Westminster Council has announced plans to decommission its CCTV operation from 1 September this year unless a ‘responsible partner’ comes forward to help fund the system.
The local authority is set to vote on the matter on 6 June, in attempts to save £1m a year in revenue on future contracts and £1.68m of capital expenditure earmarked to support the delivery of a new CCTV estate.
A cabinet report reveals that the council has approached the police, the former London mayor Boris Johnson and local businesses to help finance the system but both the mayor and the police refused.
Westminster cannot 'subsidise police' over CCTV
Business would only stump up cash if the CCTV system was ‘directly targeted at reducing the cost of crime to their business and possibly linked to additional or dedicated police resource’.
Council officers state: ‘Extensive engagement with partners over recent years on the future viability of the CCTV system has not led to any meaningful financial support, leaving the council with the full financial burden which it can no longer continue to bear.’
In even stronger terms, the council report states: ‘The council can no longer afford to directly subsidise partners which benefit from the existence of a CCTV service, most notably the Metropolitan Police.’
It also reveals that the cost of decommissioning the service has been estimated at £300,000 and world cover the removal and disposal of the equipment and infrastructure, for which there is no re-sale value as they are beyond their economic useful life.
A council spokesman said: 'It is important to note that no decision has yet been taken about the future operation of the council’s CCTV network in Westminster. However, like many other local authorities around the country, our current view is that we do not feel we are able to continue to subsidise this non statutory service which will cost us £1m per year to run, when there are many other pressures on our budgets.
'However, we would also add that there many other cameras operational in central London that would not be affected by any council decision, for example those operated by Transport for London and thousands operated by private businesses. The CCTV systems operating in our housing estates will also be unaffected. It is also important to note that there are many other crime prevention initiatives that are run successfully, often in partnership, from the police, council and businesses that do not involve fixed CCTV cameras. We will continue to build on those processes.'
The council has no statutory duty to provide CCTV services, however under section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, it does have a general responsibility to do all it reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder.
However, Westminster cites research that suggests CCTV does little to prevent crime despite its obvious importance in reactively catching suspects, and so argues it is ‘reasonable to suggest that this decision does not involve a breach of the council’s statutory responsibilities’.
There were 7,029 incidents captured by Westminster CCTV last year, an average of 586 per month (with the summer months having higher numbers of incidents recorded).
These incidents were predominantly captured reactively (91% of incidents) and contributed to 1,313 arrests (109 per month).