Setback for public sector bloggers

Paul Canning brings to our attention the case of a sacked blogger at the Welsh Assembly. As reported at WalesOnline:

AN Assembly Government civil servant who was sacked for running a political blog is taking his case to an Employment Tribunal.

Last night a former AM who himself is a regular blogger said he found the decision to dismiss the civil servant “heavy handed”.

The former Assembly Government employee, whose real name has not been disclosed but who ran a blog called Christopher Glamorganshire, provided what readers saw as a neutral running commentary on last year’s coalition negotiations involving Labour and Plaid Cymru.

An Assembly Government spokesman said: “This issue regards a former Welsh Assembly Government employee who was dismissed for activities related to the Glamorganshire Blog that contravened the Civil Service Code. The case went to the Civil Service Appeals Board, which we won, and it is listed for Employment Tribunal in Cardiff later this year.”

It is understood the elements of the Civil Service Code regarded by the Assembly Government as relevant to the case come under sections headed “integrity” and “rights and responsibilities”.

Obviously the material appeared on the blog before the recent guidance was developed and published, however it does show that the need for the guidance has been pressing for some time – it will be interesting if it wil be raised at the tribunal as being part of the blogger’s case. Let’s hope that sense prevails – this kind of heavy handed approach to bloggers doesn’t do anybody any good.

The issue that this case does raise, though, is that of how these guidelines can be applied to those not working in Whitehall. The argument will be made, I am sure, that they apply to anyone who also has to conform to the Civil Service Code, but what about all the public sector workers to whom this does not apply? I think there is a role for the developing Public Sector Webbies/Web Managers’ Group to come up with some guidance for anyone working in the public sector to work to – and to get some recognition from employers on the issue too.