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Conwy, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Pembrokeshire, Flintshire, Anglesey, and Wrexham.

Neath Port Talbot council did not respond to the FoI request, and Denbighshire council said that the cost of retrieving the information from its records was too great.

'Useful'

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said councils were right to take action against those misusing social media.

"Taxpayers want to know that council staff are using their time properly and getting value for local residents' cash," he said.

"Whilst social media can be useful for letting residents know what the council are up to and for increasing transparency, it's important that it's not misused.

"If council staff are posting inappropriate comments on social media accounts then appropriate action must be taken."

Newyddion Ar-lein has previously discovered that two police employees resigned in 2012 over misuse of Facebook, while three Welsh government civil servants were given warnings about postings on Facebook or Twitter.

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