Thank the Lord: Parish and town councils get GDPR aid

Parish and town councils GDPR fears have been eased following divine intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is launching fresh guidance to help address the main compliance issues.
In the run-up to GDPR, the Government was forced to reassure parish councils that they would not have to hire individual data protection officers, following claims made by the National Association of Local Councils that smaller authorities could face an annual bill of £3.5m.
In the end, MPs waved through a raft of amendments during the third – and final – reading of the UK Data Protection Bill, which enshrined GDPR into UK law.
Under the amendments, parish councils were no longer classified as “public authorities” for data processing purposes and therefore were not required to appoint DPOs.
Now, the ICO claims it has spoken to more than 50 local councils to help address their concerns, identify pitfalls and gain a better understanding of how they are run. It has also worked with parish council clerks to understand the issues they face and provide consistent advice.
The new “bite-sized” resources include guidance on holding personal data on their own laptops or mobile phones and the use of non-council email addresses by councillors instead of the council system.
Meanwhile, the regulator also urges councils to carry out data audits and give their records a “spring clean”, deleting or destroying old data sets that have built up over time.
Finally, the ICO encourages councils to read its “six steps to data sharing in local councils” guidance, so they can know how to share data appropriately with services such as leisure centres.
In a blogpost, detailing the new resources, ICO senior policy officer Stacey Egerton said: “Through steady engagement we’ve seen councils grow in confidence and by encouraging others in the sector to follow their lead, parish councils will be better placed to be compliant – and be less likely to face action by the ICO.
“It’s important that data protection remains high on the agenda within the sector and we hope that National Association of Local Councils and the Society of Local Council Clerks will continue taking this work forward to maintain the confidence that has developed.”

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