Confidential files still lying in squat

DOZENS of council files containing the confidential bank details of Haringey residents have been found lying around a squat – for the second time this week

Charlotte Newton

DOZENS of council files containing the confidential bank details of Haringey residents have been found lying around a squat - for the second time this week.

Squatter Steve Ball told Haringey Council on Friday that he had discovered hundreds of files containing sensitive information in derelict council offices in Middle Lane Mews, Crouch End.

The documents included residents' names, addresses, bank account details, dates of birth, pay slips and even medical records.

Two officers from the council's housing department arrived on Friday to pick up the files and the council announced on Monday that it had "secured" all the missing data.

But when the Broadway visited the offices with Lynne Feather-stone MP on Monday afternoon, dozens more files were just lying scattered on the floor.

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Mr Ball said: "I'm not a dishonest person, so when I found all those files with people's national insurance numbers, bank account details, names and addresses I told the council.

"It's outrageous that all that information had been left in the building because it could be used by fraudsters or even by blackmailers. There didn't seem to be much of a sense of urgency at the council, they just sent two blokes down to pick the files up. There must have been three quarters of a transit load of files on Friday - and they still left at least 14 files behind."

Ms Featherstone said: "It is al-most impossible to believe that, having been aware of this problem since Friday, the council appears to have taken no effective steps to clear this building of confidential information.

"As ever with Haringey Council, it is clear its concerns were mainly to protect its own backs by issuing misleading claims that the information was secured, even though it seems staff hadn't even checked the building. It is scandalous."

The building was used by the Hornsey Housing Forum and the Youth Offending Team until May 2005 when the lease ran out.

Most of the files seen by the Broadway, which were stamped 'confidential', related to housing benefit claims from 1980 to 1993.

A spokesman for Haringey Council said: "The council is going through all the files and will be writing to the people whose records have been found, to allay fears regarding their personal information and giving advice about what action the individuals should take if they have concerns regarding any misuse of their personal information.

"The council very much regrets that this has happened. The council takes the retention of records very seriously and does have procedures in place to ensure that records are held securely. It is regrettable that these records were overlooked when this property was vacated.

"The council will be investigating how this happened and will review its procedures to prevent this happening again."

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