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Records retention standard operating procedures

Some documents do not need to be kept at all. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) relate to items which you should routinely destroy in the normal course of business.


This usually means material that is:

  • duplicated (such as copies of records securely held elsewhere; reports/minutes circulated among a team for short-term information; copies of official literature)
  • unimportant (for example, trivial email messages or paper notes unrelated to council business, compliments slips and stationery)
  • of short-term transactional value (such as draft versions of a record, and telephone messages slips after the message has been passed on)

There is no need to keep diaries or notebooks if the information has been transferred into a case management system. However, if you discover a pre-2015 diary or notebook, check if it relates to the care of children. If it does, keep it until the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) lifts its do-not-destroy order.

Take time to make a conscious, positive decision about whether to keep or destroy documents. You should normally destroy documents after their retention period, but be ready to make exceptions if necessary. For instance, if a document holds the key evidence of an important decision, you should capture it in a proper record keeping system. Where integrated records are managed in an electronic case management system, they should only be destroyed when all applicable retention periods have expired. This means system user data such as an employee’s name and job title may be retained within case records, beyond the retention period of their personnel file. If in doubt, contact the Corporate Records Manager.