Legislative updates

Data Protection Act 2018

The Data Protection Act 2018 duly received Royal Assent last Friday, 25th May and with it came confirmation that for the purposes of the General Data Protection Regulation parish councils are not defined as ‘Public Authorities’. As a consequence, there is no statutory requirement for a parish council to appoint a “Data Protection Officer”.

 

Filming of Parish Council meetings: the law since August 2014

As reported at the time in the SPCA “Bulletin” (the issues dated 7th August and 14th August 2014 refer) the Government made the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, pursuant to the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, effective from 6th August 2014. The rules were changed to make councils, including parish and town councils, and other local government bodies such as fire and rescue authorities, more transparent and accountable to their local communities.

The key change was that the Regulations conferred on the public the right to film and report, using digital and social media, all those meetings of parish and town councils which are open to the public.

The Association has a model “Media Policy” that councils should consider adopting in order that they can respond accordingly when members of the public choose to exercise their rights under the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014.

 

 

Emailing of Agendas

The Local Government (Electronic Communications) (England) Order 2015 (copy attached), which comes into effect on 30th January, modifies provisions in Schedule 12 to the Local Government Act 1972 to enable the use of electronic communications in the sending of summonses to members of parish councils in England. In other words, it will now be entirely lawful to send the agenda and meeting papers by email rather than the nominal requirement being that they be sent in the post or left at a member’s residence, providing that members consent to this means of delivery.

The legislative reform order having been laid in Parliament in 12th January, Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins appeared to tacitly acknowledge that many councils have already made the change when saying: “We have been encouraging can-do councils to adapt to the digital age to modernise the services they deliver to local people and deliver savings. This Government is determined to bust barriers to modernisation in local government therefore it is only right councils should be able to issue agendas electronically, whilst ensuring councillors continue to have access to hard copy papers if they wish. This is a great opportunity for councils to use modern digital communications to conduct business in the most efficient way possible and it will help reduce costs and provide better value for money for local taxpayers.”

Cllr Ken Browse, chair of NALC said: “This reform to rules, which are over forty years old, is long overdue but very welcome and will help parish and town councils operate more efficiently and effectively. NALC welcomes the Government’s announcement that allows local councils to be able to send agendas electronically rather than in the post; ending a budgetary burden on councils and enabling them to benefit from 21st Century technology.”