Thursday 21 March 2013 15.24 GMT
Probation officers face social media gag as outsourcing row rumbles on
"Justice secretary tells staff they risk disciplinary action if they publicly 'undermine' plan to outsource their work with offenders
Probation officers have been warned that failure to comply with the social media gag could result in suspension.
The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has issued instructions that probation officers face the risk of disciplinary action if they publicly criticise on Twitter or other social media his plans to outsource 70% of their work with offenders.
The wide-ranging gag includes "any comments that are made in criticism or designed to undermine the justice secretary's policy or actions", and even warns that retweeting others' comments will be taken as "incitement or approval".
The ban was announced by Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the national offender management service, which runs prisons and probation, in a recent teleconference call with probation trust chief executives.
"He advised that the government are unhappy with CEOs and other senior managers being critical of government policy, regarding Transforming Rehabilitation on Twitter," said one probation trust senior manager.
"He told them to behave like civil servants as they are being paid by the government. So much for free speech and democracy. It seems government policy cannot be questioned in public arenas. I am furious that staff and managers are effectively being gagged in asking questions and objecting to the direction of travel.""