Council caught sifting through peoples’ bins

Islington council is being accused of a massive invasion of privacy after it admitted sifting through the rubbish of around 1,000 homes to find out how much people were recycling.

The council says permission was not required and therefore not sought, but the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, Emily Thornberry, said it was “absolutely outrageous and completely unjustified”.

She continued: “They said they didn’t need permission. It’s extremely arrogant. I’m concerned about the intrusion into people’s private lives. It’s a civil liberties issue. They should be engaging the public rather than spying on them.”

A council spokesman tried to reassure residents, saying: “The operatives involved in the sorting were waste professionals acting under a strict code of conduct which included the possibility of finding items of a personal nature such as confidential paperwork.”

Islington councillor Greg Foxsmith said anonymity had been maintained throughout.

“This was an investigation into the types of rubbish being collected generally to see what type of material is being sent to landfill and how much more of it could be recycled,” he said.

“Again, rubbish is not looked at individually or records taken or kept of what relates to an individual address. Confidentiality is taken very seriously.”

The accusation follows hightened concern about local councils’ use of anti-terror legislation to spy on residents.

Local Government Association chairman Sir Simon Milton wrote to councils in June calling on them to moderate their use of the legislation as it was alienating the public.

Councils have the power to access people’s phone and email records and use surveillence in order to detect criminal offences.