Worcester News – Bromsgrove District Council made thousands selling personal details from electoral register

As originally published in the Worcester News on 16/02/2017

BROMSGROVE District Council has made more than £6,000 selling on resident’s private details from the electoral register over the last five years.

Credit referencing agencies, a university and parish council clerks are some of the bodies handed people’s details between 2011 and 2016.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed how Worcestershire’s six district councils have earned £37,000 by selling the register in just five years, with Bromsgrove council making £6,100.79.

Pressure group Big Brother Watch has hit out at the findings, saying the practice can leave people “swamped by junk mail”.

By Government law, councils are obliged to pass on the electoral register to third parties, although they must pay set fees in order to obtain it.

After years of controversy, in 2001 the High Court ruled that householders must have the right to be omitted from one version of the register available to the likes of companies, but around 50 per cent of people never bother.

Experian, a global information services offering free online credit score checks, was one of five credit referencing agencies to buy the register from Bromsgrove District Council, as well as Voter Consultancy ltd, a registered third party.

The University of Birmingham and several parish council clerks have also bought Bromsgrove’s register during the five-year period.

Daniel Nesbitt, from Big Brother Watch said “The edited electoral register is waste of everyone’s time.

“It leaves residents swamped by junk mail, and councils barely raise anything from selling it on.

“It’s time it was abolished – citizens should not have to worry about where their personal information will end up when they register to vote.”

But a spokesman for Bromsgrove District Council said the sales were “not a matter for councils to decide”.

Claire Felton, head of legal, equalities and democratic services for Bromsgrove District and Redditch Borough councils, said: “Under the regulations set by Parliament, councils are required to release the open, or edited, electoral register to any person, company, or organisation that pays the set statutory fee.”