Friday, 16 September 2011

Council: Are you gay? (From Echo)

Council: Are you gay?

BASILDON Council has been accused of intruding into people's private lives after thousands of forms asking residents for personal details were sent out.

Scores of people, including council leader Malcolm Buckley, have refused to fill out the questionnaire, which asks for details of sexuality, religion, ethnic background, financial status, disabilities and even national insurance numbers.

Forms have been posted out to 12,000 tenants and leaseholders of flats in council-owned blocks over the past few weeks.

A form went to Tory council leader Mr Buckley because he owns two former council flats, one in Laindon and one in Basildon, which he rents out.

He said: "I refuse to answer any questions about ethnicity, sexuality or religion out of principle.

"It is not relevant to housing management. However, we had no choice but to include the questions, as we work to national Government guidelines."

The form was sent by St Georges Community Housing Association, a firm set up by the council to bid for £142million from the Government to improve and run council houses in the district.

It asks for personal details of tenants, their carers and people living with them.

The form states: "We are gathering this information so we can learn about our customers' needs and preferences and ensure no one is unfairly treated or is unable to access services."

Pensioner Slim Kilby, of Frettons, Basildon, said: "The form went in the recycling with all the other junk mail.

"Some of the questions were close to the knuckle. We are living in a dictatorship. It's like Big Brother.

"Why do they need to know race or sexuality? A person is a person regardless of colour."

Tony Ball, cabinet member for housing, helped put the form together with Kevin Blake, cabinet member for service improvement.

Mr Ball said: "We gave this a lot of thought and were concerned about the council being intrusive into people's lives and how the information would be held. Some of the questions are intrusive, but they are optional."