Call for shake-up of council safeguards

South Ribble Council Civic Centre, Leyland
South Ribble Council Civic Centre, Leyland

South Ribble Council has been told to improve the way it handles confidential information, following a report into how a secret taxi licensing report was leaked.

The authority asked legal firm Weightmans to establish the circumstances surrounding how the dossier about alleged child sex exploitation (CSE) by taxi drivers was fed to the media last year, even though Leyland Councillor Claire Hamilton Tweeted she was responsible.

Councillor Claire Hamilton, who leaked the report

Councillor Claire Hamilton, who leaked the report

It concludes that several reviews of policy are needed, and councillors were also criticised.

Report author Shaun Goacher said: “There appear to have been no safeguards in place for the management of the interim report”, adding: “This suggests that either the council does not have in place an appropriate information management/security policy or if it does, awareness of it and compliance with it were poor in this case.”

The council is also urged to look at it’s whistle-blowing policy, as there was no evidence Coun Hamilton used it.

Coun Hamilton declined to participate in the investigation, so Mr Goacherchose to believe Labour leader Councillor Paul Foster’s evidence that he gave her the report as she claimed to know people who could advise on CSE. He denies asking her to leak the report to the media.

But Mr Goacher added Coun Foster “clearly knew that there was a possibility that Councillor Hamilton would share the interim report with the press and he did nothing to stop her from doing so.”

He is also criticised for failing to press the council’s monitoring officer for actions and not taking up the issue with other agencies.

Councillor Hamilton is also slammed. Mr Goacher states: “The fact that Councillor Hamilton went straight to the press and did not apparently make any effort to raise her concerns with anyone within the Council or any external agency suggests that she was motivated as much if not more by political or personal purposes than by public interest considerations.”

Councillor Peter Mullineaux, Leader of South Ribble Borough Council, said: “This council takes such matters extremely seriously and is determined that lessons will be learnt from the events of the past 18 months.

“The report has made six recommendations to ensure the council has a robust framework in place to deal with confidential and personal information.

“We have already completed the first recommendation, which was to review and update the council’s information security and records management policy. We are equally as committed to implementing the other five recommendations and have a clear action plan with timescales in place to ensure that we do so.”