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Tax payers’ personal data lost in ‘unforgivable’ council blunder

Source: Daily Mail

Hundreds of confidential documents detailing the personal data of tax payers were discovered strewn on a busy roundabout.

Sensitive debt recovery papers containing names, addresses, money owed, monthly payments and court hearing dates were found by motorists blowing about in the breeze.

Letters to tax payers from council bailiffs chasing up unpaid tax bills were also found on Monday at the Gallows Corner roundabout in Romford, Essex.

The documents, which date from 1992 to June this year, should have been destroyed by Havering Council.

Car shop worker Colin Iszatt told how he gathered up more than 50 documents outside the shop. He slammed the council’s blunder, saying it left tax payers open to fraud.

He said: ‘I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There were hundreds and hundreds of these papers flying down the road.

‘What chance have we got against fraud when they’re doing this? It’s unforgivable.’

Havering Council has launched an urgent investigation but could not answer how the papers came to be at the roadside.

A spokesman said it was ‘a relatively small amount of data’ despite claims hundreds of documents were found.

Havering Council’s assistant chief executive Christine Dooley said: ‘I am taking this incident extremely seriously and apologise to anyone whose detail may have been lost.

‘As soon as we were informed, a team was sent to inspect the site and recover any further material.

‘I have launched an immediate investigation into how this occurred and will take whatever action is necessary to prevent it happening again.

Council Labour leader Coun Keith Darvill criticised the gaffe, adding: ‘It would be embarrassing if details got into the wrong hands. Information like this should be shredded.

‘It’s very disappointing to see that happen and the council needs to tighten up procedures.’

Michael Parker, a spokesman for privacy campaign group NO21D, said it was unacceptable that such documents had not been disposed of properly by the council.

He said: ‘Especially documents relating to court appearances should be treated with the same respect and vigilance as you would treat cash, because in the wrong hands that information could ruin your life.

‘If the council is going to make a habit of collecting this information, it had better make sure it knows how to deal with it.’

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