Council response regarding media coverage relating to a series of business meetings of Fermanagh & Omagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) in Armagh

Published: 16th March 2016

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council wishes to place on record the detail of a series of Fermanagh & Omagh PCSP business meetings in Armagh on 5 and 6 February which have attracted negative media attention.

Fermanagh & Omagh PCSP
Fermanagh & Omagh PCSP is made up of ten elected members, nine independent members from the community, and representatives from a number of statutory bodies.

The PCSP works with the local community to identify issues of concern within the Fermanagh & Omagh district in relation to policing and community safety.  The focus of the Partnership’s work is on delivering practical solutions by working in partnership with organisations which contribute to the enhancement of community safety in the area.

Fermanagh & Omagh PCSP is a separate body from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, however the Council administers the Partnership and PCSP staff are employees of the Council.

Purpose of visit to Armagh

  1. Visit to PSNI’s non-emergency 101 telephone number call centre
    Members of Fermanagh & Omagh PCSP travelled to Armagh on Friday 5 February to visit the PSNI’s non-emergency 101 telephone number call centre in the city, further to issues raised by PCSP members relating to the telephone service at a meeting with senior policing personnel on 7 January 2016. PCSP members agreed that the visit to the 101 call centre helped to inform understanding of concerns regarding the telephone service which had been previously raised.
  1. PCSP business meeting
    A meeting to consider PCSP business then took place in Armagh City Hotel after the visit to the PSNI’s non-emergency 101 telephone number call centre on February 5. This was attended by 16 members of Fermanagh & Omagh PCSP.
  1. Meeting to develop PCSP Strategic Plan
    A second PCSP business meeting was held on Saturday 6 February to enable PCSP members to identify priorities and plan actions for Fermanagh & Omagh PCSP’s 2016-2019 Strategic Plan. 13 members of Fermanagh & Omagh PCSP stayed overnight at Armagh City Hotel on Friday 5 February due to this meeting taking place at the hotel the following day. It is anticipated that the Fermanagh & Omagh PCSP 2016-2019 Strategic Plan will be completed by 31 March 2016.
  1. Develop working relationships
    The visit to Armagh also enabled PCSP members to get to know each other and develop working relationships as the Partnership is relatively new, facilitating a better understanding of the priorities and contributions that partner agencies can bring.

The total cost of the visit to Armagh is as follows:

£1,397.50 which includes all meals, room hire and accommodation where applicable, excluding VAT. There are no other additional costs to this with the exception of valid mileage claims which have still to be submitted to the Council by PCSP members.

PCSP members receive an allowance of £60 per meeting. This is the standard meeting allowance set by the Joint Committee of NI Policing Board and the Department of Justice. In this instance 10 members were entitled to claim £60 x 2 for their attendance on Friday and Saturday while 3 members were entitled to claim £60 x 1 for their attendance at one meeting.

Our responsibility to protect people’s personal information
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council provided information to the media, as requested, regarding the PCSP’s business meetings in Armagh e.g. their purpose, cost and the number of members who attended; with the sole exception of the names of those members who stayed overnight in the hotel. This is subject to data protection regulations. The Council sought members’ agreement for their details to be released however as we were unable to secure collective agreement from those members concerned, the Council took the decision to withhold the names of those who stayed overnight.

The Council, as a data controller, has a statutory responsibility governing the ways in which we store and share personal information through the Data Protection Act. Data controllers must ensure that any processing of personal data for which they are responsible complies with the Act. Failure to do so risks enforcement action, even prosecution, and compensation claims from individuals. The Council takes its Data Protection responsibility seriously and members of the public, Councillors and anyone for whom we hold personal information can be assured that such information held by the Council is stored and processed in line with the Data Processing principles.

Therefore, in this instance the Council took the view that to release the names of those 13 members would have been in breach of our Data Protection responsibility.

The Council’s decision to withhold the names of the PCSP members that attended the business meetings in Armagh has been interpreted negatively by some, when in fact the Council is merely adhering to its statutory responsibility in relation to the Data Protection Act.

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