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Town halls accused over selling Sussex residents' information
Town halls have been accused of “undermining democracy”
after raking in thousands of pounds selling personal information.
Scores of companies, from pizza shops to estate agents, steam railways to community workers, have bought lists of people’s names from local authorities.
This means that companies can send out thousands of unsolicited letters with a few clicks of a computer mouse.
Council bosses said there was nothing it could do to stop individuals and firms from purchasing the edited electoral roll.
But Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles said: “The edited register is a pointless waste of council time, undermines trust in the electoral system and contributes to huge volumes of junk mail. It should be abolished.
“An open democracy means councils should maintain a full version of the register that’s available to the public. But that should not mean gift-wrapping our names and addresses for estate agents, pizza shops and junk mail marketeers.”
The edited register was introduced in 2002 – amid concerns over the full version being put on sale.
Since then, about a quarter of all voters have opted out of appearing on the list. But millions more may not be aware what is happening to their information as a result of registering.
The total amount received by Sussex councils in the last five years is £9,500. Wealden District Council was one of the worst offenders in the country selling its data 26 times.
Among those to receive the most amount of money were Brighton and Hove (£1,212.50), Chichester District (£1,464) and Rother (£1,310.50).
Leo Littman, Brighton and Hove City Council’s lead councillor for finance and resources, said: “We are legally obliged to sell the copies of the edited electoral roll when requested.
“However, we would like to remind residents of their right to be removed from the edited version and that they can do this by simply ticking the box when filling in their electoral roll form.”
A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said: “The Electoral Commission does not support the commercial sale of any details provided for the purposes of electoral registration and we are concerned that it may act as a deterrent to some people registering to vote.”
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “It is completely unacceptable for councils to be profiting in this way. Junk mail is a menace and councils should be looking at ways to make sensible savings and not taking advantage of voters.”
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