Right of entry figures challenged

Published: Friday 16th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Civil liberties campaigners have accused the Government of failing to curb the number of public officials with the right to enter private properties after discovering nearly 20,000 council staff have the power to do so.

The coalition Government pledged to reduce the number of Powers of Entry but Big Brother Watch discovered at the end of 2012 there were 19,375 local authority officials who can enter private homes or business for a wide-ranging number of reasons.

This figure is unlikely to have changed significantly as a Home Office review into Powers of Entry was only just completed in November, the campaigners said.

When the review findings were published, ministers said the number of powers would be reduced from 1,237 to 912, a reduction of 325.

Big Brother Watch said there were a huge number of Powers of Entry that were regarded as meaningless, including The Plant Health Order, which permits the investigation into whether pot plants have plant pests or a “plant passport” and t he Hypnotism Act, which allows for the inspection of a property to ensure illegal or unregulated hypnotism is not taking place.

Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Few people would expect that public officials would have the power to enter your home or business, often without a warrant or police escort.

“The general public have been left high and dry, at the mercy of an army of pen-pushers who can enter our homes as they please.

“There have been a number of missed opportunities to rectify this, including the Protection of Freedoms Act and the Home Office’s review of the powers, yet both have failed to tackle the number of officials with these powers.

“The Coalition has had almost five years to rectify this and all we have seen is handwringing and bureaucracy.”

Following Freedom of Information requests, Big Brother Watch discovered there were more than 19,375 council officials with powers of entry in 429 local authorities at the end of 2012.

This is an average of 45 council officials with powers of entry in all 434 local authorities.

Two local authorities have more than 500 council officials with powers of entry – Northumberland with 541 and Leeds with 527.

Prior to the election, the Conservatives pledged to curb the number of powers.

Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins said: “We agree with Big Brother Watch that action needs to be taken to protect civil liberties. This Government has clamped down on the overuse and abuse of snooping by town halls.

“Across government, over 300 powers of entry are being abolished, and safeguards are being introduced on a further 200. This in addition to curtailing town hall surveillance and bin snooping, as well introducing new laws to stop the industrial use of CCTV spy cars.”

Published: Friday 16th January 2015 by The News Editor

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