To find out what the public is thinking, British civil servants will use Facebook while on duty.
According to The Daily Mail, under the plans branded as "totally mad", Sir Bob Kerslake, the new head of the civil service, has written to Whitehall (government) chiefs ordering them to make sure staff can interact with the public on social networking websites.
AdvertisementBut the "active consultation" plans have been met with incredulity by senior officials, who believe the move will simply encourage civil servants to spend time idly contacting their friends on Facebook.
Kerslake has given departments until September to adjust their computer firewalls to allow access to Facebook, which is currently banned by most of them.
The civil service boss believes the plan will help the government interact with voters.
Kerslake's memo will lead to thousands of mandarins and junior civil servants getting access to Facebook for up to three months at a time.
A source close to Kerslake said: "He has sent a letter to permanent secretaries. Kerslake believes we have got to be much better at using social media to engage the public".
"It is for people who are engaged in active consultations," the source said.
But one senior official said: "This is totally mad. It's a licence for civil servants to mess about all day on Facebook.If everyone does personal Facebooking for just 10 minutes a day, that will cost taxpayers millions of pounds a year in lost man hours," the official added.
Bernard Jenkin, Tory chairman of the public administration select committee, said he could see advantages in the proposal, but warned MPs would need reassurance the system is not being abused.