Records Management Policy
1. Records and records management
Like any organisation, Hampshire County Council is dependent on the availability of accurate and reliable records for the effective and efficient conduct of its business.
Records have been defined in the International Standard on Records Management (ISO 15489-1: 2001 Part 1) as 'information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organisation or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business'.
Records are vital to:
- provide evidence of actions and decisions
- support policy formation and managerial decision-making
- protect an organisation's interests as well as those of its employees and clients
- help it to deliver services in a consistent and equitable manner
- allow an organisation to make good use of precedents and of organisational experience
- support consistency, continuity, efficiency and productivity in programme delivery, management and administration
Records can be in traditional formats such as files and papers, but can also include maps, plans and other non-standard paper documents, as well as electronic records in all formats, including computer files, email and databases, and video, audio and CCTV recordings.
Effective records management is crucial to ensure the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposal of records.
2. Freedom of information and records management
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 recognises the importance of records management and that sound record-keeping practices are essential for compliance with it. Under Section 46 of the Act, the Lord Chancellor has issued a code of practice on the management of records, providing guidance to public authorities 'on the keeping, management and destruction of their records'.
Paragraph (iii) of that code states:
'Any freedom of information legislation is only as good as the quality of the records to which it provides access. Such rights are of little use if reliable records are not created in the first place, if they cannot be found when needed or if the arrangements for their eventual archiving or destruction are inadequate.'
In order for Hampshire County Council to meet legislative requirements relating to records and records management, particularly under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 but also under the Data Protection Act 1998, it is essential to ensure the proper handling of its information and records, including the implementation of best practice in records management.
Hampshire County Council to comply with the Code must:
- create and maintain the records it needs to support ongoing business activity and customer services, and to meet legal, administrative and accountability requirements;
- manage these records as efficiently and effectively as possible;
- ensure that these records can be retrieved and used to meet the above needs; and
- comply with all external requirements concerning the management of its records, including legislative requirements and the imperatives of the e-government programme.
Standards for Records Management in Hampshire County Council have been drawn based on the Lord Chancellor's Code.
3. Hampshire County Council Records Management Service
Within Hampshire County Council the records management function is led by the Records Management Service based in Hampshire Record Office, within the Department of Recreation and Heritage.
The Records Management Service:
- provides advice to Hampshire County Council departments on all aspects of records management: the creation and capture of records, both paper and electronic; the maintenance of those records (including file storage, tracking and security); and records disposal
- develops policy, standards, procedures and best practice guidance to support these functions, including retention schedules detailing retention periods for different records series, and filing guidelines
- provides, through its Records Centre, a storage and retrieval service for certain records no longer in daily use in departments (non-current and semi-current records)
- identifies County Council records likely to be of long-term historical interest, and ensures their preservation for future generations as part of Hampshire's archival heritage.
The Service is unable to provide records management for external organisations or individuals.
The Service is managed and staffed as follows:
- The County Archivist and Manager of Hampshire Record Office and Principal Archivist (Records and Research) have overall responsibility for the management of the Service.
- The Senior Records Manager has responsibility for the Records Management programme and the functions and staff of the Records Management Service. She has a particular responsibility for electronic records management.
- The Records Manager is responsible for day-to-day management of the Records Centre and its staff.
- Two part-time Records Assistants provide customer services from the Records Centre. They receive transfers of records, operate the retrieval service, answer enquiries about records held, and arrange for the disposal of records no longer required as confidential waste.
It is a corporate requirement for departments to use and refer to the Records Management Service. Records should be kept for the periods laid down in retention schedules drawn up by the Service and agreed with departments. They should be disposed of in accordance with the schedules.
4. Hampshire County Council staff roles and responsibilities
Departmental records management representatives
Each department within the County Council has a representative or representatives who act as a link between the Records Management Service and their department. These representatives should have an overview of record-keeping within their department, and assist the Records Management Service in promoting and achieving good records management practice there.
Heads of service and business units
Heads of service or business units throughout Hampshire County Council are responsible for ensuring that their staff create and maintain records as an integral part of their work and in accordance with established policies, standards and procedures. They should have mechanisms in place to monitor compliance with those policies, standards and procedures. In particular heads of service or business units are responsible for ensuring that retention policies and record-keeping procedures agreed with the Records Management Service are implemented.
All staff create, receive and keep records as part of their daily work, and should do so in accordance with established policies, standards and procedures. They are accountable to their supervisors for compliance with those policies, standards and procedures. In particular:
- All staff have a responsibility to create records to document decisions and commitments, meetings and their outcomes, and other events relating to the business of the Council.
- All staff have a responsibility to capture records into official record-keeping systems at the earliest possible moment after creation, to maintain those systems efficiently, allotting appropriate levels of priority and resources to make sure that this is done, and to dispose of records in accordance with retention schedules drawn up in conjunction with the Records Management Service.
- Finally, all staff have a general duty of care with regard to the Council's records, particularly where confidential or personally sensitive material is involved
Note: this document forms part of the corporate Freedom of Information manual, 2005