CCTV spending halved by councils over last three years, report says

Local authorities have cut spending on CCTV by 46.6 per cent on average over the last three years, according to a report from Big Brother Watch.

The ‘Are they still watching?’ report found that the number of CCTV cameras operated by local authorities had dropped by 12.5 per cent between 2012 and 2015.

Councils have spent £277,079,999 on the installation, maintenance and monitoring of cameras since 2012, which represents a 46.4 per cent decrease. £38,235,429 was spent on the installation of CCTV, 57.3 per cent less than in 2012, with £99,293,981 being spent on the wages and salary costs of CCTV operators, a drop of 47 per cent, and £139,550,589 being spent on the maintenance of cameras, representing a drop of 42 per cent.

Based on these findings, Big Brother Watch proposed a number of key policy recommendations to be considered before newer technologies are installed. These include: that any improvement of systems to include additional capabilities such as smart technology, biometrics or linking systems must consider the increased risk to citizen’s privacy; local authorities should regularly report statistics on the number of crimes detected, investigated and solved by each camera to demonstrate the necessity; a single point of contact should be created to oversee CCTV use and resolve complaints; and a single enforceable Code of Practice which applies to all CCTV cameras should be released.

Responding to the report, Simon Blackburn, chair of the Local Government Association's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "As the surveillance camera commissioner acknowledges, councils are under increasing budgetary pressures and are having to prioritise the services that are important to local people.

"Councils recognise the assurance that CCTV provides and where it is cost effective and has an impact, councils continue to invest in and review their public space CCTV operations.

"However, councils have to pay heed to the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice and are aware that there is a balance to be struck between safeguarding the public and respecting their privacy.”