Town halls should be punished if their schemes to improve the behaviour of ‘troubled families’ flop, MPs say today.

Their report calls for ‘sanctions’ against councils that fail to change the lives of people with social problems ranging from poverty to low skills and bad housing.

It follows criticism that only three people in Bradford have found work through the scheme, which was started after the 2011 summer riots.

Latest figures show Bradford Council has started work with 1,255 of the 1,760 city families identified as ‘troubled’ – more than 71 per cent of them.

Of those, 543 have been classed as having had their lives turned around, but only three – just 0.6 per cent – found permanent work.

Across the district, only 23 of 1,339 families described as “turned around” now have someone in work – with none at all in Kirklees, only three in Calderdale and 17 in Leeds.

Now the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has warned the scheme, announced by David Cameron himself, is on course to “miss its targets”.

Across England, success has been chalked up in the lives of 22,000 families, leaving a further 98,000 to be turned around by May 2015.

And a parallel project, run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has put only four per cent of the expected number of people into jobs.

Margaret Hodge, the PAC’s Labour chairman, condemned the “baffling decision” to run two separate programmes, leading to “confusion and unnecessary duplication”.

And she said: “There have been big variations in performance, which put achieving the programmes’ objectives at risk.

“The departments must ensure that performance in each local authority, and by each contractor, is scrutinised, giving appropriate support where appropriate – but also imposing sanctions where necessary.”

The PAC report did not identify any worst offenders and its call for councils to face sanctions – for a Government scheme – is likely to be controversial.

Ministers have insisted the scheme is “on track” to meet the prime minister’s pledge to transform the lives of 120,000 problem families by 2015.