Homewatch board walkout

PAUL HILL Board members on the county's Homewatch anti-crime scheme have resigned en masse in protest at being refused access to a police list of who runs neighbourhood watch schemes across the county.

PAUL HILL

Board members on the county's Homewatch anti-crime scheme have resigned en masse in protest at being refused access to a police list of who runs neighbourhood watch schemes across the county.

Senior figures on the county Homewatch board say their plans to send out newsletters and training information to thousands of volunteers across Norfolk are in tatters after police administrators - who hold the contact details - insisted it would breach data protection laws to give out names and addresses.

The chairwoman, treasurer and secretary of the county board resigned in protest at a meeting last week amid calls for Norfolk's chief constable Carole Howlett to intervene.

But last night, a Norfolk police spokesman said that there had simply been “a number of misunderstandings” and pledged the force would resolve the problem.

Barbara Clarke, chairwoman of Norfolk Home-watch until Thursday night's meeting, said that police administrators in three of Norfolk's seven districts had refused to release the volunteer co-ordinators' contact details because of data protection rules.

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“The main reason we can't move forward is that we don't know who our members are and how to get hold of them because we have been refused access to the database,” Mrs Clarke said. “I don't know whether administrators think we're eroding their jobs or responsibilities, but that's not what we're trying to do.

“At the moment I'm in the strange position of being the first and last chair of Norfolk Homewatch. Hopefully it will rise again from the ashes, but that won't happen in the situation as it currently is.”

Mrs Clarke said the chief constable had already indicated that the police's contact details could be shared with members of the Homewatch board - despite the force administrators' decision/

Those being sent newsletters and information through the post would have been given the chance to opt out of receiving them in future, she added.

But Keith Simpson, MP for Mid Norfolk, said: “I'm amazed this could happen. Even if the police and other public bodies are governed by data protection, you would have thought that with goodwill and positive thinking something could have been done. If this is sorted out in the next couple of weeks, in some respects that would make me even angrier that it takes something like this before we have a solution.”

A Norfolk police spokesman said: “Norfolk Constabulary is aware that there have been a number of misunderstandings. The Constabulary will help the [Homewatch] association to resolve these issues.”