Councils 'spend shedloads on CCTV'

Report shows costly cost of local snoopage

Local authority spend on CCTV may be nearing the £500m mark according to The Cost of CCTV, a report by Big Brother Watch, published today.

The report reveals the results of surveys carried out across Britain, and collates FOI responses from some 336 of the country’s 418 local authorities. The actual figure, from those who responded, is £314,835,170.39.

This suggests that the eventual total, if all authorities eventually reply, is likely to be in excess of £400m – and possibly close to the half-billion mark. This spend represents the cost of close to 15,000 additional nurses or firemen – or 13,500 additional police constables.

Topping the league table in terms of expenditure are Birmingham (£10.5m), Sandwell (£5.5m) and Leeds (£3.8m). Biggest spenders in terms of new installation over the last three years are Hounslow, Birmingham and Bournemouth.

The UK’s smallest spender where CCTV is concerned appears to be Arun council, which has so far invested the princely sum of £995.

Although proponents of CCTV claim that the figures will tend to be inflated by a larger upfront spend on installation, followed by lower year on year spend on maintenance, Big Brother Watch suggests that this assertion is questionable. Rather, it claims, the costs of maintenance, repair and upkeep represent a continuing significant drain on the public purse.

Commenting on the overall cost, Big Brother Watch Director Alex Deane said: “This is a shocking figure. Public money is being wasted on snooping surveillance that does next to nothing to prevent or solve crime.

"We are being watched more than ever before, and we’re being ripped off into the bargain. British taxpayers will be scandalised to see their money being thrown away like this in the current economic climate.”

The report goes on to suggest that CCTV requires scrutiny because it is used as a cheap alternative to policing: even though its efficacy is open to challenge. According to Big Brother Watch cameras are regularly found to be not working or turned off: and when they are active, footage is often deleted before it can be used, or otherwise pictures obtained turn out to be of insufficient quality for court purposes.

CCTV, the report claims, is “a costly placebo for many local authorities designed to appease neighbourhoods suffering from anti-social behaviour problems", doing little to solve real issues of crime and crime prevention, while ensuring that we are all now more watched than ever before.

Despite this, it estimates that there are currently at least 59,753 local authority CCTV cameras in Britain, up from 21,000 in 1999, equating to one council-owned CCTV camera for every 1000 people in the country.

That concentration inevitably rises sharply when CCTV installed by other branches of government and private enterprise is factored in.

As a final thought, BBW claims that "the UK spends more per head on CCTV coverage than 38 countries do on defence". ®

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