Frail and vulnerable pensioners in sheltered housing could be fitted with electronic tags to save cash on night cover. The devices, which are usually used to check up on criminals on early release, would be monitored by a warden. The idea is that the tags would alert staff to 'an unexpected change' in a resident's routine.

But campaigners for the elderly have denounced it as demeaning and dangerous. Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'Technology must only be used with a person's full consent and as part of a comprehensive care package. 'It must never be a substitute for good quality care or a way to reduce care costs.'

Geoff Driver, the Conservative group leader at the council, said: 'This is an absolute disgrace. 'It will be an appalling intrusion on the privacy and self-respect of these elderly people. 'It also poses a risk to their safety. There is no substitute for a real person to come and help.

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