Derby City Council

Council refuses information request on Labour Party agent’s privileged access history

The Grant Thornton report issued in June 2016 was very critical of the access rights given to James Shires, the Labour Party agent. Shires has his own security pass for the Council offices, and rooms which allows him to move around at will – such passes are usually only given to Council employees and Councillors – not members of the public. This pass was given to Shires by Cllr Paul Bayliss when he was Leader of the Council – this has subsequently been, de facto, approved by Cllr Banwait.

Given the concern that Shires was present in Council meetings and potentially had access to confidential information then the extent of his access, and whereabouts are a matter of public interest.

A Freedom of Information requested was submitted asking:

1.How many times the pass was used?

2.Dates and times the pass was used?

3.Actual doors accessed?

The request was refused on all 3 counts on the basis that the access information is “personal data” under the Data Protection Act. It is a very dubious assertion that this is personal data – this is a public place which is the seat of local democracy, and it must be a matter of public record as to who has privileged access to the building. Shires skirts around some of the guidance as he could maintain he is a “member of the public” and not a local authority employee or elected member, however his “twilight” status suggests that he has adopted a more public figure. The guidance does contemplate public interest disclosure over-rides – I would maintain that this is in the public interest, notwithstanding that access information barely constitutes personal data.

Someone in the Council has gone to a lot of trouble to “split hairs” and avoid giving out straight forward information ( all of this data is recorded as part of the security access system so can be easily provided).

Why are they trying to protect Shires? What are they concerned about? Why not defer to public interest? Has he been having meetings with people who he should not have been?

A refusal to provide information will lead to people filling in the gaps themselves, and creating their own conspiracy theories.

4 replies »

  1. Send their response to the Data Commissioner for clarification – from my limited knowledge of Data Protection, they’re talking out of their hats….and more importantly if he doesn’t have a valid reason to have the pass, they are probably also breaching data protection if he has any visibility of council held data…

  2. He has a pass to a public building, issued by a public authority. There can be nothing personal or private about his movement. So why has this request been denied ? The response from the council, if it is accurately reported, seems blatantly wrong. More to the point. Is this man employed by the authority ? Has he been elected by the citizens ? Is he fulfilling a function sanctioned by the electorate at large ? If any of those questions have a “no” in the answer box then he simply shouldn’t be there and if he is then we as citizens need to know why and what he was doing and when.

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