UK singles’ sex lives under scanner to check tax fraud

August 24th, 2008 - 2:39 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 24 (IANS) Sex lives of singles are being officially monitored to check misuse of single-occupant council tax benefits. Undercover snoopers are being used to find out how often lovers visit and whether supposedly single residents are sharing a bed every night with the same person.Local councils are said to be demanding that householders give access to their bedrooms in return for the tax benefits.

The authorities have adopted the technique after the government urged them to carry out “spot checks” on properties where a single-person council-tax discount is claimed. Single people in the UK can claim a 25 percent reduction in council tax on their residences.

Snooping methods include inspectors parking discreetly outside homes to monitor lovers’ movements and observe whether the same person leaves the house in the morning and returns at night. They also check on how often lovers’ cars are parked outside houses and even whether women are sleeping with their landlords.

Claimants of the discount in Thurrock, Essex, have to sign a form authorising “the council or its agents to make inquiries to corroborate this claim” and “inspect the property”.

A surveillance dossier used by the Labour-run Rotherham council shows permission has been given to inspectors to use “drive-past surveillance”, sweeping round and round the block for a glimpse of lovers staying overnight.

Rotherham council said its covert operations were legal and that “the intrusiveness of the surveillance is kept to a minimum, only doing the least amount necessary to obtain the information required”.

The Conservatives have accused Labour of wanting to check people’s bedrooms for underwear and creating a “surveillance state where spying on citizens becomes the norm”. They said it was wrong for people to be spied on and interrogated about their sex lives to qualify for discounts.

Tory local government spokesperson Eric Pickles told The Sunday Times: “Councils will naturally wish to ensure council-tax discounts and benefits are not wrongly claimed, but I am concerned that innocent citizens will be spied on through heavy-handed and disproportionate use of town-hall snoopers.”

But Labour is unmoved. The department of communities and local government said: “Everyone would agree councils should take measures to ensure those people who claim the single-person discount on their council tax are eligible to do so. It is up to individual councils to appropriately use the powers that they have to do this.”

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