Thetford residents’ anger over council’s electoral forms ‘blunder’

Computer glitch (stock image)
Computer glitch (stock image)
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A council has come under fire for wasting taxpayers’ money and being ‘careless’ with people’s personal information.

Breckland Council has blamed a computer glitch for a blunder which saw at least 1,500 homes, many in the Thetford area, receive false details on electoral registration forms.

Residents were sent ‘household enquiry forms’ (HEF) as part of Breckland’s annual canvassing in which they were asked to confirm the names of everyone living at the address who is registered to vote.

But some have also received forms with details of strangers registered at their address, sparking confusion, panic and anger.

Data security, fraud and wasted public funds concerned Thetford resident Simon Waldron most when he received a second form.

He said: “For them to blame it on a computer problem is unacceptable, computers don’t make problems, humans make problems.”

He added: “With the big concern about fraud these days, just how are people’s names getting put against things like the electoral register? Those names have come out of somewhere.

“Everyone’s happy to quote ‘we must abide by data protection principles to look after your information’ but then you get someone else’s details.”

Jean Hay, former mayor of Thetford, said the council’s ‘incompetence’ had created an ‘absolute mess’, with dozens of people affected taking to Facebook to share their concerns.

“I don’t want to hear any stories about a computer glitch because computers are only as good as the people operating them. I’m very angry about this, I think it’s dreadful,” she said.

“How they ever got those names mixed up is beyond me, it’s more than careless, it’s absolute incompetence,” she added.

A council spokesman said a ‘computer issue’ was responsible for multiple forms being sent to around 1,500 of 61,000 households in the district, the majority in the Thetford area, a mistake which is estimated to have cost around £500.

He added: “The council takes data protection very seriously and we would like to reassure residents that no identifiable information has been disclosed. In addition, voter registrations will not be affected.”

Residents are urged to reply to the forms so that fewer reminders need to be issued later this year.