No investigations that needed to send people undercover to probe illegal sales of tobacco or alcohol were conducted by Powys County Council last year.

At a meeting of Cabinet on Tuesday, November 21 councillors received an annual report for 2022/2023 on the council’s use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 – known as RIPA.

RIPA is used by local authorities if surveillance is necessary to prevent or detect criminal offences which attract a custodial sentence of six months or more, or criminal offences relating to the under-age sale of alcohol or tobacco.

The report also said that the council has been inspected by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO) which oversees RIPA and works with the UK Government’s Home Office.

The inspection by “desk top exercise” took place in July 2022 and revealed a number of “concerns” that needed to be addressed by the council.

Cabinet member for customer services and information governance, Liberal Democrat, Cllr Jake Berriman said: “This is one of the regular annual reports that are received for information and decision.

“It is to brief the cabinet of the council’s use of covert surveillance and seek approval of policies.

“No covert surveillance took place in 2022/2023.”

He explained that RIPA requires public authorities, including local authorities, to use covert investigation techniques in a way that is “necessary, proportionate, and compatible with human rights.”

The report said that the council had received eight recommendations from the commissioner and so far, seven had been addressed as part of an action plan.

Councillors noted the report and agreed the policy changes.

At Powys there are four members of staff who are able to authorise investigations using RIPA.

A further magistrate’s approval is also required before the RIPA authorisation can take effect.

Changes to policy include:

Clarification over the council’s inability to authorise criminal conduct by a CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Sources).

Clarification over the inability of an applicant to also authorise their own applications.

Updated CHIS Code of Practice link to new version released by the Home Office.

Removing the council’s non-RIPA policy, procedures, and templates into a separate document.