Councils 'selling names and addresses'

COUNCILS in Suffolk are making tens of thousands of pounds by regularly selling people's names and addresses to businesses and organisations including junk mail companies.

Anthony Bond

COUNCILS in Suffolk are making tens of thousands of pounds by regularly selling people's names and addresses to businesses and organisations including junk mail companies.

An EADT investigation has discovered that the seven borough and district councils have made at least �50,000 in the past five years by selling on the electoral register.

Businesses which have bought the personal details include estate agents, a company which runs bars and a travel agency.

A direct marketing firm has also bought the names and addresses of some of Suffolk's residents, which can then be used for unsolicited mail drops or marketing phone calls.

Other businesses and organisations buying the personal information include a stockbroker, a company which specialises in personalised car registrations as well as churches, a school and the University of East Anglia.

Most Read

Details of the EADT investigation have led to criticism from Big Brother Watch, a campaigning organisation to protect individual liberties and personal freedom.

Last night, Alex Deane, the director of Big Brother Watch, said: “I think this is an appalling abuse of council powers. We all think that we can trust the council with our basic electoral data. Nobody thinks that when they tell the council their personal details that these details are going to be sold on. There has never been any warning to anyone that this information would be sold for profit by these councils.”

Details of the selling on of the electoral register where obtained by the EADT following a Freedom of Information request.

It shows that the names and addresses of residents in Aldeburgh and Framlingham, who are on the edited register, were sold by the council earlier this year for �26 to Susan Hampshire Travel, which specialises in ocean and river cruises.

Babergh District Council has made �462.90 since 2004 by selling on the edited electoral register to direct marketing companies on four occasions. It has also sold details to planning consultants, an estate agents and restaurateurs.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council has sold on personal details of some of its residents to British Sugar, LA Fitness and Spectre Leisure.

The investigation also found a huge difference between the seven councils in the number of occasions that they sell the information on.

Ipswich Borough Council has not sold on the edited register at all since its records began in 2007. But Babergh District Council has sold the edited register to businesses, organisations and individuals 33 times since 2004.

Ray Amesbury, senior democratic services manager, at Babergh District Council, said: “As with all other councils responsible for maintaining a register of electors, Babergh is required by law to make either its full or edited register available on request. The amount that councils are able to charge for this is set centrally and cannot be varied by councils. Therefore, the fees obtained by Babergh over the years in question are a reflection of the demand for one or other forms of the register from national and local organisations”

MONEY MADE BY COUNCILS FOR ELECTORAL REGISTER

04/5 05/6 06/7 07/8 08/9 09 TOTAL

Babergh �2,448 �1,692 �1,901 �1,851 �2,387 �40 �10,319

Forest Heath No data No data No data No data No data �1,188 �1,188

Ipswich No data No data No data �1,882 �1,882 �1,882 �5,646

Mid Suffolk No data �1,316 �1,203 �1,726 �1,671 �2,008 �7,924

St Eds �3,115 �1,900 �1,614 �2,032 �2,281 �188 �11,130

Suff Coastal No data �1,488 �1,440 �1,849 �2,082 No data �6,859

Waveney No data �1,856 �2,053 �1,584 �1,725 No data �7,218

TOTAL �5,563 �8,252 �8,211 �10,924 �12,028 �5,306 �50,284

COMPANIES AND ORGANISATIONS WHO HAVE PAID FOR ELECTORAL REGISTER

PMM Boiler & Plumbing

PPS

NAVTEQ

Opinion Leader Research

By Choice estate agents

East Bergholt Heart Watch

Marketing Solutions

Ipswich High School for Girls

Stutton Church

Festival Republic - organiser of Latitude Festival

Susan Hampshire Travel

Edward Jones Stockbrokers

British Sugar

Datalink

Elite Registrations

Spectre Leisure

Whiting & Partners

University of East Anglia

Pack Homes Ins Services

LA Fitness

Datatrans

THERE are two versions of the electoral register which can be sold on legally by councils - the full version and edited.

The full version contains the names and addresses of all people within the councils boundaries and also indicates whether somebody is an absent voter or, for example, or if they are a European voter entitled to vote in the UK. This can only be sold for electoral purposes and to political parties and their candidates and agents. It can also be sold to credit reference agencies.

With the edited version, residents can choose to opt out of being on this.

Emily Metcalfe, democratic and business support team leader at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “The edited register can be sold to anybody with a legitimate use for it, such as marketing companies and people doing data comparisons and search engine companies. When we do sell a register we have to issue a list of appropriate uses.”

The amount of money which councils can sell the register for is set by the Government.

Ipswich High School for Girls was one organisation which bought details of the electoral register.

Gemma Parker, marketing manager at the school, said: “The information is already filtered by the local council for those people who do not wish for their data to be shared. We have sent information to those people on the electoral role who have given permission, inviting them to attend literary evenings and theatre performances at our school, as part of our commitment to our local community. We have had an extremely positive response from the recipients, and have not received any negative feedback at all.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter