Councils in Kent and Medway sell copies of electoral register to give them access to thousands of addresses
Councils in Kent are selling off your address details ... to anyone from restaurants to vicars and even a supermarket.
It's been revealed how groups and businesses have bought copies of electoral registers from councils in Kent, giving them access to the personal addresses of thousands of residents.
Invariably, the details from these registers are used to send out unsolicited mail to drum up business - with councils using their right to do so to make thousands of pounds.
A simple register to vote could lead to junk mail, it's been revealed
But they can also be used by charities and others for fundraising. Often, the details are sold on again to other companies.
The names and addresses of residents are automatically added to the register unless people expressly opt out.
A survey by the privacy group Big Brother Watch shows councils in Kent made £5,444 from selling the so-called edited register over the last five years.
Tunbridge Wells council sold the register the most over the period - 18 times - followed by Dartford, which sold it 15 times and Canterbury 10 times.
Among those buying the register were Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar school, a vicar, a local post office, Jempsons supermarket and an interior design shop were among those buying the register.
In Medway, the list of those acquiring the register included the authority’s own communications department as well as a market research company and the Broomleigh Housing Association.
In Canterbury, the register was bought 10 times, with those acquiring it including the League of Friends of Queen Victoria Hospital; The Cuban Restaurant, which is based in the city, as well as an unnamed church official.
Gravesham council made the most through sales at £1,363 - but its response to the survey omitted details of those who had bought it and how many times it was sold.
In Maidstone, the register was sold to a market research company and an estate agents, raising £318.
One council, Swale, made no sales at all.
Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles said it was important the electoral register was a public document which anyone could freely inspect.
However, councils should not sell personal information to private companies for financial gain.
Should councils be able to sell your address details to firms?
He said: “Registering to vote is a basic part of our democracy. It should not be a back door for our names and addresses to be sold to anyone and everyone.
"Many people don’t realise the pizza shops and estate agents drowning their doorsteps with junk mail are able to do so because their local council is forced to sell the names of every voter who fails to tick the right box when they register to vote.”
The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: ‘The edited register is a pointless waste of council time, undermines trust in the electoral system and contributes to huge volumes of junk mail. It should be abolished.”
Some councils in Kent declined to provide a detailed breakdown of their sales to the Big Brother group.
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