• Document: The elected members of a local council are likely to have three different roles.
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Data Protection Good Practice Note Advice for the elected and prospective members of local authorities This good practice note aims to provide elected and prospective members of local authorities with guidance about how the Data Protection Act 1998 (the Act) applies to them. The Act regulates the holding and processing of personal information that relates to living individuals and which is held on computer or, in some cases, on paper. Organisations or individuals that process personal information covered by the Act may need to notify the Commissioner about their processing. A description of the processing activities is placed on a public register of notifications. These organisations or individuals must also comply with eight data protection principles which together form a framework for the proper handling of personal information. Individuals whose personal information is processed have rights under the Act, for example, to a copy of the information that is held about them. The role of the elected member The elected members of a local council are likely to have three different roles. • They will act as a member of the council, for example, as a member of a committee. • They will act as a representative of residents of their ward, for example, in dealing with complaints. • They may represent a political party, particularly at election time. Notification In considering whether they need to notify, elected members must first decide in which role they are processing personal information. 1. As members of the council Councillors may have access to, and process, personal information in the same way as employees. In this case it is the council rather than the elected member that determines what personal information is used for and how it is processed. For example, if a member of a housing committee has access to tenancy files to consider whether the local authority should proceed with an eviction, or when a member of a licensing committee has access to an application for a taxi licence, they are carrying out the local authority’s functions. In this case the elected member does not need to notify in their own right. v 2.0 23.04.07 2. As a representative of the residents of their ward When elected members represent residents of their ward, they are likely to have to notify in their own right, for example, if they use personal information to timetable surgery appointments or take forward complaints made by local residents. 3. As a representative of a political party When acting on behalf of a political party, for instance as an office holder, members are entitled to rely upon the notification made by the party. When individuals campaign on behalf of political parties to be the elected members for a particular ward, they can rely on the parties’ notification if the party determines how and why the personal information is processed for the purpose of their individual campaigns. Individuals who are not part of any political party but campaign to be an independent elected member for a particular ward, need to have their own notification. There is an exemption from notification where the only personal information which is processed takes the form of paper records. A standard form for notification by elected members has been created to simplify the procedure. Use of personal information When elected members consider using personal information for any particular purpose, they should take into account the context in which that information was collected to decide whether their use of the information will be fair and lawful. • Personal information held by the local authority should not be used for political or representational purposes unless both the local authority and the individuals concerned agree. It would not be possible to use a list of the users of a particular local authority service, for electioneering purposes without their consent. An example would be using a local authority list of library users to canvass for re- election on the grounds that the member had previously opposed the closure of local libraries. • When campaigning for election as the representative of a political party, candidates can use personal information, such as mailing lists, held by their parties. However, personal information they hold as elected members for casework should not be disclosed to the political party without the consent of the individual. • Candidates for election should also be aware of the requirements of the Privacy and Electronic Communication (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 that regulate unsolicited electronic marketing messages sent by telephone, fax, email or text. For more information on this, please see the guidance on our website (www.ico.gov.uk.) v 2.0 23.04.07 • When campaigning for election to an office in a political party, members should only use personal information controlled by the party if its rules allow this. It would be wrong, for instance, to

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