Interests and Data Protection

Most of us in the local authority governance business are familiar with the requirement for decision makers to declare interests in any items of business and the nature of that interest. Councillors and officers are also generally required to declare any gifts and hospitality offered worth £25 or more, irrespective of whether it has been accepted or declined.

But where does this longstanding provision for declarations of interests or registration of gifts and hospitality stand against the data protection rights of the individuals who may cited as being the reason behind an interest or offering gifts or hospitality. This is an another instance of where different pieces of well intended legislation don’t connect and the interpretation of governance professionals can set in train practices which may or may not be in accordance with the spirit of one Act of Parliament or another.

In the eyes of a governance professional, the primary issue should be openness and transparency in decision making. In such cases, the name of an individual or organisation should be disclosed where an interest exists or an offer of gifts or hospitality is made. Data Protection legislation requires the individual to consent to such data being made public, so Information Governance professionals would be very nervous with this.

There isn’t a definitive position on this, but it is one for further discussion. For Democratic Services staff, it is one to ponder with your MO and Information Governance lead.