THE loss of hundreds of council laptops potentially containing council taxpayers’ confidential information has been dismissed as 'not a big security breach’.

The Observer exclusively reported last week, an Interim Progress report from the Royal Borough’s internal Audit and Investigation Unit revealed 388 council-owned laptops were unaccounted for in a survey of council IT assets.

The missing laptops range from devices owned and used in council-maintained schools to assets kept in council buildings.

The report, which outlines risks arising from procedures and policies and any countermeasures being taken, was scrutinised at an audit and performance review panel meeting at the Town Hall, in St Ives Road, Maidenhead, on Thursday last week.

Councillor Duncan McBride, chairman of the panel, said: “I think this has come up before [at this panel]. It is not the first time it has come before us. It is clear from the previous meeting that this is not a major security breach.

“It is terrible that we might have lost these things but... I do not think it is a big security breach.” However, Cllr Simon Dudley, deputy leader of the council, said: “I’m concerned about these figures, I mean you can see the headlines about the council losing 388 laptops and potentially important information being on them. I would want security processes clearly written down for staff.” Questioning how many laptops had gone missing in the past year, Liberal Democrat Cllr George Fussey, said: “If we are losing laptops quite regularly, that would be a huge issue. It would be useful to know if we are still losing them or if this is 388 over five years or something.” Catherine Hickman, head of audit and investigation at the Royal Borough and report author, said the missing laptops date back to 2005 and only a handful, most likely in single figures, had been lost in the 2012/13 financial year.

Mrs Hickman added; “It could be for a variety of reasons [why so many are unaccounted for]. They may not have been stolen, they could be left in cupboards and forgotten about. We are trying to assess this.” Cllr McBride added the fact the lost computers may have been older than five years would negate the importance of the lost information and steps have since been taken to reduce the chance of laptops with confidential information on them going missing.

However, speaking after the meeting, councillor John Fido said: “That represents a quite lackadaisical attitude. 388 laptops missing not only represents an awful lot of taxpayers money - you would expect a couple of hundred of pounds for each laptop - but also the information on them it puts at risk. These matters have to be treated respectfully.

“I would rather like to know where they have gone.” Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Windsorobserver and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/windsorobserver