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Big Brother at the tip: Cameras read number plates to check if families are flouting waste rules
Ten councils have set up a total of 33 automatic number plate recognition cameras at 29 sites
Spy cameras linked to the DVLA driver database are being deployed at dozens more rubbish tips to check if families are flouting waste rules, it emerged last night.
The cameras read number plates, record what is being dumped and log how many times a vehicle visits a dump.
This allows councils to monitor exactly who is using their tips, opening the way for illegal dumpers to be hit by huge fines or even jail.
But critics say the scheme will encourage fly-tipping as residents seek to dodge the cameras, which are normally used by police to track down car thieves.
Last night civil liberties groups criticised the trend towards surveillance, saying attempts to control refuse disposal have become too intrusive.
At the same time, plans are under way to charge householders for using their local tip as well as penalising them if they put out too much rubbish for collection. Figures obtained by the Daily Mail under the Freedom of Information Act show that ten councils have set up a total of 33 automatic number plate recognition cameras at 29 sites.
Councils claim the main purpose of the recognition cameras is to scare off workmen who pose as householders to get rid of their waste free of charge.
West Sussex has the most cameras with 16 of them at 12 sites, followed by Gloucestershire, with five at five dumps, then North Somerset, which has three at three sites.
West Sussex County Council said they were used for security, deterring trade waste and "complaints monitoring".
"The cameras read and store registration plates to identify high-level users,' said a spokesman.
"A trader illegitimately getting rid of commercial waste on the site is likely to be a much more frequent user.
"It is these people we are trying to identify and take the appropriate action against them."
In Plymouth, which has one camera at a recycling centre, a spokesman said: "We have brought in this system as it is a centre for householder use only and we are aware there was misuse of this site.
"Essentially this was by traders who were illegally using this site to recycle or dispose of waste to avoid paying for trade waste collection and disposal costs."
A spokesman for the surveillance watchdog, Privacy International, said: "This is another example of CCTV over-kill. I would be very concerned about how these images are used and who has access to them.
There is very little oversight or accountability in the use of CCTV images and people should be outraged at the way their money is being wasted.
"CCTV rarely if ever catches offenders so councils should find a more effective and less intrusive way of solving environmental problems."
Eric Pickles, a Tory front-bencher, said last night: "Once people know about these cameras, I expect we will see further littering of our green and pleasant land as they will just dump their rubbish by the wayside.
"The money spent on these cameras would have been much better spent on tackling fly-tipping. We have more surveillance than any other country in the world and this is just a further intrusion.'
Councils already hand out thousands of on-the-spot fines to residents who overfill their wheelie bins, put rubbish out on the wrong day or fail to follow recycling rules.
Under plans announced by Labour last year, householders will be fined if they put out too much rubbish which cannot be recycled and charged for using their local tip.