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Councils slammed for 'cashing in' with CCTV spy cars
CIVIL liberties campaigners have slammed town hall bosses for using CCTV cameras to raise hundreds of millions of pounds through parking and traffic fines and claim such devices should be banned.
Figures released to Big Brother Watch under Freedom of Information laws have revealed that local authorities have, using static CCTV and CCTV spy cars, issued £312 million worth of Fixed Penalty Notices for traffic contraventions.
Wirral Council is one of at least 58 local authorities using a CCTV car to capture traffic offences.
The car caught a total of 7,513 cars parked illegally between March 2008 and March 2013, resulting in a total income of £239,951 through fixed penalty notices.
There are at least 36 local authorities using static CCTV cameras to capture traffic offences, although Wirral is not one of them.
A spokesman for Wirral Council told the Globe: “Parking enforcement plays an important part in road safety, and particularly for school children and the elderly.
“The CCTV car is primarily used to tackle dangerous or disruptive parking, for instance outside schools. The highly visible enforcement activity should act as a deterrent to motorists who park dangerously.”
The spokesman added that any surplus is used to fund local traffic or highway improvements.
A Surveillance Camera Code of Practice, published by the Government, highlights the need to use CCTV for traffic offences “sparingly”, the campaigners said, but the number of local authorities using CCTV cars has increased by 87% since 2009.
Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, said: "The Government rightly wants to reign in this unjustified surveillance, so councils are turning to desperate arguments about public safety to justify their cameras, despite having absolutely no evidence to back up their claims.
“The use of CCTV and spy cars for parking enforcement should be banned.
"The fact that no councils publish proper statistics about how these cameras are used highlights that many know that their CCTV operation is about raising money, not about public safety.
"The Government should urgently investigate whether or not the use of cameras to snoop on motorists breaches surveillance laws, particularly where a traffic warden sits in a control room looking for motorists to ticket."
Brandon Lewis, Minister for Local Government said using CCTV to make money is “breaking the constitutional principle that fines should not be used as a source of revenue”.
He said: "Unreasonable parking charges and fines push up hard-working people's cost of living.
"If parking is too expensive or difficult, shoppers will drive to out of town supermarkets or just shop online, undermining the vitality of town centres and leading to 'ghost town' high streets.
"That's why the Government intends to clampdown on this clear abuse and misuse of parking CCTV.
“The public want to see CCTV being used to catch criminals not to persecute shoppers and hard-working people."
Councillor Peter Box, chair of the Local Government Association’s Economy and Transport Board, said it was “frustratingly familiar” to hear Big Brother Watch again “peddling the myth” that councils are enforcing parking regulations just to raise money.
He said: “It is wholly inaccurate and misleading for them to claim councils are alone in warning about the dangers of banning the use of CCTV for parking enforcement.
"Road safety campaigners, schools, disability and pedestrian charities and councils have all come together to warn the Government that banning CCTV parking enforcement will put school children and disabled pedestrians at risk and worsen road safety."
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