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Council CCTV like 'Stasi surveillance'

Wed, 05 Mar 2014

COUNCILS rush to bankroll "Stasi surveillance" to target motorists but sack lollipop men and women as they do not swell their coffers, the Local Government Minister claimed.

Brandon Lewis compared town halls' use of "CCTV spy cars" to the tactics of the secret police agency of the former East Germany, as he insisted they raise cash from parking fines on an "industrial scale".

He added they target "hard-pressed parents" dropping off their children on the school run.

Government proposals put out to consultation last year seek to stop local authorities using CCTV cameras and so-called "spy cars" to impose fines on motorists.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) states guidance outlines that cameras must only be used in "difficult or sensitive" situations and where it is not practical for a parking warden to enforce the rules.

DCLG notes many councils do not use CCTV for parking enforcement.

Mr Lewis, in response to a parliamentary question, said the surveillance included "CCTV spy cars", adding: "They are just an excuse for councils to raise money from issuing parking fines on an industrial scale. They undermine natural justice, as car owners receive the fine weeks later in the post making it extremely hard to challenge on appeal.

"Nothing we are proposing to do will prevent a parking warden or police officer issuing a penalty notice in the case of genuinely dangerous parking.

"It is hard-pressed parents who get hit with the fines from such Stasi surveillance.

"Public confidence is strengthened in CCTV if it is used to tackle serious crime, not to raise money for town halls by penalising parents dropping off kids on the school run.

"In their rush to bankroll CCTV spy cameras for parking enforcement, it would appear from recent media reports that parts of local government have had no qualms about sacking lollipop men and women.

"Crossing patrols do a sterling job in protecting children from danger - but unfortunately, unlike spy cars, they do not raise money for council coffers."

The Local Government Association has previously denied councils use parking enforcement to make money.

Instead it suggests the monitoring keeps the roads clear and helps people park near their homes or shops.

The organisation also claimed camera cars have been "instrumental in keeping children from being hurt or killed on the way to school".

Referring to this claim, Mr Lewis said: "I would observe that the Local Government Association has claimed that the coalition Government's proposals to ban CCTV parking cameras 'will put children at risk'. This is a false and spurious claim."

Paul Watters, head of AA public affairs, said: "Does it ever cross some of these councils' minds that if they are catching hundreds of drivers each week in the same location, that there may be something wrong with the road layout, the signage or some other aspect?

"There may be some belligerent motorists who deserve to be caught, perhaps outside schools, but the vast majority aren't a bunch of lemmings eager for a £100 fine."

By Richard Wheeler, Press Association