Councils in England could be banned from using CCTV cameras and "spy cars" to impose parking fines on motorists under new government proposals.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has said he wants to curb "overzealous" local authorities which use cameras to maximise their income from parking fines.
He warned that public support for CCTV could be undermined if people believed they were being used to generate revenue rather than preventing crime.
A government consultation paper will suggest amending legislation underpinning the Traffic Management Act 2004 to outlaw the practice.
A study into the impacts of recently introduced welfare reforms has said identified areas where they are likely to be "most strongly" to be felt.
The Local Government Association commissioned report said:
"The impacts of the reforms are likely to be most strongly felt in areas with the highest dependence on benefit - the North East, parts of London and a swathe of coastal towns and cities including Thanet, Tendring, Great Yarmouth, Scarborough and Torbay."
A study carried out by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, into the impacts of the Government's radical reform of the welfare system found:
- The income of households claiming benefit will be an estimated £1,165 a year, or £31 a week, lower in 2015/16 as a result of reforms excluding the Universal Credit.
- the effect of housing benefit changes will affect 1.71 million households, 1.18 million of which contain no one in work.
- Overall 45% of working age households receive one of the main benefits or tax credits and 59% of welfare cuts will fall on households where someone has a job.
- The study also suggested that just 155,000 workless households may mitigate the effects by finding employment, and 115,000 by moving.
Councils could be forced to cut spending on roads and elderly care to support households losing out through the Government's welfare reforms, town hall chiefs warn.
A study estimated less than a quarter of the 1.18 million English workless households affected by housing benefit cuts would be able to mitigate the impact of the reforms by moving to a cheaper property or finding a job.
This could lead to councils having to pay out to support them, according to the report, commissioned by the Local Government Association
It also cast doubt on the effectiveness of the universal credit scheme, aimed at ensuring claimants are always better off working, suggesting it was "unlikely to significantly increase employment".
Councils are using millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to hire private investigators for snooping operations, it has been claimed.
Freedom of Information figures obtained by pressure group Big Brother Watch, seen by the Daily Mail, found that nearly £4 million was spent by officials in two years on secret security checks, extra surveillance and other investigations.
The figures follow the news that a 999 operator, who went on sick leave due to stress, won an £11,000 pay-off from the fire service after it hired an investigator to spy on her.
Anthea Orchard, 35, received the payout weeks after a leaked report by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) found that several organisations had used private detectives to steal personal data.
Cambridgeshire is planning to increase council tax by 1.99%, which would avoid a local vote by a slither. The coalition has been urging local authorities to freeze the levy again this year, insisting a public vote should be held to approve any increase above 2%.
Consumer Editor Chris Choi reports:
As councils publish draft budgets for next year, our council tax blog is keeping track of their council tax proposals. It already looks as though there will be more councils refusing the freeze funding and increasing council tax next year.
With several weeks to go until budgets must be finalised, we count 26 councils that have confirmed their intentions to increase tax levels.
We expect this number to increase in coming weeks. If we were betting people, we’d estimate around a third of councils will increase tax levels next year – somewhere around 100 councils.
The Local Government Chronicle (LGC) has supplied ITV News with its latest projections for local authorities' approach to council tax in the wake of Eric Pickles' funding attack, supporting predictions that a number look set to defy the Government.
The LGC said budget assumptions and funding proposals allow it to predict the council tax intentions of 74 councils, with the remainder of the 351 English councils still unknown. It said:
- 26 authorities are considering an increase of between 1.6% and 4.4%, though the majority will raise tax to 1.9%, keeping them narrowly within the Government's planned referendum threshold.
- Two authorities, Hammersmith & Fulham LBC and South Holland District Council, plan to cut council tax. (Last year saw 35 councils opt for a cut by the decision deadline.)
- 46 authorities look set to obey Government calls and freeze council tax.
Mr Pickles, meanwhile, has said the Coalition is aware of 115 councils who have confirmed they will opt to freeze.
Asked about Eric Pickles' accusation that English councils are "cheating" the taxpayer with planned rises in council tax, David Cameron's official spokesman said:
The Prime Minister's view is that the Government has provided funding to support a freeze in council tax and it is very good news that around one-third of authorities have already indicated that they will do that. Obviously, the final decision is up to the councils themselves.
The PM's view is that it is right to do whatever is possible, within current constraints, for families. That is why the Government has provided funding for another year of a council tax freeze. If councils want to go further, it is right that that (becomes) a matter for their electorate.
Labour MP for Gateshead, Ian Mearns, has criticised Eric Pickles' accusation that English councils who raise a "stealth tax" by 1.99% in a bid to avoid the Government's 2% referendum threshold are "democracy dodgers".
In his article in The Daily Telegraph, Pickles warned "anybody using loop holes will lose out next year".
After his party colleague Jack Dromey condemned Mr Pickles' claims, Mr Mearns added: