Birmingham City Council staff have been banned from using social networking sites after officials were caught wasting hundreds of hours by chatting to friends on Facebook when they should have been working.
A surveillance exercise showed Facebook to be the fourth most popular website for employees, with 610 hours of browsing time in a month.
The BBC website topped the list, with 912 hours. Two google sites were in second place. Other popular viewing included Sky Sports, Heart FM, Wikipedia and auctioneering site Ebay.
Now the council’s entire workforce has been barred from using social networking sites between 10am-noon and 2pm-4pm.
The survey looked at browsing time during core working hours. But when the entire council day, including meal breaks are taken into account, another social networking site, YouTube, climbs into the top 50 of most viewed websites.
The study also identified council staff who use the internet most.
The password of one, unidentified, worker was used to clock up 26,440 minutes of browsing time during September last year – equivalent to more than 100 hours a week.
Birmingham is the latest public authority to restrict access to social networking sites – or “social notworking” sites as they have been nicknamed.
Several senior officials have their own Facebook accounts, including corporate governance director Mirza Ahmad. Mr Ahmad has posted a picture of himself receiving the Public Sector Excellence Awards in the Muslim Power 100 survey.
He also uses his Facebook page to publish a fulsome appreciation of SAY Arts director Abid Iqbal.
Mr Ahmad is videoed, with the council logo in the background, paying tribute to Mr Iqbal as a “great role model” in the Asian community.
The council’s director of communications, Debra Davis, has her own Facebook page as does corporate website officer Simon Gray.
A Birmingham City Council Facebook group has 18 members, while a rival I Hate Birmingham City Council group boasts 13 members.
The blocking of social networking sites during core times could lead to other websites being banned, according to a report to the audit committee. And hundreds of officials with internet BlackBerry mobile phones will not escape the ban, either.
New IT surveillance equipment is being used to detect browsing on BlackBerries “to ensure compliance with city council policies.”