Local authorities face the challenging task of managing ever-growing volumes of records, covering anything from council taxes to confidential information about local schools. Phil Greenwood, Country Managing Director and Commercial Director at Iron Mountain.
Furthermore, they must manage this data securely while dealing with the pressures of cutting costs and improving the overall efficiency of the services they provide to the public. If the protection of this information is not prioritised and is somehow compromised, severe financial penalties and reputational damage will soon follow. In the UK, the 1998 Data Protection Act requires controllers of personal data to take appropriate measures to prevent data being “accidentally or deliberately compromised”. Some of these measures include having robust policies and procedures in place, and reliable, well-trained staff. If a local authority fails to comply with these measures and a serious data breach occurs, the organisation can face fines up to £500,000.
Despite the obvious risks and reputational damage caused by a breach, local authorities are simply struggling to find the time to manage and protect information properly. A recent study by Iron Mountain, The challenge of sharing information management in UK local authorities in 2016 and beyond highlights the challenges faced by records and information managers.
The study found that 57 percent of records and information managers have just a few seconds to handle every record they are responsible for and do not have enough staff to deal with day-to-day information management demands. Complicating the issue further is how leaders in other areas view the scale of the problem.
According to our study, 50 percent of records and information managers believe the number of cases involving poor information management has gone up, while only 35 percent of leaders in other departments agree. There is also a lack of faith within local authorities about their organisation’s ability to manage large volumes of information securely and in accordance with data protection legislation. Approaching half (42 percent) of records and information managers and leaders in other departments don’t trust their colleagues to adhere to data protection legislation and/or don’t trust them to manage information securely (45 percent). In the face of these problems, it is difficult to see what steps local authorities can take to get a better grip on information management. But there are steps they can take. Below are some recommendations on how our local authorities might address the complex information challenges they face.