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Councils 'spending £315m on CCTV'

Councils spent at least £315 million on installing and operating CCTV cameras over the last three years, according to campaigners.

Birmingham City Council, home of the controversial Project Champion scheme which saw more than 200 surveillance cameras installed in two largely Muslim neighbourhoods, topped the list of local authority big spenders with £10.5 million on CCTV alone, Big Brother Watch said.

The figures, provided to the campaigners following requests under the Freedom of Information Act, showed the total £314,835,170.39 spent by 336 local councils on installing and operating cameras between 2007/08 and 2009/10 could have paid the salaries of more than 15,000 nurses.

Alex Deane, the campaign group's director, said: "This is a shocking figure. Public money is being wasted on snooping surveillance that does next to nothing to prevent or solve crime. We are being watched more than ever before, and we're being ripped off into the bargain. British taxpayers will be scandalised to see their money being thrown away like this in the current economic climate."

More than 80 councils failed to respond and 15 said they did not operate any public-facing CCTV cameras.

West Midlands Police apologised over the Project Champion scheme and Chief Constable Chris Sims admitted the force got the balance between counter-terrorism and excessive intrusion into people's lives "so wrong".

The cameras, some of which were hidden, sparked anger from civil liberties campaigners and residents in Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath in Birmingham, where they were predominantly installed.

The scheme was organised by the Safer Birmingham Partnership, an initiative including West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council and other agencies. The partnership has acknowledged it should have been more explicit about the role of the city's Counter Terrorism Unit in setting up the network of 218 cameras.

The number plate recognition and CCTV cameras were financed under a counter-terrorism initiative but were marketed to locals as a general crime prevention measure.

The report showed the 10 authorities that spent the most on CCTV between 2007/08 and 2009/10 were:1 Birmingham £10,476,874.00, 2 Sandwell £5,355,744.00, 3 Leeds £3,839,675.00, 4 City of Edinburgh £3,600,560.00, 5 Hounslow £3,573,186.45, 6 Lambeth £3,431,301.00, 7 Manchester £3,347,310.00, 8 Enfield £3,141,295.00, 9 Barnet £3,119,020.00, 10 Barking and Dagenham £3,090,000.00.