The number of data breaches at Bexley Council has increased sevenfold in the last year, it has been revealed.

Following a freedom of information (FOI) request by this newspaper, it has emerged there have been 22 data breaches in 2017/18.

This is a stark rise compared to the previous two years, in which there were just three cases.

Although the breaches were classified as “low risk”, the council said it investigates all incidents.

A spokesman said: “The council takes its data protection responsibilities seriously. In preparation for the General Data Protection Regulations, we ensured that all staff took refresher training on how to keep data safe and secure.

“We also held a number of staff briefing sessions and issued regular communications and guidance. We have rigorous procedures and policies in place, as well as excellent security in relation to ICT systems.

 “The council regrets any data breach that occurs and undertakes a thorough investigation of each incident, including carrying out a careful risk assessment and reviewing its procedures to prevent re-occurrence.”

The most common data breach in the last three years has been the council sending letters to the wrong address.

In the last year, the “top three” reasons for a breach have included system errors and emails and letters sent to the wrong place.

Last year, the theft of a laptop and confidential documents were also among the reasons that data was breached.

In the last year, research has shown that 76 per cent of councils have experienced cyber-attacks and data breaches.