Complaint about neighbour ‘flogging cars from home’ sparks data protection warning for Leeds Council

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Leeds City Council has been criticised for its “flawed” response to claims a car dealers was illegally operating out of a residential property.

The council, which was probing a complaint from a neighbour of the home, ruled out using CCTV footage as evidence after citing data protection reasons.

It then stopped its investigation on the basis it was “unlikely to lead to a successful outcome”.

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Now, the Local Government Ombudsman has upheld a complaint against the council, from the neighbour who made the original claims.

In a report, the Ombudsman told how the complainant, who it identified as ‘Mr X’, claimed his neighbour “Was selling or hiring vehicles from his home, without planning permission.

“Mr X said the vehicles were parked on a parking area in the front garden of the house and on the street.

“Mr X complained about the noise and disturbance, as well as the impact it had on on-street parking.”

The report said the council duly served the neighbour with an enforcement notice, demanding they cease using the property “for the storage of vehicles for hire or sale”.

An appeal against the notice from the neighbour was rejected.

The authority later requested CCTV footage that Mr X had from cameras, which faced towards his neighbour’s home.

But after reviewing it and consulting a solicitor, the authority said the footage was of “very little evidential value” and “cannot be used due to data protection issues.”

The report added: “The council said that, as the neighbour kept these vehicles partly as a hobby, it could not say that vehicles stored on the site were kept solely for business purposes.”

“The council said that while the enforcement notice was still enforceable, it had stopped its enforcement investigation because it was unlikely to result in a successful outcome.”

In its ruling, the Ombudsman said the council was entitled to judge that the CCTV did not offer hard evidence of car sales.

However, on the data protection issue, it added: “I find the second reasoning the council provided in its response to my enquiry to be flawed.

“In relation to its explanation and application of data protection law for CCTV evidence, I find fault.”

Although the report said the fault made no difference to the outcome of the case, the council has been asked to review its personal data and CCTV policies and “ensure they are fit for purpose and in line with data protection law.”

In response, a spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: “We accept and understand the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in this case, and we are reviewing our policies and processes to make any changes as required and appropriate.”

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