John McLellan: Community councils pay £42k a year to protect nothing

Data protection is costly and can be used as an excuse by someone who doesn't want you to know something
Data protection is costly and can be used as an excuse by someone who doesn't want you to know something
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Hideously complex, little understood, but much referred to, data protection regulations are now a fact of life, and an easy retreat when somebody doesn’t want you to know something.

The rules scare organisations large and small who fear hefty fines for breaches of regulations seemingly designed to banjax the most forensic lawyer. So everyone plays safe and compliance has therefore become a growth industry. And last week, Labour and Liberal Democrat peers abused a new Data Protection bill to use it as a back door to introduce new controls over the Press.

Newspaper publishers aside, the latest to be sucked into the vortex is your local community council, and I’m grateful to Steuart Campbell of Longstone CC for pointing out that they now have to nominate a data protection controller because they are deemed to be recipients of sensitive information. And for the privilege, they must pay an annual £35 registration fee. Most people have never been to a community council meeting, but the sensitive data they handle doesn’t extend to much more than the members’ email addresses and the odd grant application. As Steuart rightly points out, for 1,200 Scottish community councils that’s £42,000 a year for a whole lot of nothing.