Norfolk County Council warning over secret recordings

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Council officials are being warned against making secret recordings of their telephone conversations in the wake of an incident involving a chief executive.

During an investigation of Derrick Murphy, ex-leader of Norfolk County Council, it emerged David White had taped a telephone call.

Now the authority is set to bring in strict new rules on the issue.

A report will be discussed on Tuesday at a scrutiny committee.

The government's information commissioner's office said the secret recording of a conversation was potentially a breach of the Data Protection Act.

The report to be considered by the committee says: "The council's customer service centre has the necessary hardware and software that allow telephone conversations to be recorded.

"Standard desk phones and Blackberries are not capable of recording a telephone conversation.

"Smart phones or tablets cannot record a telephone conversation by default. However, privately-owned smart phones and tablets could be made capable by downloading a suitable application."

Conservative-run Norfolk County Council has data protection policies, guidance and training in place.

But the report added: "There is currently no explicit policy or guidance with respect to the recording of telephone conversations beyond the more general data protection policy and guidance.

"We intend to include explicit guidance to council employees regarding the recording of telephone conversations as part of our ongoing review of information management policy."

George Nobbs, leader of the Labour Group and chairman of cabinet scrutiny committee, said: "There are a range of factors that make this a timely and necessary moment for county councillors to scrutinise just how well the authority is meeting its responsibilities under the Data Protection Act.

'Extraordinary one off'

"I will be looking for robust reassurance the tape recording of a conversation reported in a recent standards hearing was an extraordinary one off - which I very much hope it was."

Mr Nobbs said he wanted to ensure council employees and members were not vulnerable and knew if their conversations were being recorded.

Only customer service staff are allowed to record telephone conversations and both caller and staff members were informed.

Chief executive David White, who becomes redundant in April, told a standards committee inquiry he recorded a telephone conversation because he found Mr Murphy hard to work with.

"He's often not direct with me and I find him constantly evasive," he told the committee.

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