You would hope that your diary is private and that not even your nosy brother (or sister) would look at it… well, unless you’re a Mayor or a Councillor for a local government. Ok, so not the one you write in every night with reflections about the good work you did that day. I mean your work diary – the one with all your appointments in it.
The work diaries of Mayors and Councillors are public records under the Act. Ergo, you need to keep them for a certain amount of time according to the Local Government Sector Retention and Disposal Schedule. This is basically because they relate to and document the local government’s executive activities.
Just a reminder though, any records relating to a Mayor or Councillor’s electorate, political party or personal affairs are not public records and so can be managed by the elected members themselves.
So, how long do diaries need to be kept?
Depending on who you are (or whose diary you’re looking at), you either need to keep them for 7 years after last action (Councillors) or permanently (Mayors because they’re more important – seriously, they are).
Mayors’ diaries need to be kept permanently because they have historical research value. It’s not just about where he or she went and when but they help show us how these community figures performed lasting and beneficial services to their local government.
Once the retention period for Councillor’s diaries has been reached, you can include them as part of your regular destruction program and destroy it as you would other council records. Mayor’s diaries can be transferred to QSA when possible – talk to our transfers team about organising this.
Now, all of this applies to diaries that have been created. There is no requirement for a mayor or councillor to actually keep a diary.
You might also need to think about what format the diary is in as it may not be the good old fashioned paper kind – a lot of mayors are very tech savvy these days!
Any diaries in digital form may need extra work to capture or keep them depending on what format they are in and how the information is recorded. Digital diaries can’t yet be transferred to QSA so you’ll need to keep them permanently. Remember to take into account any preservation you might need to do to make sure they remain usable and accessible.
Who should keep Mr/Mrs Mayor’s diary?
Considering that the diary is about council business, once the mayor or councillor is no longer using it (i.e. its inactive), you’ll need to capture and manage it as you would your other council records including setting appropriate access controls.
What if personal information is included?
You might find that some personal information has been captured too – I don’t know about you but keeping one diary is hard enough, but two? It might seem easier sometimes to just use one but be aware this personal information is not a public record.
If you do find personal info mixed in with work related stuff, you should do what you can to separate it out so that you only capture and keep the work information.
To save this difficulty in the future, you could advise Mayors and Councillors that work diaries are public records when they first start their term – that way they can make sure they put in as little personal information in their work diaries as possible.
Don’t forget, the Recordkeeping SPOT has lots of information on keeping and destroying records.
Featured image: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with Lord Mayor Clem Jones at Civic Reception, Brisbane, 6 May 1963, Digital ID 9855