Council’s data blunder branded ‘sloppy’ by FoI expert

Acorn Plus lorry
Acorn Plus lorry

A data blunder which saw the council release sensitive staff information has been branded ‘sloppy and embarrassing’ by the recipient.

Roger Gill originally submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Horsham District Council after receiving no response to a complaint about Acorn Plus refuse lorries reversing in his Horsham road.

However, after a lengthy email exchange with council staff he was then sent the sensitive information that the council has admitted breached the Data Protection Act 1998.

Embarrassingly Mr Gill is a civil servant who has had substantial involvement in the Freedom of Information Act and data protection policy.

He said the whole process ‘has been executed sloppily and with contempt’.

Mr Gill said: “It just shows there’s no quality controls in place. It’s all knee-jerk and sloppy. It’s just not good enough. It’s sloppy and embarrassing.”

A spokesperson for Horsham District Council admitted its reply contained some driving licence numbers that should not have been disclosed.

The spokesperson said: “We already have a number of procedures in place that should stop this from happening and these have been tightened and reinforced as a result of this incident.”

The incident started when Mr Gill’s seemingly innocuous question about bin lorries was ignored after a lamppost was knocked down.

He said: “I’m genuinely concerned watching these things speed around.

“Their record keeping and training, they don’t do risk assessments and no risk assessments for the staff.”

He added: “They are built for countries with large boulevards not Victorian terraces. They are just not fit for purpose.”

When his FoI request was not answered within 28 days he began emailing HDC.

Then when HDC sent through the sensitive data Mr Gill claims the council attempted to cover up the mistake by trying to recall the email and send through a second corrected version hoping he would not notice the first message.

He labelled this attempt as the council’s ‘worst’ mistake and said it should have admitted its ‘screw up’ immediately rather than hoping the problem went away.

HDC was also asked why Mr Gill’s original query was not dealt with, why his FoI request was not answered within the 28 days, whether disciplinary action was being undertaken, and why the actual data breach occurred?