Workforce, Pensions and Training

04.01.10

Bristol City Council takes action to safeguard privacy

The Council’s housing chief has pledged to ensure the council acts to protect the public’s civil liberties and right to privacy.

Councillor Mark Wright, Cabinet Member for Housing and Service Improvement, said the authority would ensure that RIPA authorisations – Regulation of Investigatory Powers – would only be used as a last resort.

New regulations governing RIPA are to be introduced by the Government.
This follows the launch in April of a three-month public consultation by the Government on the Regulatory of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) which governs a range of investigatory techniques including covert surveillance.

Councillor Mark Wright, said: “The British public have been very clear about their unhappiness at the amount of ‘snooping’ that some councils have been undertaking. We have listened and acted on that so that our council will not be danger of overstepping the mark as some other councils have done.

“We have a clear commitment to protecting the civil liberties and privacy of residents, so I am delighted I can announce that this council will not only be implementing the changes but also reviewing its current policies and procedures.

“I want the public to know that RIPA authorisations will only be granted as a last resort, and will always be regretted. The council won’t do such things just because it can.

"In future, the council’s privacy-related activities will be scrutinised in public by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee which will act as a proper check on the use of such methods.”

Among the measures which are being sought are:

. Elected councillors to be given a strategic role in scrutinising the way the Council uses data and covert investigatory techniques

. Review of the Council’s procedures on retention, destruction and storage of data collected by the Council, and the adoption of a code of practice

. Reviewing the rank of authorising officer for RIPA and whether this request should be raised to a more senior level

. The Deputy Chief Executive to be the ‘responsible officer ‘ for ensuring all authorising officers are of an appropriate standard and properly trained

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

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