Big Brother? He’s now right outside

BIG Brother is steadily creeping all over Westminster as the council installs its army of CCTV cameras

Susanna Wilkey

BIG Brother is steadily creeping all over Westminster as the council installs its army of CCTV cameras.

There are already 107 cameras across the borough and the council intends to install 93 more by September.

But residents are shocked to discover that only three cameras have privacy zones - this means the rest could be swivelled around to look through people's windows.

They are also appalled to learn that Westminster Council profited a massive £38million from all of its parking revenue last year.

More than 12 per cent of tickets were issued through CCTV - raking in more than £5million for the council. And with the doubling of cameras, residents say the number of tickets will undoubtedly rise.

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St John's Wood resident Paul Pearson said: "There are huge issues of privacy with these cameras. The CCTV code of practice, from the Data Protection Act, says that 'both permanent and moveable cameras should be sited and image capture restricted to ensure that they do not view areas that are not of interest and are not intended to be the subject of surveillance, such as individual's property'.

"But they are putting them up in roads like Marlborough Place - quiet residential streets. I think it is absolutely disgraceful."

The council uses CCTV to enforce yellow line regulations, waiting and loading restrictions, bus lanes and box junctions.

It also uses two CCTV-equipped Smart cars to roam the borough looking for drivers who commit offences.

Mr Pearson added: "New guidance issued in March this year also says that CCTV cameras should be used sparingly and only where enforcement is difficult or sensitive and the civil enforcement officer is not practical.

"There is nowhere in Westminster where CEOs are not practical. They are using these covert James Bond cameras to catch people out and rake in the money.

"Not putting up signs warning people of the cameras is just making them extra revenue.

"The cameras are coming everywhere to make motorists lives a misery. It is like Big Brother."

Labour group leader on the council, Paul Dimoldenberg said: "George Orwell's 1984 nightmare is a living reality in Conservative Westminster.

"Parking a car for a few seconds in the wrong place can cost you £80 or more - even if you have a good reason for needing to park.

"The 'spy cameras' will soon be everywhere. More and more Westminster residents are getting letters from the council telling them that they have transgressed the parking regulations - often when they did not even know they had done something wrong."

Westminster Council says it does not install privacy zones as a matter of course but will do so on receipt of a written request from a member of the public where the zone does not interfere with police operations.

Transport boss Councillor Danny Chalkley said: "We held a very successful parking summit on Tuesday at which it became clear that CCTV and privacy was a concern for some of our residents.

"The summit was about listening and responding to the many users of Westminster's parking services. Therefore we will look to investigate these issues further and provide feedback within the next month."

o For more on Westminster's parking figures from last year, see page 2.