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Concern over Craven Council iPads bid and email privacy
A Craven councillor has offered to sign up as his own data controller rather than be issued with a council tablet computer.
Councillors have been told they all need to be equipped with tablets – such as iPads – in order to comply with data protection legislation.
But Coun Andy Solloway (Ind) said he would willingly agree to be responsible for his own email exchanges between him, the council and his constituents because he feared it was an unnecessary expense forced on councils by central government.
Officers told councillors last week there was no option but to comply with the legislation – or open the council up to potential fines of many thousands of pounds or have its benefits system taken away.
But many select committee members were unconvinced of the need for tablets and believed the public would see it as unnecessary expense.
Some councillors were also unhappy to learn that email exchanges between them and their constituents may be the “property” of the council.
Paul Ellis, director of services, said: “If someone comes to you with help about a Craven District Council matter, then that information, in theory, is council property.”
He suggested in order for the council to properly protect that information and comply with data protection laws, councillors should be equipped with council-owned tablets and council email addresses.
But Coun Solloway said he would sign up as a data controller and agree to be responsible for the information sent to him.
“I would like to be the first person to sign up to be a data controller, I am happy to take that responsibility.”
And he added: “It is taking away the fundamental right of being approached by constituents and if that happens, what is the point of having councillors.”
Coun Pat Fairbank (Con), said she spoke directly to people in her ward either face to face, or by telephone.
“The public elect councillors, they don’t elect computer whizz kids. We are losing sight of what we are elected for,” she said.
Coun John Kerwin-Davey (Ind) said it was important that email conversations between him and his constituents were private.
But Coun Carl Lis (Con), one of two members tasked with trialing an iPad tablet, stressed that the council had to comply with data protection legislation.
“The only reason we are considering this is because of data protection.
“There is an enormous risk to the council if we don’t satisfy the legislation and the outlay is miniscule compared to what we could be faced with if we don’t comply,” he said.
The select committee agreed in principle for the need for the council to comply with data protection and for councillors to receive training.
It also agreed to further discuss the way forward at its meeting on December 18 before a recommendation to policy committee next year.
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