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Goodbye to the Big Brother State?


Recent research from civil liberties group Big Brother Watch indicates that councils are turning surveillance cameras off in order to cut costs. Will this move result in real financial savings for councils?  

An Orwellian society

With some 4.9 million cameras across the country, the UK may have one of the most extensive CCTV networks in the world. Historically, local authorities have invested substantial sums in these surveillance systems, with around £277 million spent across the country between 2012 and 2015.

Aside from London, which reports a 72% rise in camera numbers, a new national trend appears to show local authorities reducing their investment, or even eliminating CCTV schemes altogether. Big Brother Watch suggests the main reason for this is practicality, as councils strive to save the £2.6 billion required by the government in the financial year of 2015/2016.

A brave new world?

The widespread use of CCTV is frequently flagged as a civil liberties issue, particularly relating to privacy concerns. However, councils have traditionally maintained that CCTV offers multiple community benefits, as well as being a valuable resource to the Crown Prosecution Service during criminal investigations.

Between October 2014 and September 2015, South Tyneside’s CCTV unit responded to over a thousand incidents, resulting in 500 arrests, as a result of its surveillance cameras. However, the report from Big Brother Watch indicates that the local authority has cut CCTV spending by 90% over the last three years. Police officers in Tenby, Wales have warned that the CCTV cameras in the area play a vital role in crime prevention, as well as for investigating road traffic accidents and tracing missing persons.

The effectiveness of CCTV as a crime prevention tool has long been a cause for debate. It remains to be seen whether turning off cameras will lead to a significant rise in anti-social or criminal behaviour – and consequently additional costs as councils deal with this situation. If you work for a local authority and are concerned about your financial outlook contact our Contact Centre Manager today. Our debt recovery services can help with the collection of outstanding arrears in a fair, ethical and transparent manner.

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