Ryedale District Council

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Data Protection and Freedom of Information

 

The Data Protection Act 1998 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. When prospective or elected Council 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.

There are three possible contexts in which a Councillor may have to deal with such data; as a Member of the Council, as a representative of local residents or as a representative of a political party. To assist in understanding the legislation the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) provide short guidance leaflets.

 

Members of a Council have rights to obtain Council information.

Case law makes it clear that an officer faced with a request for information from a Councillor is required to be satisfied that the Member is entitled to the information. The crucial questions are these:

  1. Is it necessary for the Member to see that particular document or paper to get the information s/he is seeking?; and
  2. Are the duties s/he is seeking to carry out those which s/he has 'as a Councillor'?; are they, in other words, consistent with her/his responsibilities as an elected Member of the Council in question?

A Members' right to information exists because Members are under a duty to keep themselves informed of Council business which relates to their role as elected representatives and which they have "a need to know". If their motive for seeing documents is indirect, improper or ulterior this may be raised as a bar to their entitlement. Councillors are not, therefore, allowed a "roving commission" through Council documents. If a Councillor is not a Member of the specific Committee, the Councillor has to show cause why sight of them is necessary to perform his or her duties.

Accordingly, unless a Member can demonstrate a clear and convincing need to know in writing, they are not entitled to a copy of confidential or exempt information.

 

Ryedale District Council like all public bodies is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). The FOIA gives individuals, regardless of motive or destination, the right to submit a request for recorded information that the Council holds.

Full details are available on our Freedom of Information webpage.

 

 

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Ryedale District Council
Ryedale House, Old Malton Road
Malton, North Yorkshire
YO17 7HH

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