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A family who were wrongly suspected of lying on a school application form have discovered that their local council used anti-terrorism surveillance powers to spy on them.
The family, from Poole in Dorset, said they had been tailed for three weeks by council officials trying to establish whether they had given a false address in an attempt to get their three-year-old daughter a place at a heavily oversubscribed local nursery school, which their two older children had attended. The family had in fact done nothing wrong, and the investigation was eventually aborted.
The council DEFENDED its right to investigate families in a covert manner, saying it had used the law twice in the past year to successfully prove parents were lying about where they lived.
POOLE'S education cabinet portfolio holder has accused his own council of being heavy handed in its use of surveillance tactics.
"I don't agree with using terrorist laws for this kind of thing," said Cllr Tony Woodcock, who is away from Poole at a university reunion and has missed the outcry.
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"Cllr Mike Brooke, Liberal Democrat group leader and education spokesman said he had not known such tactics were employed by the council and would be demanding answers.
"Is this sort of espionage the actual answer to dealing with what is a recognised problem?" he asked.
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It really is Big Brother in 1984 mode," he said.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne has called for council powers to be reduced in the light of the borough's use of them.
"Using criminal powers to spy on parents is ridiculously over the top."
"Poole council officials should lie down in a darkened room until the urge to play James Bond passes."