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Can we breach confidentiality in this case...

0 votes
Hi Hive Mind

OK, another weird question thanks to our weird councillor, who wants to remain anonymous to all the public.

He has raised a complaint to an authority (vexatiously in nature and very repetitive, their words not ours), however, as an elector of the parish we cannot name him, but, and it is a big but, in one of his myriad of correspondence to the authority he has sent it from his councillor email and signed it as councillor.

Now as that person is legally a public servant (a Councillor) and the fact he has used officially means to route that email, under Transparency, could we call him out publically, for that one email only (it will be enough for our means).  Our thinking being is that he raised the complaint as a councillor and not a member of the public, so his email could be placed into the public domain under FOI, especially as it had no privacy markings...

The public already strongly suspect who is costing them (so far several thousand though his actions) but to date, we have not been able to call him out, maybe now he sent the councillor email.....

Don't worry we know he will complain, as he raised a complaint against a member of the public at the last meeting when the member of the public looked at him!

Just thinking out loud loikes...

by (1.4k points)

3 Answers

0 votes
If the email message consists of the Councillor's complaint (whether vexatious or not), then I believe this information would constitute personal data and therefore it would exempt from disclosure under the FOIA.  The authority's complaints procedure/policy and/or its FOI and/or data protection policy should provide a better understanding on this matter.
by (3.3k points)
+1 vote

I want to meet this man!

Seriously though, I agree with Sam that it's not worth getting bogged down in the complexities of GDPR/FOI et al.

However, we're coming up to Annual Assembly time, so you could have some fun with him. I like to use the Assembly as a way of introducing my councillors to the public and explaining in simple terms how the councils work and what they've achieved. Line up all your councillors and let the Chair introduce them. "This is Cllr Biggles and he lives in Acacia Avenue. Perhaps you'd like to say a few words about what you've achieved in the last year, Cllr Biggles?" His name and the fact that he is a councillor are in the public domain as a result of the electoral process, so you're not breaching confidentiality. If he didn't allow his address to be published at election time, and it isn't shown on his Register of Interests, make a joke of it. "This is Cllr Biggles, man of mystery. We don't know where he lives. Perhaps someone could follow him home tonight?!" As long as you treat every councillor in the same way, he has no grounds for complaint.

by (35.1k points)
+1 vote


Just an update as we have our meeting tonight. 

We have heard back from the legal powers on high at NALC Towers, and it appears we can bust this one open.

They have said that any and all emails that do not bear a privacy mark, or pertain to a legally closed committee, or refer to items from normal public exclusion can be requested for public inspection.  As a public servant, normal personal data rules do not apply, hence the massive warnings from the ICO and emphasised in the "Bring Your Own Device".  It is why they strongly advise council member to never use their own personal email addresses for council business, that would leave their person email database open to public scrutiny.

So they are of the opinion that as he has used his councillor email, signed it councillor and it is not exempt, we can name him, but they advise only to do so if a member of the public either askes us to name us or if they ask if it is him directly.

They have also pointed out that the rules regarding the particular complaint only give protection to "members of the pubic who are electors of the parish" and as a councillor, he is not a member of the public!.

So for one NALC Towers comes good!


by (1.4k points)

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