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Councils 'cash in with CCTV fines'
Councils have turned to CCTV cameras to raise hundreds of millions of pounds through parking and traffic fines, civil liberties campaigners have revealed.
Using static CCTV and CCTV cars, local authorities have issued £312 million worth of Fixed Penalty Notices for traffic contraventions, figures released to Big Brother Watch under Freedom of Information laws have revealed.
There are at least 36 local authorities using static CCTV to capture traffic offences and at least 58 local authorities using CCTV cars, Big Brother Watch found. The number of local authorities using CCTV cars has increased by 87% since 2009.
MP Nick de Bois, who wrote the report's foreward, said: "CCTV should only ever be used in exceptional circumstances, and therefore I agree with the Government that local authority use of CCTV for parking enforcement should be banned."
London boroughs accounted for around 90% or £285 million of revenues raised through CCTV cameras, Big Brother Watch said. The top five highest revenue-raising councils were Camden, Ealing, Lambeth, Westminster and Harrow.
A Surveillance Camera Code of Practice, published by the Government, highlights the need to use CCTV for traffic offences "sparingly", the campaigners said.
The report also highlights that some tickets may be potentially illegal, in circumstances where they have been issued by a traffic warden in a CCTV control room without the proper legal process being followed under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act for directed surveillance.
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: " It is clear that CCTV is being used to raise money in industrial volumes for town halls, breaking the constitutional principle that fines should not be used as a source of revenue.
"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 is frustratingly familiar to hear Big Brother Watch again peddling the myth that councils are enforcing parking regulations just to raise money.
"However, 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."
The figures provided in the report cover the period March 1 2008 to March 1 2013.