South Tyneside has slashed its spending on CCTV by more than 90% over the last three years, according to new figures from civil liberties group Big Brother Watch.
The organisation has released figures detailing how much every local authority in the UK has spent on closed circuit TV over the last three years.
They show South Tyneside Council spent £159,873.02 on installing, maintaining and monitoring CCTV systems between 2012 and 2015, down from £2,423,029.19 in the previous three years.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “These figures show that the council has reduced its spending on CCTV.
However, by streamlining the service, making efficiency savings and accessing funding initiatives, the council has been able to invest in the replacement of a number of strategically located cameras and further additional cameras across the borough.
“Thanks to the latest 4G technology, we have also been able to put cameras in more remote areas, which were previously not covered by CCTV.
“CCTV cameras are instrumental in helping to detect and deal with a whole range of crimes across South Tyneside.
From October 2014 and September 2015, the CCTV Unit dealt with more than 1,200 incidents which led to 500 arrests.
“We also recognise that our CCTV cameras play a major role in reducing fear of crime among many of our residents and enhancing community safety.”
The new report shows the reduction is in line with the national picture, which has seen councils move away from the use of CCTV, though some areas – notably London – have reported a rise of more than a 70% in CCTV coverage.
Big Brother Watch welcomed the reduction but said it was the results of funding cuts, not a new awareness of civil liberties: “While we are pleased to see a reduction in spending on CCTV, we have to understand the rationale behind the figures is not ideological,” said the organisation.
“In the 2015/2016 financial year alone, local authorities have been instructed to find £2.6billion of savings.”
The group has called for tighter regulation of cameras and for the public to be given more information on new and existing schemes.
“No register of CCTV cameras currently exists in the UK,” it said.
“This means we have no idea exactly how many cameras are present in the country. The most recent estimate, from the British Securities Industry Association, puts the number at between four and six million.
“Without precise numbers it is very difficult to know where cameras are located, how intrusive they can be and indeed how effective they are.
“Mid Sussex District Council recently announced a public consultation ahead of replacing their current stock of cameras.
The council invited views on the potential expansion of the scheme, and published the location of the proposed new cameras, as well as the effectiveness of the existing ones.
“We welcome this approach as it allows the local residents to judge for themselves whether or not they think they will benefit from the suggested scheme or not.”