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Protests prompt U-turn on opening councillors' post
A COUNCIL policy on opening councillors’ mail unless it is marked private has been scrapped following complaints.
City council Liberal Democrat group leader Jean Fooks complained after finding that all post not marked “private and confidential” was being opened by staff.
The policy had been in place for some years, a council spokeswoman said, but had not been noticed by councillors.
It was checked to ensure it was delivered to the correct person.
Mrs Fooks said: “I went to my pigeon hole recently to pick up a letter and it had been opened.
“I wasn’t terribly pleased about that and I don’t think it’s a very good idea that they are reading mail for councillors.
“How does the poor old public know that what they write to us is going to remain private if all mail which is not parked ‘private and confidential’ is opened as a matter of course?”
She said constituents often contacted councillors about very sensitive issues, such as money and housing, and expected those issues to remain confidential.
But after a question from Mrs Fooks at a recent council meeting, the authority agreed to change its policy for councillors’ post, but will continue to check mail for all officers.
Spokeswoman Louisa Dean said: “Private mail, marked private and confidential, is not opened by the post room. All other incoming post is opened, with some exceptions.
“All councillors’ mail will now remain left unopened, regardless of how it is marked.”
The news has also prompted concern amongst Oxford residents, who said they were pleased the practice had been stopped.
East Oxford resident Sarah Lasenby said: “It’s absolutely outrageous. I use email these days but I used to write to people in the old days.
“If I sent something in a sealed envelope addressed to my councillor, I wouldn’t expect it to be opened. Constituency issues are often very sensitive, and I would be horrified if someone was reading it before it got to them.”
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