A senior Cornwall councillor has resigned from her Cabinet post after it emerged the council is going to use "Big Brother-style" lie detector tests in an effort to catch benefit cheats. The authority says it will save the council a millon pounds a year.
Cornwall Council Conservative group leader Fiona Ferguson has quit her Cabinet post over the use of lie detector technology.
The voice recognition software is used by company Capita on people claiming single person's council tax discount.
Mrs Ferguson handed in her resignation yesterday.
Council leader Jim Currie issued this statement:
I was saddened to receive Fiona’s e-mail tendering her resignation from the Council’s Cabinet.
Her portfolio is a key one which covers a number of complex areas. She is a highly capable councillor who has got to grips with her brief in a very short period of time.
I recognise, however, that the combination of the role of portfolio holder for corporate resources and the leader of the Conservative group has put her in a difficult position on occasions.
While I am aware of Fiona’s views over the issue of voice recognition software, the use of this technology is a key part of the review of council tax single person discount which is being carried out by CAPITA.
There is tremendous pressure on the Council’s budget and we need to do everything we can to prevent fraud. This will not affect people making genuine claims but we estimate that identifying and removing inappropriate claims could save the Council at least £1m.
– Jim Currie, Cornwall Council Leader
This money could then be used to support essential services. On balance, therefore, I am not prepared to place any restrictions on our contractor at this late stage.
Given the short amount of time left before the Council elections in May I will be taking back responsibility for the corporate resources portfolio in the interim period. As this was my previous Cabinet role I am fully conversant with all relevant budgetary issues.