Officials given powers to enter homes

FIGURES revealed today show that nearly 15,000 officers in local councils nationwide can enter private properties - however Ipswich Borough Council has refused to deliver their statistics.

FIGURES revealed today show that nearly 15,000 officers in local councils nationwide can enter private properties - however Ipswich Borough Council has refused to deliver their statistics.

Details revealed today by Big Brother Watch, a new campaign from the founders of the TaxPayers' Alliance, show that thousands of council officers across the country can enter properties without requiring a warrant or police escort.

However, Ipswich Borough Council was one of 115 local councils that either refused or failed to respond to the Freedom of Information request by Big Brother Watch.

The report claims that the borough council did not respond to the request because “the cost of complying with (the) request would exceed the appropriate limit of �450.”

Of the 361 councils who did submit a response, Northamptonshire County Council was revealed as having 499 officers with powers of entry - the highest of all councils.

Figures reveal that Suffolk Coastal District Council has 44 officers with entry powers, whereas Babergh District Council has just three.

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Many of the laws that permit power of entry are crucial for reasons of public safety and law enforcement.

However, several reasons have been portrayed as needless, with one law permitting entry to see if pot plants have plant pests or do not have a “plant passport”.

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers within their council 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 offices granted the right to barge into private premises without a warrant.”

Caroline Spelman, Shadow Local Government and Communities Secretary, said: "Thanks to Labour, there are now over 1,000 powers of entry that allow state officials to barge inside your home. The police need powers to tackle crime, but there is a far weaker case for town halls to have these powers, especially given the abuse of surveillance powers by local authorities.”

No one from Ipswich Borough Council was available to comment.

Do you think council officers should have the right to enter private property without a warrant? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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