Councillors' letters were opened without permission, Town Hall admits
- Credit: Bob Perry
Councillors have spoken out after their private letters were opened by Havering Council officers without permission.
The authority has admitted it opened the mail, but says it did so in case the correspondence contained anything urgent.
The Recorder spoke to three councillors who said their mail was opened.
Cllr Bob Perry (Emerson Park, Independent) called it “a completely unacceptable breach of privacy”.
He said he was “shocked to notice that a private letter from a resident, addressed to me personally, had not only been opened by council officers but marked as scanned”.
You may also want to watch:
“Correspondence between an elected member and a constituent is sacrosanct,” he said. “The public have a right to expect that their privacy is respected, as do councillors.”
After complaining, he said other councillors came forward.
- 1 Teenager injured after Hornchurch stabbing
- 2 Rainham robbery: Boy, 14, suffers slash injury
- 3 Farnham and Hilldene Estate regeneration plans gather pace
- 4 Kem Cetinay officially opens Array restaurant in Harold Wood
- 5 Guilty: Who was jailed across east London in July?
- 6 Plans submitted to install 5G mast near Gallows Corner
- 7 'Prisoners in our own homes': Hornchurch residents left without lifts
- 8 Collier Row grandma crochets letterbox topper to 'make community smile'
- 9 Romford's Jesy Nelson included in Little Mix display at Madame Tussauds
- 10 Chronically ill Romford man's fight for diagnosis after being told problem is psychological
Cllr Perry said he was concerned the council may have broken data rules.
Under the Postal Services Act 2000, it is an offence to open somebody else’s mail “intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse”.
But the council has insisted it was only trying to be helpful.
Cllr Gillian Ford (Cranham, Upminster and Cranham Residents Group) said her mail was also opened.
“There was no consultation,” she said, adding that some residents include personal details in their letters or contact councillors in confidence to complain about council staff or services.
South Hornchurch independent Cllr Graham Williamson said he too received opened letters.
“They never sought consent,” he said.
A council spokesperson said: “During the pandemic, post was opened, checked for urgency and forwarded, including by email, to councillors.
“This was done to help them quickly receive any correspondence, especially when the lockdown was in full effect. It was not done for any other reason.
“However, we have been told by some councillors that they are not happy with this arrangement. We will therefore go back to simply forwarding mail at regular intervals.”
However, Cllr Ford said that explanation “doesn’t make sense” because “we are still having a weekly post delivery, like we did before Covid".
“We are not getting it any quicker or slower,” agreed Cllr Williamson.