This pack is designed for all staff in the Council.
The Council recognises that its records are a vital business process resource and are key to the effective functioning and accountability of the Council.
Efficient management of records is essential to:
Every one of us has a responsibility to ensure that all records are:
The Council's Corporate Management Team and Cabinet members have approved the Records Management Policy; this details the Council's commitment to records management, and advising on the standards to be implemented regarding record creation, record keeping and records disposal.
For more information, contact the Records Management Officer on 01375 652592 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are two incidents in which inadequate records management systems and poor practices contributed to the magnitude of a disaster.
You may recall them.
Holly and Jessica were murdered in Soham, Cambridgeshire in August 2002.
During the trial it came to light that Ian Huntley had a long criminal record of four rapes, four underage sex offences and one sexual assault - Humberside Police had this information in their records, but were contacted by Cambridgeshire Police when vetting Huntley's background to clear his appointment with the Soham school in his post as the caretaker.
A complete check was also botched as they fed in a wrong date of birth for Huntley while browsing the child access database and secondly the search was confined to Huntley's alias, namely Nixon.
The Soham murders caused a national outcry in that an individual was allowed access to children mainly because of poor police record keeping and insufficient inter-agency coordination.
The Soham murders brought to light how even when information is available on individuals prone to such crime, enforcement agencies rarely coordinate. Also, recording of information is sketchy, making it difficult to retrieve.
Sensitive architectural drawings were found dumped in waste ground in Aberdeen. The secret plans of one of the most important buildings in Scotland's justice system were found in a backpack.
Sketches of the interior of the Exchequer building pinpoint the judges' private quarters, along with libraries and staircases. It was not clear at the time how the papers, which included private emails outlining computer programme usernames and pass codes, came to be dumped in a small backpack behind a Clydesdale Bank. The documents had previously been reported missing.
There are a number of pieces of legislation that might have an impact on the way you manage your records. Here are some of the Acts of Parliament, which might be relevant:
The Lord Chancellor's Code of Practice on the management of records under Freedom of Information has been issued in accordance with the requirements of section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI). It provides guidance to all public authorities as to the practice that it should follow. The Code of Practice has been designed, in consultation with public authorities, to support the objectives of FOI legislation by setting out the practices which public authorities should follow in relation to creating, keeping, managing and disposing of their records.
The Records Management Policy has been agreed by the Corporate Management Team and Cabinet members and sets out how the Council will manage its records to ensure information is managed effectively throughout the organisation.
Can you honestly answer YES to the following questions?
Are you confident that you know what information you hold and where it is? (an absolute necessity under Freedom of Information legislation)
If information has been destroyed, can you show when and why? (for transparency and accountability)
Are you keeping records you need for current and future evidence purposes? (the overwhelming reason for creating and maintaining records is to run an effective business)
If you can't answer yes - then you need to reassess!
The reasons you need to ask yourself this...
What happens if records are not properly managed?
For Records Management to be effective we must recognise that records have different needs in terms of management depending on where they are in their "life cycle". By managing records appropriately throughout the lifecycle the Council can ensure that the right information is:
This then helps the Council to demonstrate:
The Council recognises that records form the corporate memory and allow the Council to make effective use of one of its more valuable resources in that:
Information is available to support strategic decision making - In order to be a well managed Council, decisions must be based on up to date and accurate information.
Information can be retrieved quickly and reliably when needed - There is no point in holding vast quantities of information if it cannot be accessed when needed.
Compliance with appropriate legislation and standards - This is often viewed as one of the most important benefits of the records management programme, as it is only with an effective records management programme that records can be kept in accordance with legal and regulatory needs.
Effective use of space and storage facilities - An effective records management programme should assist and drive the accommodation strategy, as records and space will be maintained with efficiency in mind.
Streamline business processes - The records management programme often highlights instances where business processes can be simplified which not only aids the records management service but also helps individual teams / departments.
In order to ensure that the records of the Council are managed properly, careful thought must be given to the record as it passes through one of three 'cycles' in its entire life cycle.
The three cycles are defined as:
This forms the basis of an effective records management programme in that as the record passes through each cycle of its lifecycle different decisions are made as to the records future.
Passing through these 'cycles' is nothing to do with the age of the record, it is directly related to the use of the record. As the use of a record is reduced, so it passes into a new age of its lifecycle.
When records become non-current/inactive, it is at this stage that the record needs to be reviewed and retained, in line with requirements, or ultimately destroyed.
Common sense suggests that different business functions need to keep a record close to hand (which is current), for different periods of time. In some cases it could be as little as a few days, in others it could be several years.
Similarly, the semi-current phase will last for varying periods of time. It is best defined as the period of time in which the record might be needed - but not regularly.
You need to be able to distinguish what cycle your records are in so that you can effectively manage your records and keep them in line with requirements.
A record is any piece of recorded information created, received or maintained by you, which provides evidence of the day-to-day activities of Thurrock Council, e.g.
...and many other types of documents, which can be in paper or electronic form.
Records are the outputs that record each and every business and administrative transaction of the Council; they are the essential resource for its effective communication. They also form its collective memory; as such they must be available beyond the memory of working life of any single member of staff.
The record is the final statement about the transaction or business process that it represents. Once 'declared' it must remain unaltered across time, no matter how many times it is recalled for use.
A record can take the form of a database or its elements, film, sound recording, email, paper, and a number of other possibilities. Some examples of records are:
The best way to think of a document is that it is a work in progress by an individual or group of individuals. Only in its final form has it the possibility of becoming a record.
Not all documents become records, some examples of documents are:
You need to be able to distinguish what is a document and what is a record. You may not need to keep all documents, as they do not all form part of formal records.
Records management is the organisational functioning of managing records to meet:
It covers the creation, maintenance and disposal of records.
Effective records management will:
You are responsible for the management of your records and need to ensure that they are kept in line with the Records Management Policy.
The principal issues for the management of electronic records are the same as those for the management of any record. They include for example the creation of authentic records, the tracking of records and disposal arrangements.
Emails are as much an official communication as is a letter, memo or a fax. Your emails may be disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information or Data Protection request and in legal cases. Electronic messages can be legally binding; contracts can be set up via email and we may be held liable for defamatory statements in emails. For these reasons, do not say things in emails that you would not say in other forms of written communication.
There is further information on the management of electronic records later in the pack.
There will be systematic controls over the management of records so saving information is clearly defined and will be that much easier - and that information can be shared and managed in a more productive way.
The Records Management Code of Practice within the Freedom of Information Act confirms that local authorities must have consideration to the creation of its records and ensure consistency.
When creating new records or documents please ensure you incorporate the following at all times:
When creating an email please ensure you incorporate the following at all times:
Records Management Officer
Information Management Team
Telephone: 01375 652592
Ensure all new records and documents created, that can be viewed by the general public, are added to the Council's Publication Scheme - to do this please contact the Information Management Team. Also ensure the new document is filed appropriately in your team's directory.
You need to have a consistent approach when creating records on behalf of the Council.
The Records Management Code of Practice within the Freedom of Information Act confirms that local authorities must have consistency with its records maintenance.
Ensure all records or documents are:
Points to note:
You need to think carefully about how you maintain your records on a regular basis, particularly their safe keeping.
Version Control is the management of multiple revisions to the same document. The use of version control enables us to tell one version of a record from another, this is important for records that undergo a lot of revision and redrafting and is particularly important in electronic records because they can be easily changed by a number of different users. Simply knowing which version of a record you are looking at is important if you are trying to find out which version is currently in force, or which was in use at a particular time.
There are a number of techniques that you can use to version control your records, the preferred methods for the Council are described, follow the preferred methods for your team or use the most appropriate one for you.
Use a unique version number to distinguish one version from another. Use this procedure for all records and for draft and final copies. For example draft copies of records should be saved as:
Final copies of records should be saved as:
Use a version control table at the forefront of your record, as per the one below:
|Title||The title of the record|
|Purpose||The purpose of the record, e.g. to advise staff of the procedures to follow regarding XXXXXXXX|
|Owner||The name of the person who has ownership of the record|
|Approved by||The name of the person who approved the record (if appropriate)|
|Version number||1.0 / 2.0 / 3.0 etc|
|Status||Draft or Final|
|Review Frequency||Monthly / Quarterly / Annually|
|Next Review date||Insert the date of next review|
|Consultation||Include details of those individuals that may have been consulted with prior to production of the final record|
"I've always said that I would get my records organised - one day I will!"
How many times have you said that?
How successful you are in achieving records management goals depends a lot on how your information is stored and the methods you use to locate it. In other words, it depends on how organised you are.
The Council must have consistency in its record keeping systems. All staff must ensure all electronic records and documents are filed and stored appropriately, this means:
Ensure that all emails are filed and stored appropriately within your Outlook account and take into consideration the following:
When records are accessible, the public's rights are protected. Good records management saves you time and the Council and the public money.
Avoid clogging your files with waste! Don't file:
You need to select what's important enough to keep- Sort data into groups that can be managed and retrieved more efficiently.
One way to ensure that there is consistency when appraising records is to follow consistent guidelines when determining if a record needs to be disposed. There is a need to determine what, if any retention timeframes are in place for the records that are subject to appraisal - you should refer to the Council's Document Retention Schedule.
You will also need to consider what risks, if any, there are associated with disposal. If you are not sure about this then your manager and/or Head of Service will be able to advise.
The Council's Document Retention Schedule provides guidance on the retention periods that apply to a wide range of Council documents. This can be accessed via the Information Matters section of this site (records management).
In all cases you should be aware:
Points to Note:
That you must follow the Document Retention Schedule when appraising records.
It is particularly important under the Freedom of Information Act and Data Protection Act that the disposal of records, which is defined as the point in their lifecycle when they are either transferred to an archive/record centre or destroyed, is undertaken in accordance with the Council's Document Retention Policy.
Records not selected for permanent preservation and which have reached the end of their administrative life should be destroyed in as secure a manner as is necessary for the level of confidentiality or security markings they bear. A record of the destruction of records, showing their reference, description and date of destruction should be maintained and preserved by the person responsible for the records. Disposal schedules would constitute the basis of such a record.
Each record or document must be:
Points to note:
The Council holds millions of documents and records. Good information management practices are not just necessary to support efficient administration - they can also save lives.
At the core of information management is an effective business classification scheme. Classification of record and documents is essential for several reasons. It is important to place the record in context. A single record on its own reveals very little information. Group related records together and they provide much more information than they do individually.
The Council's file plan (or classification scheme) enables staff to browse for records. Browsing is different from searching. When searching for records we have a specific target in mind and generally use, for example, the name of the document or text within the document, to find what we want. When we browse for records, we do not necessarily have an idea of what we will find. To comply with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 we may need to use both techniques to identify the information relevant to an enquiry.
A classification scheme allows us to put in access controls, restricting the people who have access to a particular group of records and their level of access. Access control typically allows us to restrict the people who can know of, view or create new records. Access control can be applied to individuals but is usually applied to groups of users to simplify the administration of the records.
The Council's approach to storage of records is important. If information is stored at a personal level it hinders its sharing and discourages communication. This has many drawbacks:
The Records Management Officer is currently in liaison with departments throughout the Council to ensure that file plans/classification schemes are introduced, which incorporate the core business of a department, and are in line with the requirements of the Local Government Classification Scheme.
Vital records are those records that are essential to the running of the Council. Only a small number of records are vital. There are two types of vital records:
Records that if you could not access them for a few hours or days (for example if you were unable to enter the building because of a bomb scare) it would have a considerable and very serious impact on the Council;
Records that you do not need to look at very often, but which are irreplaceable, and if you were unable to produce them (for example because they were lost in a fire or flood) the long term consequences would be very serious, for example the Council would be unable to defend its right in court.
If it is possible to redo the work (even at considerable time and expense) the records are unlikely to be vital.
To decide if the records are vital ask yourself "what would be the consequences if the records were lost?" Only if the consequences would be very serious in the long term should the records be classified as vital.
It is essential to have a list of your vital records and their location, particularly if they are in paper format. This will allow you to continue business in the light of an emergency. Vital records need to be copied and stored securely off site to enable business continuity.
Electronic records are already protected because E-Government undertake regular backups of the shared drive, and backup copies are stored off-site. Vital records are concerned with paper records.
Vital records only in paper format need to be protected, for example by way of scanning. However, please note that the scanned image is an emergency back up only and is unlikely to be of a quality that would allow you to destroy the original and rely upon the scanned image in the normal course of events.
The question of housekeeping is always a thorny one depending on whom you speak to.
You, of course, will want to keep every message, just in case it is ever needed right? This includes all of those attachments, whether necessary or useless.
How many emails do you have in your Inbox at the moment?
General guidance that is always useful to follow is keep your inbox clear; delete unwanted emails and store the rest in organised folders within your mailbox.
Thurrock Council has to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and Data Protection Acts. This was discussed in detail at the beginning of this pack, and yes, this does include emails.
If you do not manage your emails properly, then there is a risk that information cannot be easily accessed - making it effectively lost. This loss of information can affect our services and also make it difficult for the Council to comply with requests for information under either the Data Protection Act or Freedom of Information Act.
So, we need to be more pro-active in managing our emails so that we can comply in full with these two acts.
Housekeeping isn't just about what messages can be deleted but also about the length of time the remaining ones should be stored. There are two points worth noting regarding emails, namely:
A popular misconception is that something in the deleted folder doesn't take up space. This is wrong. Just because something says 'Deleted' doesn't mean it is.
To clear your deleted folder whilst you are have Microsoft Outlook open on your screen you do the following:
This menu can also be accessed by right-clicking on the Deleted folder itself.
You can completely bypass the Deleted Items folder by holding the Shift key down when you press the Delete key. A warning message will come up telling you that you are permanently deleting the message(s) rather than dumping them in the deleted folder.
When you send an email, a copy is saved in your Sent Items folder. This includes any attachments, so it is often a good idea to periodically do some housekeeping here too. Use the quick delete method to bypass Deleted items.
One of the most common mistakes made within email is in replying. Only reply to the original sender.
Attachments are a great benefit and a huge headache; dependent on whom you speak to. From a user's perspective it is a convenient an often rapid way of distributing information, of collaborating with colleagues in-house and externally. To the computer network they are just:
Email is being constantly misused as a Word/Excel archive. The idea of email is to just send messages, and only send attachments if absolutely necessary. These attachments should never stay in the email system.
Remember that if you send a message with an attachment to two people, there are now three instances of the file in the Mail Network as you now also have a copy in your Sent Items and three messages have the attachment. Any attachment upon receipt should be removed from the message and saved to a network drive. It should not be left attached to the message.
It isn't just Word or Excel files that cause problems. The increased use of graphics means that PowerPoint, Video files and various graphic files are also being sent around the mail network and stored in Outlook. Their size can be immense. Putting a picture into a Word document doesn't make it any smaller.
Emails should only be used to send messages, so only send attachments if absolutely necessary.
If the sender and recipient work in the same department, then there is absolutely no need to send a file as an attachment. Create either a "Link" or a "Shortcut" to the file and send that instead.
To create a link:
Shortcuts tend to be easier to create:
If someone sends you an attachment that you absolutely must keep, then save the attachment to a network drive and delete the message.
To save an attachment:
An incoming message with an attachment from an unknown source should be viewed as suspicious. It is better to telephone the E-Government IT Helpdesk and voice your suspicions, than to open an attachment that could ultimately affect the entire Council network system.
|Rule 1||NEVER open unsolicited emails and attachments from an unknown source. Get the E-Government IT Helpdesk to check them first.|
|Rule 2||NEVER open an attachment that is a programme even from a known source. Again, contact the IT Helpdesk.|
|Rule 3||NEVER download and install any programmes from the web. Apart from the danger of virus infection, there are both licensing and operating system issues, i.e. breach of the ICT Policy.|
|Rule 4||If still in doubt, delete it.|
Below are some steps towards good records management:
Remember that when you are creating records that it is possible that they may be viewed outside the Council. Ensure that you are aware of the implications of the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act to avoid recording information that could be damaging in the first place.
Ensure that you are creating accurate, consistent and reliable records of your business activities and decisions.
Be aware of any filing procedures and guidelines available in your office and follow them.
Use descriptive information to enable relevant records to be retrieved and understood. Consider using cover sheets for manual records or completing the Properties box for electronic documents and folders.
Name files and folders consistently and explicitly, so others will be able to find things if they are not familiar with the system.
Maintain a list of your files and folders. Keep this list updated as you create new records.
Ensure that facilities and equipment are suitable for the storage of records. Equipment and environmental conditions should prevent damage occurring to records.
If you are managing a shared manual filing system consider the use of tracking controls such as checkout / tracer cards. These help to maintain an audit trail of records' use and ensure records can be located.
Consider the security requirements for specific types of records. Personal data and other confidential information should be protected from unauthorised access.
Set a date for reviewing records at least once or twice a year. Use departmental retention schedules to decide how long to keep records. Otherwise consult the Information Management Team. Make sure there is an audit trail of retention and disposal actions and decisions.
File paths are useful ways of identifying where a document is saved, the name of the author and the date of creation. They can be added to the top or bottom of Word documents by the following process:
This encourages us to think about where we save documents and allows them to be easily located electronically if we are reading a hard copy and need to get access to it on our computers.
Ideally, computer, email and paper files should mirror each other. That is, they should all be termed, labelled, named and titled using the same names/indicators/reference numbers - and is in line with the file requirements for your department (i.e. they should be in line with Local Government Classification Scheme). The aim is that all staff within your team should have the same agreed headings across their email folders, and manual files.
The folders set up on the shared network drive (the J drive), which are accessed by a particular team, should also be labelled using the same agreed terms.
The Records Management Officer has guidance for each Directorate on this.
These can be found at email@example.com
For security and confidentiality reasons, work related documents should not be stored at home. They should be filed and maintained at work in the appropriate shared network folder - known as the J drive, or alternatively in the manual folder.
All records that are created belong to the Council and do not belong to you. You should therefore not save any work related documents to your H drive due to the reasons already mentioned in this pack. If you are faced with a large amount of records in your H drive you need to appraise each record and decide:
You need to be able to evidence what records have been destroyed and when they were destroyed to satisfy any requests that may be made under the Data Protection Act or Freedom of Information Act.
The best way to deal with this is to ensure that records are archived in line with retention timeframes and not just lumped together in a box because you have no room to store them elsewhere. Ideally, you should archive records which have the same timeframe together - this may not always be possible but if you can do this, it will save you time in the long run - as you will know that everything in Box A needs to be destroyed in a certain year which is identified from the offset.
Version controls can be added to records by using the Header/Footer menu. This can be found by clicking on "View", then select "Header and Footer" and insert into the footer section that the document is a draft. Alternatively, and probably more simply, is to type "draft" in the title when you have save the document into the network folder.
There is absolutely no need to save draft documents in a different folder and they should certainly not be stored in your personal folder pending their completion.
That's simple - they should be deleted. Personal pictures take up excessive space on the network server and you are breaching the ICT Policy if you store these.
To ensure that documents are not being disposed of which is not in accordance with the council's Document Retention Policy, resulting in a breach of Data Protection Act, Freedom of Information Act
You are. You are responsible for ensuring that records are created, classified and maintained in a structure that is comprehensive, compliant and systematic, so that they can be easily retrieved.
Remember, if you need advice on how to manage your manual, electronic and email records, please contact the Records Management Officer, or email your query to the address at the foot of the page.
Don't make management of records problematic, a realistic approach is to be more systematic!