By Mark Smulian
Government threats to cut council budgets unless they issue more anti-social behaviour orders have been condemned as 'barking mad' by the Local Government Association.
Downing Street did not deny the stories, but was unable to explain what would be involved.
LGA chief executive Sir Brian Briscoe, who retires next week, said: 'It is absolutely barking mad, but typical of the way they deal with these issues.
'It is mad to think that the number of ASBOs issued is a measure of [performance]: they have their place, but it is a local decision.'
Sir Brian denounced the reports as 'a typical Number 10 story', and said civil servants at the Department for Communities & Local Government had known nothing about the idea.
Central ASBO targets backed by financial penalties would fly in the face of the government's commitment to localism, due to be fleshed out in a policy paper later this year.
'It would be top-down policy, which has failed notably,' Sir Brian added.
The new policy appeared unknown in Whitehall, where confusion reigned; both DCLG and Home Office spokesmen knew nothing about it.
Most councils already have crime and disorder reduction strategies in place, said Nick Cuff, parliamentary affairs officer at the Local Government Information Unit.
He said: 'You cannot implement a community policing policy through a centralised carrot-and-stick approach, and the government is in cloud-cuckoo land if it thinks it can.'
The government announced housing benefit would be cut from people evicted for anti-social behaviour unless they participate in rehabilitation programmes.
Adam Sampson, director of the housing charity Shelter, said: 'Innocent children face homelessness because of the desire to get tough with the parents.'