The ‘West End Extra’ reports;
“TOWN hall bosses are under fire for failing to provide a list of companies that paid them for access to the personal details of thousands of residents.
Westminster Council sold a list of voters’ names and addresses to 93 companies and individuals over the past five years for an average of just £67 per time.
It topped a nationwide list of councils that sold the information – the electoral roll drawn from a list of adults registered to vote – to companies ranging from estate agents to fast-food outlets, leading to fears it was responsible for waves of junk mail.
Councils have no choice but to sell the lists and the law states they must hand over the information “to any persons on payment of a fee” which is calculated as £20 plus £1.50 for each 1,000 entries.
Westminster made more than £6,200 from the 93 sales but, unlike neighbouring boroughs Camden and Kensington & Chelsea, it has refused to publish a full list of the companies who paid for access.
Instead it provided a brief list of edited highlights which included the University of Surrey, estate agent Knight Frank and unnamed “community groups within Westminster”.
The figures were obtained by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch who called for a change in the law to stop the uncontrolled sale of personal information.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, criticised Westminster’s decision to withhold the names of companies and said: “It’s hardly right for councils to argue they have no choice but to sell the information, then to choose to keep secret who it has been sold to.”
Voters can ask to be taken off the list permanently and Mr Pickles said it was important people knew who was buying their information so they could make a decision, adding: “People can’t be expected to make an informed choice if they don’t have all the facts.”
Labour councillor David Boothroyd said: “I’m very surprised that Westminster won’t say who has bought the register. It’s something the people ought to have the right to know.”
He added: “In general it’s probably time to end the idea of an edited register which can be sold.
“Most people now see it as wrong for public bodies to make a profit on the side from something, like registering to vote, which is a civic duty.”