Transparency concerns have been raised after an FoI reveals a former mayor's phone was wiped just days after the last election

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A Northern Ireland council is to review its IT policy amid transparency concerns over the wiping of a former DUP mayor’s phone.

The council has been urged to be a “beacon of openness” in the wake of the UK Covid inquiry hearing some Stormont ministers’ phones had been wiped, despite head of the Civil Service Jayne Brady stating, “explicit and clear” instructions had been given not to do so.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request has shown Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council (LCCC) currently has 525 mobile phone connections up for renewal in June 2025. The 40 elected members can choose to either have a council owned phone or a paid for sim.

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Lisburn North independent Councillor Gary Hynds said: “Following on from revelations of the Covid inquiry, we now have all sorts of things that will hopefully be looked into a lot further.

Cllr Gary Hynds questions council's IT policy on wiping councillors phones. Pic credit: McAuley MultimediaCllr Gary Hynds questions council's IT policy on wiping councillors phones. Pic credit: McAuley Multimedia
Cllr Gary Hynds questions council's IT policy on wiping councillors phones. Pic credit: McAuley Multimedia

“There are the missing phones, passwords, laptops, minutes and active wiping of devices, by both elected individuals and the civil service. So, this prompted me to check in to our own policy in this regard.

“I have been informed that phones are wiped if elected members lose their seat. Information is not saved anywhere in terms of texts, Whatsapps, calls made. Is this the same for officials in this council? That’s one question.”

He added: “An individual has let me know about a FoI request, regarding a former mayor and councillor last June and was informed that his phone was wiped in line with IT policy. So, that is within one month of councillors being elected or losing their seat.

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“This concerns me greatly and I would propose a review of the policy within this council in terms of how we, not only direct members and officers to use their devices and how long all information is to be kept, but also how we handle devices when any member or officer leaves this council.

“We must be a beacon of openness, transparency and accountability, this is our duty to the electorate and the ratepayer.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has seen the FoI request dated July 11, 2023, with the council stating “former mayor Scott Carson’s phone was restored to factory settings on June 2, 2023. This was after the councillor failed to be re-elected on 18 May 2023.”