What this Policy is about
This Policy deals with several technical matters which are needed to help us comply with legal requirements in several pieces of legislation. We have used initials or abbreviations instead of long names or titles to make the text easier to read and set these out in the list below:
Meanings of abbreviations and initials
- 'NPC' means Neasham Parish Council, which is the civil parish authority for the villages or settlements of Neasham, Low Dinsdale, Brasscastle (including Dinsdale Park) and Sockburn.
- 'Councillor' means a person elected to represent residents in NPC's area, and make decisions about what NPC does.
- 'Clerk' means the person who carries out the administration work for NPC.
- 'BMO' means the Councillor who has oversight of the work of the Clerk.
- 'DBC' means Darlington Borough Council, which is the overall authority for all the parishes in the Darlington area north of the River Tees
Meanings of words and phrases relating to documents
Technical matters require us to give some precise meanings to some of the words and phrases we use in the document. We shall explain these in the further list below.
- When we say 'destruction' or 'destroy' we mean that we are physically destroying all hard copies or permanently deleting all copies of a document stored on electronic media.
- When we talk about 'documents' we are referring to any information which is written or printed in hard copy or prepared and/or reproduced in any electronic medium. This includes documents prepared in one medium and copied or transferred to other media, or between two or more electronic media.
- A document is described as 'current' if it is in current use and is foreseen to have relevance or purpose for a limited time but may become long term or in perpetuity. We call it 'redundant' if its current use has come to an end, and it is no longer foreseen to have longer term relevance or purpose. If its current use has come to an end but we think it has long-term or perpetual importance or significance we call it 'archival'.
- 'Dormant' documents refer to documents or files which have ceased to be in regular use or contain current information but cannot yet be classed as 'redundant' because they may come back into use. A 'temporary' document is one where the content is transitory without lasting relevance or purpose.
- A 'file' relates to a suitably-named collection of documents on a single topic or theme, or an electronic folder containing collection of electronic documents.
Custody of documents
The Clerk, in consultation with the BMO, is responsible for making sure that all documents which are retained by NPC are kept safely, in an orderly manner, securely, and as far as practicable safe from accidental damage or unauthorised access, in such manner as NPC may approve from time to time.
The Clerk will deal with requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in accordance with the provisions of that Act and any relevant guidelines from the Information Commissioner's Office.
The Clerk will review all documents at least twice yearly for the purpose of:
- arranging the destruction of temporary documents and redundant documents,
- identifying current documents which are dormant, allocating a review date, and arranging storage of them,
- reviewing dormant documents on their review date and classify them, as appropriate, as redundant, or archival, or allocate a further review date.
Councillors are individually responsible for making sure that all NPC documents in their personal possession are kept safely, in an orderly manner, securely, and as far as practicable safe from accidental damage or unauthorised access. They will be expected to review documents held on their personal computers mobile phones or hand-held devices at least quarterly and destroy redundant documentation. Any hard copy redundant documents should be returned to the Clerk for destruction. Any dormant documents may be returned to the Clerk for classification and retention. Any archival documents (whether hard copy or electronic) must be returned to the Clerk for archiving as set out below.
Destruction of documents
The Clerk must ensure that all hard copy redundant documents are destroyed confidentially by shredding, or via a confidential destruction service which issues appropriate certificates.
Redundant documents held on electronic media must be permanently deleted, and a check carried out to ensure that no additional copies remain.
Archiving of documents
The Clerk must arrange for hard copy archival documents to be lodged with Durham County Records Office (presently at County Hall, Durham City DH1 5UL). Archival documents held electronically must be backed up onto suitable storage media, and either:
- lodged in secure deposit facilities, or
- transferred to a 'cloud storage' facility.
In either case pursuant to suitable contractual arrangements relating to access and security.
NPC will take the necessary steps to deposit any publication to which the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 applies in accordance with the requirements of that Act.
Security arrangements for electronic documents and records
Subject to the performance of its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, documents relating to NPC business is confidential to NPC and should not be disclosed save in furtherance of the NPC's functions. Information which is subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Acts (including the General Data Protection Regulations) may only be disclosed in accordance with NPC's Data Protection Policy.
Documents which are created in or transferred into electronic medium should be automatically backed up to electronic storage. The storage and documents within it remain the property of NPC. Access to it is restricted to those who are properly authorised by NPC. Any documents held on the Clerk's or a Councillor's computer must not be copied or distributed to any other person without proper authority, unless already in the public domain.
Termination of office or appointment
If a Councillor ceases to be such, or the Clerk leaves the NPC's employment, all hard copy documents must be surrendered to NPC. Any documents held electronically on portable disk or tape must be similarly surrendered. Electronic copies of any other documents held on hard disk or in any other electronic medium on or accessible to a person's own computer must be provided to NPC, and then the documents held by that person must be permanently deleted and written confirmation of deletion provided to NPC.
NPC has also prepared some operational Guidance Notes on the application of this Policy. (These are set out in a separate document which is available on request to the Clerk).
This Policy was approved by Neasham Parish Council on 1 March 2021