SPENDING on CCTV cameras in Blackpool looks set to be cut again this year – as local authorities come under fire for pouring too much cash into surveillance.
Figures obtained by civil liberties campaigners Big Brother Watch show Blackpool Council has spent nearly £1.2m on CCTV cameras in the past four years.
Nationally the pressure group says councils have spent £515m.
It has accused Britain of having an “out-of-control surveillance culture that is doing little to improve public safety.”
Blackpool slashed £908,000 from its parking and CCTV budget last year while this year it is proposing to cut another £100,000 leaving a proposed £125,000 for CCTV in the 2012/13 budget.
Coun Eddie Collett, portfolio holder for community safety on Blackpool Council, said: “I think overall the case for CCTV is far from proven.
“It clearly helps detect crime once it has been committed but as a preventative measure it only works in very limited circumstances, one of which is in car parks.
“But when it comes to general surveillance of the population in town centres, there is very little evidence it achieves much at all.
“The money could be better spent on things like more police officers and security officers, and better street lighting.”
As part of last year’s town hall cuts, monitoring of cameras was reduced and the system is now unmanned for three days a week, although cameras are still recording round the clock.
The number of operators based at the monitoring centre, which opened in 2001, was cut from 11 to three.
Nick Pickles, director of privacy at Big Brother Watch, said: “Britain has an out-of-control surveillance culture that is doing little to improve public safety but has made our cities the most watched in the world.
“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 four thousand extra police officers on the streets.”
The figures, obtained by Big Brother Watch using Freedom of Information requests, also show Fylde Council has spent £72,533 on CCTV over four years and Wyre has spent £310,466.
A spokesman for Fylde Council said its system was mainly funded by outside bodies including the fire and police authorities.
He said: “It costs very little per year to the council tax-payer and it provides public confidence in town centres and some of our parks. Criminals know if they commit a crime, they are likely to be caught.”
Two additional cameras will be provided in Lytham this spring.