Community Councils and Data Protection
Community councils act in a large variety of roles, e.g. they consider planning information, and raise issues on behalf of constituents in an advocacy capacity. They may maintain contact lists for various purposes, as well as minuting their proceedings and publishing correspondence, agenda, minutes etc. In each of these roles, much of the information which they will be working with will be personal information (data) in terms of the Data Protection Act (DPA).
Personal data means data which relates to a living individual who can be identified –
(a) from that data, or
(b) from data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller, and includes any expression of opinion about the individual, and any indication of the intentions of the data controller or any other person in respect of the individual.
The requirement to register under the DPA comes from the obligation to register the ‘processing’ of personal information (data).
Processing is defined in the DPA as in relation to information or data, means obtaining, recording or holding the information or data or carrying out any operation or set of operations on the information or data, including:
(a) organisation, adaptation or alteration of the information or data,
(b) retrieval, consultation or use of the information or data,
(c) disclosure of the information or data by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, or
(d) alignment, combination, blocking, erasure or destruction of the information or data.
The Council’s view and that of the Information Commissioner is that Community councils must register with the Information Commissioner as ‘Data Controllers’. There is also a requirement for there to be a named person from the Community Council, probably an office bearer, with lead responsibility for DPA compliance. The annual cost of registering is £35.00 and it is expected that this cost can be accommodated from the annual administration grant payable by the Council.
For further information on registering, please see the Information Commissioner’s website at http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/registration which contains further guidance and details of how to register.