Campaigners uncover UK local government spending on CCTV

Using Freedom of Information requests, Big Brother Watch in the UK has managed to get hold of figures from many British local governments on how much they spend on CCTV surveillance systems.

According to the Press Association, the annual spend by 336 local councils on the installation and operation of CCTV cameras over a three year-period from 2007/08 and 2009/10 totalled £314,835,170.39 (around $400M US). That’s a large amount of money in an ‘age of austerity’… however it is still not complete as there are another 80 local governments who did not respond to the requests. Interestingly there were still some local governments, albeit only 15, who still did not operate public-area CCTV. That’s not to say that the local police forces in those areas did not, however. There are some cities in Britain, the exception rather than the rule, like Newcastle for instance, where police own and operate public CCTV cameras. I am not sure if these are the types of councils making the claims, and I will have to look at all the figures in greater detail.

The top ten spenders on CCTV over the three years were listed as:

  1. the city of Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city, and controversial for its special scheme targeted at ‘Muslim’ areas, but also with a massively regenerated and semi-privatised city-centre. £10,476,874.00
  2. Sandwell metropolitan borough, a large urban area to the north-west of Birmingham £5,355,744.00
  3. the city of Leeds, in Yorkshire, whose downtown district is the epitome of the characterless, over-regenerated urban centre. £3,839,675.00,
  4. the city of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, a wannabe global city, and former G8 meeting host, £3,600,560.00
  5. the borough of Hounslow, on the edge of urban and suburban west London, £3,573,186.45
  6. the borough of Lambeth, a diverse south London district, £3,431,301.00
  7. the city of Manchester, one of the cities we studied in our book on urban resilience, which put a huge amount in to CCTV in the downtown core the wake of a provisional IRA bombing, which has now also been gentrified out of recognition – it also has a signficant suburban gang problem, £3,347,310.00
  8. the borough of Enfield, a leafy north-east London suburb, £3,141,295.00
  9. the borough of Barnet, also in north London, £3,119,020.00
  10. the borough of Barking and Dagenham, in east London, on the borders with Essex, and another area of high racial tensions stoked by a strong local British National Party, £3,090,000.00.

Half of the top ten are London boroughs, outside of the centre of London, showing that CCTV is still diffusing outwards from the heavily surveilled core around the financial centre of the City of London and the government district of Westminster. Not surprisingly, the diffusion is also continuing primarily to the major urban centres beyond London, and the case of Sandwell perhaps shows that the greater Birmingham area is going through a similar process seen in London. In any case, public area video surveillance is not going away in the UK any time soon, and the new government will have to, at some time, demonstrate what it actually meant by introducing greater regulation of CCTV.

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

3 thoughts on “Campaigners uncover UK local government spending on CCTV”

  1. ” …. the annual spend by 336 local councils on the installation and operation of CCTV cameras over a three year-period from 2007/08 and 2009/10 totalled £314,835,170.39 (around $200M US). ”

    Current exchange rates actually put the figure in US dollars at around $ 490m ….. ish!

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