'Cash strapped' council spends £16,000 to snoop on staff

Dudley Council chiefs says they use surveillance ‘to support internal resource’.

Dudley Council have hired private investigators on more than 40 occasions in the last five years to spy on its own staff.

A freedom of information request shows that the authority spent £16,014 of public money to hire investigators between 2011 and 2015. In every instance the investigators were tasked with compiling evidence relating to suspected fraudulent conduct by council employees. 

Bosses say the expense was necessary to bring in 'professional services' to swiftly investigate allegations thoroughly, however almost 60 per cent of the investigations resulted in no evidence being obtained to support the allegations.

However many are concerned that the authority chose to use private investigators to snoop on staff, many of whom had 'done nothing wrong'.

Figures obtained by the Express and Star show a total of £9,153.64 was spent on investigations that led to staff members being cleared of any wrongdoing, including two checks on individuals in 2014/15 which took £1,972.37 and £1,429.61 from the public purse by themselves.

Dudley Council chiefs says they use surveillance ‘to support internal resource’, but refused to reveal the reasons why investigators were hired for individual cases and also declined to reveal how many cases resulted in prosecutions.

Around one third of local authorities in the UK admit to having hired private investigators over the last five years, with the vast majority of investigations launched against members of the public. However, both Wolverhampton Council and Staffordshire County Council say that over the same period they haven't used any private detectives to monitor staff.

Keith Heron, regional organiser for Unison in the West Midlands, said: "We recognise that Dudley Council has a responsibility to safeguard the public's funds, but we are concerned that they are using private investigators to snoop on staff, who often, by the council's own standards, have done nothing wrong.

"We will be taking it up with Dudley Council to find out why so many investigations have taken place compared with other authorities."


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