By James Slack
As many as 20,000 town hall snoopers have assumed powers to enter people’s homes without a warrant and search for information, a survey revealed last night.
The research details for the first time how a raft of intrusive laws has allowed council staff to barge into homes and businesses uninvited.
The bureaucrats are benefiting from the 1,043 state powers of entry in primary and secondary legislation – more than 400 of which have been created by Labour.
These include checking for fridges which do not have the correct eco-friendly energy rating, making sure a hedge is not too high and inspecting a property to ensure ‘illegal or unregulated hypnotism’ is not taking place.
Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, which carried out the research, said: ‘Once, a man’s home was his castle. Today, the Big Brother state wants to inspect, regulate and standardise the inside of our homes.
‘Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers for their own ease, without giving due thought to the public’s right to privacy and the potential for abuse. There needs to be a much closer eye kept on the number of officers granted the right to barge into private premises without a warrant.’
Using Freedom of Information laws, Big Brother Watch, a new privacy campaign group, asked councils in Britain to reveal the number of staff they had authorised to conduct property searches.
The research, entitled ‘Barging In’, found there were at least 14,793 officers with that power – the equivalent of 47 officers in every local authority in Britain. More than a quarter of councils either refused or failed to answer the FOI requests.
The survey relates only to town hall staff. If police officers, paramedics and firefighters are included, the total would be in the hundreds of thousands.
Northamptonshire County Council and Glasgow City Council have the most officers able to enter your home, with almost 500 each.
Councils have been handing out the powers despite the fact Gordon Brown has expressed concern about the practice.
In 2007, the Prime Minister said: ‘I share the concerns about the need for additional protections for the liberties and rights of the citizen.’
Town halls are also carrying out thousands of ‘spying’ missions under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The law was passed nine years ago to fight terrorism, but access to the spy powers has been extended to 653 state bodies – including 474 councils.