People who live alone face surveillance from council tax inspectors
One council, Thurrock in Essex, asks people to sign a declaration that permits the council to enter their home to prove that they are single occupants.
A spokesman for the Local Government Association told The Telegraph that the crackdown was necessary because of fraud:
"Millions of pounds are being ripped off from the taxpayer by a minority of people who deliberately cheat the system by claiming discounts. Councils are clamping down hard on fraudsters who pretend to live alone when there are actually more people living in a house and try cheating the tax payer. Pretending to live alone to defraud the taxpayer is not a victimless offence. This is money that could be spent on the genuinely vulnerable or keeping council tax down."
Eric Pickles MP, Tory spokesman on local government, is concerned, however, at local authorities' use of surveillance powers to check on single occupancy:
"Day by the day under Labour, the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens are being undermined, with more and more state officials trying to enter and spy on people's homes. It may be appropriate for local authorities to check that council tax discounts are not wrongly claimed. But it is wholly disproportionate to threaten higher council tax bills if residents do not allow state officials into their bedrooms. This is another worrying sign of function creep. State duties originally intended to tackle fraud are now being over-used by bureaucrats in a heavy-handed, intrusive manner."