Responding to the report from Big Brother Watch on surveillance powers, Cllr Mehboob Khan, Chairman of the Local Government Association's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:
"People quite rightly expect councils to tackle rogue traders, loan sharks and benefit fraudsters operating in their area. These criminals have been caught and prosecuted using evidence gained from surveillance. Without these powers it would be much harder, and in some cases impossible, to bring offenders to justice.
"Councils know how important it is that people can feel safe in the knowledge that these powers are used sparingly and responsibly. To put Big Brother Watch's figures into perspective, on average, a local authority will only use these powers less than 10 times a year and national statistics show that council requests for communications data make up only 0.3 per cent of all requests received.
"From November, councils will be the only public body that obtains approval from a magistrate each time they use surveillance powers."
Notes to editors
Local authorities account for 0.3 per cent of requests for communications data. This figure has remained consistent since 2006 when reporting was introduced.
Read the memorandum submitted by Sir Paul Kennedy to the Protection of Freedoms Bill Committee
Sir Paul Kennedy, in his position as Interception of Communications Commissioner, presented evidence to the Freedoms Bill Committee in 2011, which stated:
"I am aware that some sections of the media continue to be very critical of local authorities and there are allegations that they often use the powers which are conferred upon them under RIPA inappropriately. However, I can categorically state that no evidence has emerged from our inspections that have taken place between 2005 and 2010, which indicates that communications data is being used to investigate offences of a trivial nature, such as dog fouling or littering. On the contrary, it is evident that good use is being made of communications data to investigate the types of offences which cause harm to the public, such as investigating rogue traders, loan sharks and fly-tipping offences."
Sir Paul Kennedy added: "Often the telephone number or communications address is the only information / intelligence the local authority has to progress the investigation and identify the alleged offender."
Further information on the evidence presented to the Freedoms Bill Committee in 2011 by Sir Paul Kennedy:
Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: Simon Ward, Local Government Association Media Office, Telephone: 020 7664 3333
31 August 2012