Laptop Theft Debated by Councillors

PUBLISHED: 15:50 30 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:44 06 May 2010

A FOUR-day lapse between council staff realising a laptop containing nearly 15,000 postal voter details was missing and reporting it to police was called into question last week. A preliminary report containing the chronology of events surrounding the the

A FOUR-day lapse between council staff realising a laptop containing nearly 15,000 postal voter details was missing and reporting it to police was called into question last week.

A preliminary report containing the chronology of events surrounding the theft of the laptop - which contained names, addresses, dates of birth and signatures - was put before elected members at last week's full council meeting.

It emerged that council staff realised three unused laptops were missing on October 13 which was handled within the department.

But more than three weeks later, on November 5, they discovered that an electoral services laptop containing sensitive data of postal voters was also missing.

But the matter wasn't reported to police for four days and it took the council until November 16 to inform the insurers about the four thefts.

Tory councillor Teresa Heritage questioned why there had been such a delay in reporting the thefts to both the police and insurance company.

Council chief executive Daniel Goodwin told her that the council spent those days conducting thorough searches of the offices to ensure the laptops were not misplaced.

He continued: "Only then could we absolutely guarantee we had not misplaced the laptops - that is why the police were informed then."

He admitted that it had taken some time to notify the insurers but said that their priority was to check very quickly through all the issues relating to postal voters' details and ensure they had all the details ready to provide the insurance company with.

Other matters raised at the meeting included whether or not those affected would be compensated should their identity be stolen.

Mr Goodwin said the council was looking into the issue and has been in contact with the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance Service (CIFAS).

But he stressed that there was no evidence to suggest anyone's identity would be stolen and that the council sent out letters to warn people as a "precautionary measure."

Councillors also heard that Northgate, the company responsible for the council's IT system which was contracted in 2008 at a cost of about £2.5million over seven years, is continuing to work day-to-day under heightened security.

But the company will be suspended should the full report find them to blame for the saga.

A range of other questions were fired at Mr Goodwin but he was unable to answer the vast majority because he said it could jeopardise the police investigation currently underway.

But he promised that much more information would be presented at this week's cabinet meeting which takes place tomorrow evening.

A 35-year-old man from Stevenage was arrested in connection with the thefts and has been released on police bail until next year.

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