Socitm, the public sector IT directors’ organisation and the Local Government Association have jointly produced new guidelines for data handling in local councils.

The guidelines were created to spell out the steps necessary to keep data safe and secure data in the aftermath of a series of public and private sector security debacles.

The Local Government Data Handling Guidelines provide a checklist of actions and highlight best practice in secure data handling.

Richard Steel, President of Socitm and CIO of Newham of Newham said, “It's a long time since data security could be considered as something for just the IT department to worry about. It’s a concern that should run through the entire organisation. If local government is to meet the challenge of improving public trust it will be firstly by creating the right culture and secondly, by having the right policies and procedures in place to provide accountability and scrutiny.”

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said guidelines as a significant step towards ensuring the consistent, proportionate and secure use of personal information by government at all levels.

“They make an important contribution to the aim of the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is that all organisations should inspire trust by collecting and using personal information responsibly, securely and fairly. “

Thomas said that local authorities that effectively introduce the guidelines “will significantly reduce the risk of incidents and problems”.

Socitm is also working DWP’s Government Connect programme which is implementing a version of the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) across all local authorities in England and Wales.

This will enable the secure transfer of local government data through government-controlled networks, avoiding the need to put data devices such as memory sticks, CDs and laptops which can be lost.

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