In a release of information the Department for Transport has disclosed a list of the 1000 most visited sites by its civil servants. Belly dancing, Doctor Who and Roman Empire websites were among the most popular but in a time of spending cuts is it right for these civil servants to be wasting time and money? William Sharman asks.
In a country where both public and private sector spending is being heavily cut in order to repair the mistakes of the previous Labour Government you would imagine that everyone is working hard and efficiently to reduce costs and preserve their own jobs. Well, according to the latest report published by the Department for Transport (DfT) many of their civil servants are not using their time effectively.
The list of 1,000 websites was published in response to a Freedom of Information request by campaign group the TaxPayers’ Alliance. They cover the period from January to May this year. The BBC website was top with 7.4 million hits and Google, various newspapers and news blogs were also towards the top. However when you begin to look past the obvious sites this is when it becomes interesting. Facebook ranked highly with 130,000 hits. Argos is the most highly viewed shopping destination but other shops such as John Lewis, Debenhams and Next also feature. The list also contained many sports sites as well as betting websites such as bet365.
But prehaps the most astonishing were the more unusual websites found in the list. With over 27,000 hits was bearsfaction.org.uk which is a role-playing website that urges viewers to escape from reality. Even more popular, coming in at 115, is etiquettehell.com which gives frustrated sticklers for good manners a forum in which to vent. There were also large numbers of hits for a London belly dancing site and a “fans of the Roman Empire” site, which combined, scored well over 100,000 hits.
My personal favourite though is Sexymp.co.uk which gets users to rank MPs in order of attractiveness; this site achieved a good 21,000 hits in the three-month period. For anyone interested, Penny Mordaunt Conservative MP for Portsmouth North came first, and for the men Dominic Raab Conservative MP for Esher and Walton was placed highest.
However what is the relevance of this information you may ask. Well its is yet another example of the problems that are still rooted into the heart of the civil service. There is almost no other job in the World that you would be able to get away with surfing the web when you are meant to be working. But for some reason when you become a civil servant you have a different set of rules from any other workplace in both the private and public sector.
The reason for this is because of the fundamental principles given to civil servants when they take up their jobs. Despite the removal of anonymity from the core principles of civil servants in 2006, the other principles allow many civil servants to get away with what many would consider inappropriate behaviour. The principle of permanence still remains and it allows civil servants to act with no worries about the consequences. The last civil servant to be sacked for gross misconduct was almost 100 years ago for whiskey smuggling. I am not saying that the principle of permanence should be removed as it is a vital part of the civil service, but there needs to be some large changes.
Civil servants get away with inappropriate behaviour that would not be possible in other industries. Why should the rules be different for them?
To read William Sharman’s other articles visit William Sharman’s Politics On Toast blog. This article is (C) Politics on Toast.