Town Hall snoopers free to search your home

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More than 200 Town Hall workers across Lancashire have powers to enter people's homes without a warrant and search for information, it has emerged.

Under various powers, a total of 234 council snoopers across central, west and north Lancashire can go into homes and businesses uninvited.

They have the right to do so under 418 separate state powers of entry in law, according to privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, which conducted the research.

Officers can enter for a string of reasons, including to check fridges which do not have the correct eco-energy rating or under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 to survey gardens to see if hedges are too high.

The full list of laws was published by the Home Office in 2008. Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, 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 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 officers granted the right to barge into private premises without a warrant."

Big Brother Watch sent Freedom of Information Act requests to councils asking how many officers could conduct property searches.

South Ribble has the highest number among the district councils with 53. There are 43 in Preston, 42 in Wyre and 37 in Lancaster. Chorley Council has one of the lowest numbers in the county with six.

Lancashire County Council has 74 officers with such powers.

The figures come after the LEP revealed last year how councils had used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act – originally designed as anti-terror and serious crime legislation – to spy on residents.

Wyre Council has used the law to catch dog owners letting their pets foul in public places, while Lancashire County Council used the laws to monitor cleaning staff.

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