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WARNING: Councillors’ ERYC Emails ARE Routinely Intercepted And Read By Officers.

February 8, 2015

We all expect our dealings with our doctors, solicitors and MP to be confidential. They handle sensitive and private information. The same goes for our Councillors. Most people would be horrified if council officers had access to our private correspondence with our elected representatives, but that is exactly what is happening in the East Riding Council.

We wrote some time ago that our emails to East Riding councillors appeared to be intercepted. We were assured by Mr Buckley, the Council’s Monitoring Officer that this was not the case. (See link)

It would now appear that this assurance was false. The Council has recently amended its website to remove all of our councillors’ private email addresses from their contact information, and replaced them with a generic @eastriding.gov.uk address.

In most councils the official email addresses are confidential, with only the Councillor having access. Not so here; the East Riding councillors do not have any direct access, their accounts are not private password-protected, instead Officers read all the emails and pass on what they feel is relevant to the Councillor. This breach of our trust and confidentiality is astonishing in itself, but it is far worse than that.

A recent email from the head Conservative Party Board’s Disciplinary Committee to a senior party official who is also an ERYC councillor was sent using their ERYC address. The email was not passed on to the councillor, but instead, intercepted by an officer and given to the Council Leader. It detailed a complaint from a Conservative councillor relating to alleged impropriety by the Leader – he promptly used the message as an example of disloyalty and intervened to have the whistle-blower deselected. This is clear evidence of extraordinary and inappropriate political collusion between officers and the Conservative leadership.

In another astonishing example, an officer intercepted a councillor’s email and replied to the sender on their behalf. The councillor only knew about the intervention when they received a copy of the reply.

We have heard of several repeats of our own experience of residents emailing all councillors only to find their communication is not being passed on to the addressee. Councillors have reported not receiving emails that they know have been sent to them, and have even experienced their communications being redirected to senior colleagues.

So it would seem that Mr Buckley has misled J4B and that the monitoring and intervention of emails is a standard council practice and not a filter glitch as he stated. This is disgusting disrespect of the councillors and the electorate.

The councillors were not informed of the change and many were unaware of it until we asked them why their information had been changed. The web site does not inform the public that their correspondence is not private.

What is more disconcerting is that few councillors have seen fit to challenge either the unauthorised change of their preferred contact details or the monitoring and interception of their communications. Those that have were informed the change was for ‘audit’ reasons, whatever they are. Even if there was a new rule, this can not explain why councillors were not informed, or more crucially why they do not have secure access to their email accounts whilst officers do.

Perhaps if our councillors are prepared to betray our trust and the confidentiality of our correspondence with them, we need new representatives who understand it is not acceptable for officers to read their communications with their residents.

ERYC’s perversion of democracy has reached a whole new disturbing level.

WE ISSUE THIS WARNING: do not use the @eastriding.gov.uk email address unless you don’t mind your email being read by officers, intercepted, and possibly used for party political purposes. We suggest you telephone your Councillor instead or ask them for a private, secure email address.

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