Investigation after councilor discovered Derbyshire County Council read confidential emails

County Council Liberal Democrats leader Councilor Ed Fordham made the discovery after an officer intercepted an email on his account containing the bank details of a local group, which requested a funding.

County Council Liberal Democrat leader Councilor Ed Fordham made the discovery after an officer intercepted an email on his account containing the bank details of a local group, which requested a funding.

When questioned, he was “stunned” to learn that the authority employs staff who can access and read the e-mails of the 64 county councilors.

The MP for Loundsley Green and Newbold said: “This is a scandal.

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“For some time there have been concerns that advisers’ emails have been disrupted, but this has been widely rejected. “

Derbyshire County Council admitted to the Derbyshire Times that it employs 11 secretaries, personal assistants and member support officers at a combined cost of £ 213,000 per year to perform administrative and other duties on behalf of the councilors .

A council spokesperson said: ‘It is Derbyshire County Council policy that every DCC email account has at least one delegate (someone who can access the account if the primary account holder is not not available).

“It has always been the case with advisers and officers and it is a system that has worked well.

“When councilors are elected, they are told what support they will have in the PA, who it will be, what support is provided and how that support is provided. “

However, Councilor Fordham is adamant that permission to read his emails has never been requested or given, and believes that the council violates data protection law and the General Privacy Regulation. data.

Her predecessor, former Derbyshire Lib Dem leader Beth Atkins, said she complained about missing emails when she was Derbyshire County Councilor and never had been informed that someone else had access to it.

Councilor Fordham continued, “Much of my correspondence is very personal in nature regarding the issues facing my residents.

“Often, I raise serious concerns with managers about the efficiency of the services and the quality of the work done.

“Now I see that these – often very personal and very confidential – were read from the start by staff who did not have my consent. “

He said what he found even more “amazing” is that officers access financial information provided by residents and groups.

The council spokesperson continued: “Our Data Protection Officer (DPO) has been made aware of the issue raised by Councilor Fordham and she has already conducted a review of the procedures, making a number of recommendations to ensure consistency. greater transparency.

“This includes ensuring an appropriate dialogue between individual members and their assigned support officers to agree on the nature and extent of administrative support provided to enable them to effectively discharge their public functions. “

The spokesperson said the DPD was “satisfied that there is a legal basis to process information in this way”, but the authority admits that more transparency is needed regarding its processes.

The council also referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), after Councilor Fordham called for a “genuinely independent investigation”.

“What Derbyshire County Council has done is inadmissible, ethically wrong and without the very basic principle of consent,” he said.

He has now called on the council to stop unauthorized access to emails from Liberal Democrat advisers and has tabled a motion at the next plenary council meeting on December 1 to stop access to emails for members of all parties.

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