??More than £5 million has been spent installing and operating CCTV cameras in Sandwell over the last three years, making it the second biggest spending local authority on security in the country, new figures reveal.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Sandwell comes only second to Birmingham which spent more than £10m.
The data, which was obtained by campaign group Big Brother Watch, shows in Sandwell just over £4m was spent on staffing costs, while the remainder was made up of installing new CCTV and maintenance of CCTV.
The borough has spent millions more than its closest Black Country authority Dudley, which is number 149 on the list after spending £806,355. South Staffordshire is ranked at 192 and spent £578,000, Wolverhampton is 199th and spent £564,890 and Cannock Chase is 221st and spent £445,724.
Walsall Council, Staffordshire County Council and Stafford Borough Council failed to respond to the request for information.
However, Sandwell safety bosses have defended the cost, saying CCTV is an "important tool" in making people feel safer. Figures show that in the last three years £601,733 was spent on the installation of equipment. This was spent in the last year on a central CCTV control room, reducing a previous eight sites to one site.
The annual cost of operation and maintenance of the system was £268,097 during 2007 and 2008, £227,131 during 2008 and 2009 and £250,692 in the last year. It is estimated these annual costs will be reduced by up to half as a result of the new centralisation.
Figures also revealed the annual wage and salary costs, including pension liabilities was £1.373m in 2007-2008, £1.329 in 2009-2009 and £1.306m in 2009-2010. It is also estimated the costs will be reduced by a third due to the new centralisation.
The figures reveal that the 336 authorities who responded spent more than £314m over the last three years. Big Brother Watch say the money spent on CCTV by the authorities could have paid the salaries of more than 15,000 nurses.
Big Brother Watch director Alex Deane, said: "British taxpayers will be scandalised to see their money being thrown away like this in the current economic climate."
Sandwell's neighbourhoods chief, Councillor Derek Rowley said: "The use of CCTV cameras are an important tool in making the people in the borough feel a lot safer.
"As can be seen from the figures the cost will be reduced greatly in future years following the setting up of a specially designed call centre that will centralise the service.
"It should be remembered that the use of CCTV is an important tool in dealing with anti-social behaviour and crime."