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Healey to tighten covert surveillance

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Local Government Minister John Healey wants to tighten up the use of covert surveillance powers by local councils.

The move is intended to boost public confidence in the system and follows the announcement earlier in the day by the Home Secretary that a consultation will be held in the New Year on the crime fighting powers relating to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

Mr Healey has also recently written to councils making clear he felt the powers were inappropriate for problems such as dog fouling or littering.

A senior representative of the National Policing Improvement Agency is to work with the Department for Communities and Local Government and local authorities to ensure that strong and practical guidance is available.

There will also be further work with the Local Government Association and LACORS to ensure that a greater focus is placed on training.

Inappropriate and disproportionate

The revised code of practice for councils - that will clamp down on inappropriate and disproportionate use of these powers - will also be published for consultation in the New Year.

Mr Healey said: “It is right and important that councils have these powers of surveillance - they are an effective means of tackling tough problems that can blight our communities, such as rogue traders, fly tippers and loan sharks.

“But the public must have confidence not only that public bodies have the powers they need, but also that they use them in a proportionate and proper way.

"The forthcoming consultation will be an opportunity to clarify which public bodies hold which powers, and to hold a clear debate over whether the right balance is being struck.”

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