HUNDREDS of thousands of people’s personal details have been sold by West Midlands councils from the electoral roll during the last four years.

A range of organisations including religious groups, mapping firms, transport companies and solicitors were able to buy names and addresses from the ‘open register’ according to Freedom of Information data obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Councils have little to no control over the matter, which is often used for marketing purposes.

Some bodies have argued the open register should be scrapped claiming that it infringes privacy and could deter people from registering to vote.

Out of the seven  local authorities in the region Birmingham City Council received the most money for selling data between 2016/17 and so far during the current 2019/20 year as they earned £2,216.12 in total.

It was also the only authority to provide the full information requested by the LDRS as it confirmed the number of electors’ details provided.

The authority received the most requests in 2016/17 when it received £1,725.08 in income.

On three occasions that year it sold 301,005 electors’ details from all of the city’s ward areas following requests from mapping firms Navteq and Here Technologies (which are the same company) as well as former train operator London Midland.

Birmingham council pointed out that the income received went back into the elections office budget stating that the ‘annual canvass’, which is the process of updating the register for publication, costs more than £300,000 alone.

Dudley Council earned £254.50 from two sales, both in 2017, to the Here mapping firm and EweMove estate agents.

Sandwell Council received £262.50 but would not confirm who requested the information stating the sales were made to individuals as opposed to organisations.

The government says ‘everyone’s name and address goes on the full version’ but is only used for elections, preventing and detecting crime, checking applications for loans or credit and jury summoning.

The open register is available to anyone who wants to buy it but people can ‘opt out’ by contacting their local Electoral Registration Office – their local council – without it affecting their right to vote.

Individuals or organisations can request a council provide the register for all of the local authority’s wards or just some of them.

The sale of information and how much it is sold for is governed by the Representation of the People Regulations 2001 meaning councils have no say over the matter and must process requests.

Information is sold for £20 plus £1.50 per 1,000 entries (or part there of) in data format, and £10 plus £5 per 1,000 entries (or part there of) in print.

Councils confirmed they have no grounds to refuse data requests providing they receive the required amount from the purchaser.

Birmingham City Council stated: “There are no stipulations on what the data contained in the Open Register can be used for (unlike the full version of the register), and as such following a written request and upon receipt of the prescribed fee, we are obliged to provide the person or organisation with a copy of the register(s) they have requested.”

The Electoral Commission, the independent body which oversees elections, has called for the open register to be scrapped.

A spokeswoman said: “The Electoral Commission has recommended that the open register should no longer be compiled or made available for sale.

“This is because we consider it to be wrong in principle that a request for information for the purposes of electoral registration be combined with the issue of direct marketing and remain concerned that, in some cases, combining these issues may act as a deterrent to people registering.

“Any changes to access to the register would be a question for government and parliament.”

Civil liberties organisation Big Brother Watch has also echoed the concern and called for the register to be abolished.

On the back of their report called ‘Democratic Value’ in 2013 they said: “We believe that the existence of the edited register impacts on election participation as people are concerned about their personal information being shared for marketing purposes and undermining trust in the electoral registration system.”