A data crackdown at the Lake District National Park Authority has raised concerns from its members.

They have been advised to only use their official national park email accounts for authority business rather than their personal ones.

LDNPA solicitor Julie Wood has warned that otherwise they could fall foul of the UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner.

It follows the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the 2018 Data Protection Act.

Ms Wood told the full authority that if members used their personal email for park business and retained personal information on home computers, they were ‘responsible and liable’ to comply with the laws as a ‘data controller’.

That included having firewalls, robust virus protection and ensuring computers were secured so that no -one else could access them.

If not, she said in the event of Data Protection or Freedom of Information requests, members could face having their home computers raided, which they ‘might not want’.

Ms Wood explained that LDNPA email was captured by its servers and members were protected by the authority’s policies. The alternative if they used their own emails would involve, “having, in effect, to raid your home system to discover what is held on behalf of the authority,” she said.

The issue prompted several questions from members who represent local councils. Cllr Alan Barry said he wanted a separate device for national park work. “I’m not happy with this at all,” said Cllr Barry.

“I have enough pressure in my life without GDPR. We didn’t have computers when I went to school. We used to draw with chalk and then we got promoted to pencils. It’s all new to me. I don’t think members should be put under that pressure.”

But Cllr Chris Hogg said he sat on four different authorities and there was a risk of ending up with a device for each one.

Cllr Judith Derbyshire said she had concerns about lugging around devices. “Having given myself a shoulder injury lugging around one of the older laptops, I am keen to keep things light,” said Cllr Derbyshire, the Eden District Council representative.

Cllr Hugh Branney told the meeting that Copeland Borough Council came under a severe cyber attack from somewhere in Russia, due to its proximity to Sellafield. He said: “It’s cost them £2.5 million so far to try and repair their system. There is a reluctance now for them to share devices with anybody.”

Member Paul Turner said he regularly received emails concerning national park business but they were sent to his county council email address and wondered where that left him in the eyes of the law.

Dr Geoff Davies, of Braithwaite, warned that even by using official LDNPA email accounts, some members saved information from them to the hard drives of their own devices.

Dr Davies said: “They may then be subject to an FOI request. I need some guidance about what the document destruction policy is for the national park.”

National park bosses advised members to be wary of saving documentation to personal devices and it was suggested further training is needed.

Member Mark Kidd, the chairman of Staveley with Ings Parish Council, welcomed the move to sort the situation.

He told the meeting: “We had Freedom of Information requests at our parish council once and the powers are pretty strong – they can go through everything and get everything.”