Jan 22 2015

Harrow’s Budget Consultation: Are you Gay?

harrow_council_logoSomething is badly wrong, when a council consultation on whether or not residents agree with a council’s budget, focuses on whether the resident is gay or had a sex change.

The council, of course, wraps this up in a weak statement of promoting equality – but there’s something quite strange going on.

This particular consultation is anonymous: you don’t need to give your name or address, but not all consultations are like that. What’s particularly strange is the council’s use of web cookies to track you across multiple interactions on their website – and this particular consultation sets up a tracking cookie with a two year life span: it’s entirely possible for the council to link your activities on it’s web site together over the next two years, which allows them to build up a picture of you in quite significant detail. The council is quite blatant about this: the information, they say, will be used to “better understand out service users” and to “shape services to meet their specific needs.”

But apart from that – if that’s not bad enough – is it right that the council asks for this information from you in the first place? We already know that the council is incapable of keeping residents’ information secure, having posted a letter of complaint from a vulnerable older resident, in full, showing her name, address and phone number.

20140122_consult_2And frankly, if equality is about about treating people equally, what difference does it make whether someone is gay or not? Or had a sex change?


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  1. Someonewhocares

    Unfortunately there is only one way to deal with such unnecessary personal information ‘requests’ – and that is what they are because you do NOT have to fill them in – regardless of the Council’s claimed ‘legal responsibility’ to collect such data. Either simply ignore their requests, or ‘spoil’ the form, or write ‘Not Applicable (too intrusive)’ or something similar on the form.

  2. chariscroft

    You do realise the Council has a legal duty (effectively) to ask these questions? Under the Equality Act they HAVE to assess all proposals to see if they are likely to have a particular impact on people coming under any of those categories (yes, including gay or had a sex change). How are they going to know what the impact is unless they ask you?

    Sure, it’s intrusive, and it is a request so you don’t have to fill it in if you really do object, but its not just for nosiness sake.

    And on a separate question, why would you be ashamed to say you were gay or had a sex change? Any more than admitting to your real age anyway!

    1. Someonewhocares

      Yes of course the Council have the ‘legal duty’ to ask these question,but we are not legally obliged to answer them, however (and that’s OUR choice).Frankly the Council seem to ignore most information the residents supply (because they really do seem to think everything is THEIR choice anyway) so why should this data be any different? It is not about ‘nosiness’ it is surely about privacy, and the fact that the Coucil don’t state that our answers are optional. It is not about ‘shame’ either!

  3. Someonewhocares

    Incidentally here is what Harrow Council have to say about all this;

    Virtually no explanations, just external links – and still they expect residents to understand the their intentions provide highly-personal information? If you have the time check out what other councils have to say as some take the time to explain it. After all this legislation has been in place for over 4 years now.

    Note to Harrow Council: On such forms have the courtesy to add a note ON THE TOP such as “YOU are not legally required to provide this information but it may help us with future decisions, Thank you” – In other words maybe some clear explanations, and courtesy, will actually encourage more folks to fill out the forms?

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