THE personal details of dozens of employees from a council-owned waste company have been found in a filing cabinet bought at auction.

The misplacing of the documents from Premier Waste Management was last night described as “diabolical” by a union shop steward who represented the workers before the company went into liquidation earlier this year.

Among the paperwork were names, addressees, dates of birth, national insurance numbers and health information.

Wage, pension and life insurance details were also found in the cabinet, bought from James Sutherland and Co Auctioneers and Valuers, of Newcastle, by a Spennymoor man who wanted it to hold family history information.

The Northern Echo revealed last month how Premier Waste Management, which is owned by Durham County Council and Darlington Borough Council, had gone into liquidation with debts of £19m, including £12.5m to the staff pension fund.

The purchaser of the four-drawer metal cabinet, who does not want to be named, paid £8 for the item.

He said: “I think it’s shocking that there were documents left in it.

“There’s names, addresses, dates of birth, national insurance numbers - none of that should be in the public domain.

“There’s everything you would need to steal an identity - people have had their lives ruined by these people.”

Terry Knox, who was GMB union steward at the waste company for seven years, said: “It's diabolical.

“It seems as if nobody cares what happens to the employees – this should all have been shredded.

“If it got into the wrong hands it could do a lot of damage.”

Durham County Council said administrators KPMG were responsible for emptying the company’s offices, at Aykley Heads, Durham City.

A spokeswoman for KPMG said the security of personal information was of great importance and taken very seriously by the joint liquidators.

“(They) put processes in place to securely store or securely dispose of data at the companies over which they are appointed.

“In the case of Premier Waste Management, working with the agents selling the company’s office fixtures and fittings, these processes were deployed.

“However, most unfortunately, a small number of documents, some of which contained historic staff information, were missed and remained in a filing cabinet which was sold at auction, found by the cabinet’s purchaser and handed in to The Northern Echo.”

The Northern Echo handed over the documents for KPMG to dispose of.