Council take incompetence to a new level putting lives in serious danager

Folkestone & Hythe District Council have taken incompetence to a whole new level. In doing so they’ve placed the lives of women, children and men at significant and substantial risk.

A substantial risk is one “that cannot sensibly be ignored having regard to the nature and gravity of the feared harm in the particular case

So what have they done? On the 11 July 2022, our public face made a simple FoI request to the Council – thankfully not via the What Do They Know platform. The request was as follows:

Please provide me with the following information

The number of homeless households placed into the district into temporary accommodation (TA) by other Local Authorities between the 1sept 2019 to present. This is to include the number of people in each household and the name of the Local Authority that placed them in TA in FHDC Area.

Note the request asks for no personal information. However, the council sent our public face a spreadsheet; which informed him of the names of the individuals, their dates of birth, the names of the housing officers from the authority who sent the households to our district, their direct line number, and yes the address they sent them to in our district. One must remember once an FoI is released, it is released to the world.

Now can anybody see what is wrong with that? Well if not, we’ll explain.

Under the Council’s 2021 Safeguarding Policy signed off by Dr Susan Priest, our Chief Exec, and Cllr David Monk, the document states:

In recent years, safeguarding duties placed on the Council have been extended beyond safeguarding children and vulnerable adults to encompass domestic abuse and violence, Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), so-called honour based abuse and forced marriage, Modern Day Slavery (MDS), Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also known as Female Genital Cutting and Prevent (the Government’s Counter- Terrorism Strategy) and other issues e.g. cuckooing

Some of the households sent into our area, regardless of the fact they are single people, or families with children, have fled Domestic abuse and violence. Let’s not forget the council purchased £2,177 pounds worth of Ring doorbells which have video capability on them as the Council’s procurement card data shows.

The other question to ask is how many of these people are known to KCC Social Services?

With the information given, they can be easily identified.

The Council’s safeguarding Policy aims to ensure that an overarching approach to safeguarding is embedded within all Council services and that staff, elected members, volunteers and those delivering contracts on behalf of the Council understand their role and responsibilities in supporting all residents to live a life free from abuse, neglect, exploitation and intimidation.

But it is clear this is not true, as they’ve demonstrated incompetence at a  whole new level; which could have created life threatening risk to the  households named in the released information.

It does not just put the households at risk. It puts Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Thanet & Dartford’s Housing Officers at risk, because it discloses their names and their telephone numbers.

Our Council are very fortunate they released this data to our public face because he has an extensive knowledge of data protection. As such, he convened a meeting of the whole team and explained to us that – a): he had lawfully procured the data from FHDC via FoI. b): they had released data which breached the Data Protection Act 2018 and the rights of the persons named in the spreadsheet. c): that he would write to the Chief Exec’s, Monitoring Officers, of Ashford, Canterbury, Dartford, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe & Thanet to inform them of the data breach and risk to the households – d): inform the Information Commissioner’s Office & Kent Police – e): inform KCC Social Services – f): Inform the External Auditor, Grant Thornton & Internal Auditor as this is the single largest Governance failure in the Council’s history, and most importantly – g): destroy the data as he must by law – see s170.

We add that not a single member of the team received, or viewed any of the data the council shared with him.

Our public face has now destroyed the data, but not before sharing it with those set out above. This has been done, as it must be by law, as lives have been put in danger.

It’s clear to us Folkestone & Hythe District Council under the leadership of Dr Susan Priest (pictured) is not fit for purpose. They & she cannot be trusted with peoples data, and they have put peoples lives at substantial risk. It is truly lucky this data went to our public face. If it had fallen into the hands of a perpetrator of Domestic Abuse, who know any of the named household members, the consequences do not bear thinking about.

It is our honest belief, and opinion, this issue along with all the other issues we’ve highlighted over the last few months in particular, Dr Susan Priest MUST step down with immediate effect, as it’s clear she is not fit to run our council, due to another significant data breach. As we’ve said once, and we’ll say again, fish rot from the head down.

The Shepway Vox Team

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2 Comments on Council take incompetence to a new level putting lives in serious danager

  1. Monumental stupidity by FHDC which as you say would have placed lives in potential danger if it had fallen into the wrong hands. Great work keep it up, because surely she has to go. The day is coming.

  2. If you have not done so already you should report FHDC to the Information Commissioner’s Office. I do wonder if part of the problem is that the Council are now heavily reliant on temporary contract staff. If they are not properly trained and supervised mistakes like this will continue to happen.

    Concerning Dr Susan Priest, I agree entirely that she is a liability. I remain puzzled as to how she ever got the job as Chief Executive in the first place. David Monk claimed at the time that she had “good contacts” but, in my opinion that is not an adequate criteria for her being selected. Perhaps he (and his colleagues) thought she would just do what she was told and not rock the boat.

    I have not had the pleasure of meeting her so you might want to enquire of other Council officers as to how they rate her performance. If she is subject to a formal appraisal process you might want to request a copy under the Freedom of Information Act. On the other hand if she thinks she has done a good job I am sure that she would be happy to share her appraisal results with Shepway Vox.

    The key problem is that because she has performed so poorly she will discover that finding a new role within local government will not be easy. I suspect that she is hanging on in the hope of receiving a pay-off and signing a non-disclosure agreement.

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