The Information Commissioner (ICO) has hit Wolverhampton City Council with a 50-day deadline to complete staff data protection training after describing the authority's long-running inability to carry out the task as “startling.”
According to the ICO, a policy of mandatory training took until May 2013 to implement, since when the Council had missed its own deadline to complete this training by February of this year. By 18 February, only 32 percent of its employees had completed the module.
Making matters worse, the training had been imposed by the ICO as long ago as December 2011 after problems were uncovered during a policy audit.
Underlining the ICO’s concern, only weeks after the December 2011 audit, a social worker disclosed sensitive information to a sibling in error.
The Council must now complete the staff training within 50 days of 15 May 2014 or the issue would be treated as contempt of court, the ICO said.
"The lack of urgency displayed by Wolverhampton City Council is startling,” said the ICO’s head of enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, pulling no punches.
“Over two years ago, we reviewed the council’s practices and highlighted the need for guidance and mandatory training to help its staff keep residents’ information secure,” he said.
"Despite numerous warnings the council has failed to act, with over two thirds of its staff still remaining untrained. We have taken positive steps and acted before this situation is allowed to continue any longer and more people’s personal information is lost."
In February, Wolverhampton City Council said it planned to make £123 million in savings across all departments, including reducing its ICT budget by £769,000. Around 2,000 posts are expected to disappear over the next five years.
This financial pressure might explain why the ICO decided to issues an enforcement order with a deadline rather than a fine.
"The council accepts the findings in the Information Commissioner's Office report," read a statement issued by the Council.
"Over the last year, employees have been undertaking compulsory data protection training and we are on track to meet the ICO's deadline to complete this. This is one of a number of significant measures we have put in place to improve the council's Information Governance service since the ICO's audit in 2011."