Our journalism needs your support! Become a member
The Bristol Cable

Calls for urgent independent inquiry into Bristol council surveillance of SEND parents

Documents leaked last week revealed council staff had been collating and sharing social media posts and personal wedding photos of parents of children with special needs.


Councillors have called for an urgent independent inquiry into Bristol City Council staff monitoring the social media of parents of children with special needs.

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has asked staff to look into the issue, which was revealed last week. Leaked documents showed council staff collating and sharing social media posts critical of the council’s special needs provision, as well as personal wedding photos.

Now a cross-party group of councillors have urged the council to set up an external investigation into what social media monitoring took place and why. Several unanswered questions remain including the extent of the surveillance, and if other groups are monitored.

Calls for an inquiry were made this week during an audit committee on Tuesday, 26 July and the overview and scrutiny management board on Wednesday, 27 July. Council chiefs said they needed time to look into the issue themselves before taking any further action.

Green councillor Tony Dyer said: “This has caused considerable distress to many parents, as well as concern among councillors, and it’s important that we, as a whole council, make every effort to ensure that the full facts are established as soon as possible.”

Tory councillor Geoff Gollop added: “I hope that no officer in this council would have instigated what happened without being told to do so. I find it unthinkable that this behaviour could be carried out in the name of the city council. But it has been, and we need to know why. I believe it is essential that we call for an independent inquiry.”

In a letter signed by seven members of the people scrutiny committee, chaired by Liberal Democrat councillor Tim Kent, councillors raised concerns about whether the social media monitoring was legally allowed. They added that the issue has damaged trust in the council.

The letter said: “Such actions raise serious questions under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and whether this activity, the motivation, and then the sharing of the information to external organisations was allowable. In engaging in such activity, the council risks its reputation and trust, not only with parents and residents of this city but partners as well.”

Mike Jackson, chief executive of the council, said: “I received councillor Kent’s request to look into the matter on Thursday (21 July), which I immediately progressed. The fact is some key officers are away this week, it’s not surprising at this time of year that would happen. I’ve told councillor Kent that therefore I expect to get back to him next week. We would welcome the chance to gather the facts in the first instance, which we’re currently doing.”


Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

Council scraps funding support for special needs charity amid surveillance row

The council is expected to face questions this week over the surveillance operation of parents with disabled children, but it denies that the removal of funding support for a charity involved in the row is related.

Autistic woman wins damages after police put ‘false and misleading’ information on her record

In the latest in a series of payouts from the force, Avon and Somerset Police were found to hold records incorrectly describing her as having 'split personality, violent when not medicated'.

Revealed: The Disabled Bristolians waiting months and years to live in accessible homes

Housing adaptations for Disabled people should offer independence – but for many it's a prolonged bureaucratic nightmare.

Locked out of nature: Making Bristol’s parks accessible to Disabled people

Being outdoors is vital to our wellbeing, even more so during a pandemic, but for Disabled people, getting out into nature is harder than ever.

‘Marginalised people are worse affected by the housing crisis’: the Bristol renters facing discrimination and bias

Bristol City Council have pledged to stamp out discrimination in the private rental sector. But it’s not always clear cut.

Police denied autistic woman access to appropriate adult after suicide attempt

A second complaint has been upheld against Avon and Somerset Police over their treatment of a woman who says she has suffered years of hate crime.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning