Lie detector technology 'immoral and bullying'
A LOOE councillor is calling on Cornwall Council not to use lie detector technology to detect council tax fraud.
Cornwall councillor for West Looe and Lansallos Edwina Hannaford claims that the use of such technology is immoral and constitutes bullying.
Mrs Hannaford said: "I believe that this amounts to the bullying of vulnerable residents out of discounts they are entitled to and smacks of Big Brother."
Mrs Hannaford's calls follow the news that Cornwall Council has engaged a private firm to install "voice risk analysis techniques" on its telephone system to discover if those claiming the single person's council tax discount are genuine.
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Cornwall Council Cabinet member Fiona Ferguson sensationally resigned her position on the Cabinet over the decision to use the lie detector technology.
Mrs Hannaford said: "It's an invasion of privacy, immoral and will not be effective or reliable."
She highlighted that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which used the VRA technology between 2008 and 2010 to detect benefit fraud, stopped using it because the evidence was "not compelling enough".
In a statement on its website the DWP said: "From our findings it is not possible to demonstrate that VRA works effectively and consistently in the benefits environment. The evidence is not compelling enough to recommend the use of VRA within DWP."
Mrs Hannaford said: "I am worried that some of the most vulnerable people who are already under stress and pressure may be falsely accused, adding to their distress.
"I believe the use of lie detector (VRA) technology is an unwarranted intrusion into the lives of residents without their permission and will be calling on Cornwall Council to discontinue the use of lie detector technologies as soon as possible and not to engage contractors using such technologies – or do so itself – in the future."
After quitting her post last week Councillor Ferguson said: "I won't be a part of the subterfuge which is why I've resigned. I'm worried this will put genuine people off from speaking to the council."
Council leader Jim Currie defended the move. He said:"There is tremendous pressure on the council's budget and we need to do everything we can to prevent fraud. This will not affect genuine claims."