THE Information Commissioner has ordered Herefordshire Council to release details of cases involving ex-councillors who misbehaved while in office.

The Hereford Times submitted a freedom of information request to the council asking for information on councillor misconduct since 2012, in May last year.

The council refused to release the details of nine upheld complaints because they involved individuals who were no longer in public office.

But following an internal review, the issue was raised with the Information Commissioner’s Office which has now ruled that the details should be released.

“The Commissioner’s decision is that the withheld information is the personal data of the former councillors,” an ICO officer said in the decision notice.

“However, it is lawful, fair and transparent to disclose it in accordance with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation.

“The Commissioner is satisfied in this case that there is a legitimate interest in the disclosure of the information under the broad principles of accountability and transparency as they relate to individuals in public office.

“She notes, indeed, that the council now publish information about serving councillors who are found to have breached the code of conduct, as it is regarded as a matter of public interest.”

The Commissioner said there is a legitimate interest in the disclosure of information about local councillors’ conduct while in office, and that this remains the case after councillors have recently ceased to serve.

“In this case, the information request covered the period of six years leading up to the date of the request, which the Commissioner considers to be recent, since the impact of those councillors’ decisions may still be relevant,” the officer added.

“In addition, she notes the complainant’s argument that the former councillors may decide to stand for office again.

“While the council has argued that it is not aware that this is the case, the Commissioner has become aware that one of the former councillors has recently stated that they may indeed be interested in standing for re-election in the future.

“She considers that this also adds to the legitimate interest in the disclosure of the information.”

The Commissioner has given the council 35 days to comply.

The council has been approached for comment.