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Local authorities audit report: “areas of good practice, but clear room for improvement by all”

A report published by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has highlighted ‘clear room for improvement’ in how local authorities comply with the Data Protection Act 

The ICO audited 16 local authorities last year. The audits include an overall ‘assurance rating’, but none received high assurance that they were complying with data protection law. Six were told they had considerable room for improvement, while one was warned that immediate action was required.

Yesterday’s report includes a list of areas for improvement identified by the audits, notably improving training and ensuring effective data protection governance is in place.

The report also lists examples of good practice found during the audits, in areas such as information security and records management.

Announcing the publication of the report John-Pierre Lamb, ICO Group Manager in the Good Practice team, said:

“The Information Commissioner has levied monetary penalties to local authorities for the most serious breaches of the data protection principles totalling over £2.3 million.

“The types of breaches we’re seeing are fairly consistent, with personal information being disclosed in error and lost or stolen paperwork and hardware prevalent.

“It’s clear that there’s room for improvement, and not just by the local authorities we visited: the areas for improvement we identified in those visits should prove helpful to many local authorities.

“By learning from the mistakes of others, and indeed learning from the examples of good practice we found, local authorities will improve their compliance with the law, and be less likely to find the regulator knocking on their door.

“Our figures show that local authorities have much to do to improve data protection governance and training. We recognise that councils are having ‘to do more with less’ due to ongoing budgetary pressures, but it is important to appreciate that the lack of effective governance structures and training programmes significantly increases the risk of serious breaches of the DPA.”

Findings report from ICO audits of 16 local authorities (PDF)
More information on how local authorities can ensure they’re complying with the law 
Details of our audit services 
Learn more about data sharing 


Notes to Editors

1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
3. The ICO is on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. Read more in the ICO blogand e-newsletter.Our Press Office page provides more information for journalists.
4. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:

Fairly and lawfully processed
Processed for limited purposes 
Adequate, relevant and not excessive 
Accurate and up to date 
Not kept for longer than is necessary 
Processed in line with your rights 
Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection

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