GREATER Manchester Police has paid more than half-a-million pounds on informants over the last five years.

The cash spent for receiving covert information is among the highest in the country, figures show.

Police use informants to find out information on criminal activity such as murder, burglaries and drug rings.

Such payments have divided opinion, with critics labelling it has an “ineffective use of money” while others argue it is “cost-effective”.

A freedom of information by the University of Plymouth journalism department revealed that Greater Manchester Police Force spent £558,883 to informants, with £136,260 paid in 2018/19.

It was the sixth highest spender on informants over the five years out of the 27 forces out of 45 which responded to the freedom of information request. The amount spent last year placed the force fifth in the country.

The force would not disclose the single largest payment to a police informant in those years, stating: “Informants play a vital role in assisting the police, and is based very much on relationships built on trust and the expectation of complete confidentiality GMP would never disclose information which would compromise our tactics.

Neil Wood, a former undercover policeman, said in his experience about “90 per cent of informants are used in drug-related offences”.

Mr Wood, who is now CEO of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, rallying for drug reform policy, said: “Using police informants for other crimes such as burglaries and theft is the most cost-effective form of policing you can do.”

Informants can be paid anything between £20 and £15,000 for sharing information leading to successful arrests.

But he also points out that what informants are mostly used for does not reduce the crime in the area.

He added: “If you arrest a drug dealer on the information of an informant, you remove a drug dealer.

“All it does is create an opportunity for another drug dealer; crime doesn’t reduce.”

Cllr Nadim Muslim, Executive Member for Stronger Communities, said: “At the end of the day, what matters is that criminals are taken off the streets and criminal acts are prevented.

"We should consider if the amount we spend on informants is worth it to save the life of someone (or large groups of people) due to intelligence provided to the police?

"It would be useful to know - if possible - what results or successful convictions have been made following intelligence provided by an informant.”

The Metropolitan Police was the biggest spender paying out £4million in that time period and North Wales Police spent the lowest amount.

A spokesman from Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “It is critical that there is transparency in how taxpayers’ money is spent. All bodies, including the police, ought to be aware of the public interest in knowing where their cash is being spent."