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Councils spunk £515m in 4 years on CCTV

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UK local authorities spent a total of £515m installing, operating and maintaining CCTV between 2007-11, according to the privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch.

It has released figures obtained from freedom of information (FoI) requests showing that Birmingham was the highest spender on CCTV with more than £14m, while Westminster spent nearly £12m. The group claimed that 428 councils responded to the requests, accounting for 98.6 per cent of the total.

According to Big Brother Watch, the findings show that Leicester has the highest number of CCTV cameras, with 2,083 in total. Other authorities with more than 1,000 include Fife, Wandsworth, Nottingham and Southampton.

The data also shows that:

  • There are at least 51,600 CCTV cameras controlled by 428 local authorities in Britain.
  • Leicester, Fife, Wandsworth, Nottingham, Southampton, Aberdeen City and Cardiff have more CCTV cameras than Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds combined.
  • 18 councils have spent more than £1m annually between 2007-11 on CCTV, including Wandsworth, Bristol, Wakefield, Cambridge and Caerphilly.

Caerphilly has challenged this figure, claiming it does not provide an accurate reflection of the information it provided in response to the FoI request.

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: "Surveillance is an important tool in modern policing but it is not a substitute for policing. In too many cities across the country every corner has a camera but only a few ever see a police officer. Despite millions of cameras, Britain's crime rate is not significantly lower than comparable countries that do not have such a vast surveillance state.

"There is no credible evidence that more cameras will reduce crime, yet councils have poured enough money into CCTV in just four years that would have put more than 4,000 extra police officers on the streets."

The five lowest spenders on CCTV were Arun council, which spent £250,000 between 2007-11, Mid Sussex (£462,000), West Devon (£737,000), Waverley (£1.1m) and Rutland (£1.4m).

The department of Communities and Local Government declined to comment on the findings.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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