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Friday, 9 June 2017

Terror Alert Severe As TDC Privatises CCTV

With three appalling attacks in as many months and MI5’s UK terror alert classified as severe,  UKIP controlled Thanet District Council (TDC) is  considering offloading the management and maintenance  of its  CCTV system as part of  cost cutting exercise which I believe  will threaten  public safety and allow criminals to escape detection.

TDCs CCTV system comprises of 103 cameras located across Margate, Westbrook, Cliftonville, Ramsgate and Broadstairs. Allowing for contributions from on-street parking income and TDCs housing revenue account, it costs £252,580 per year to operate. However, the system is in need of urgent modernisation. Many of the cameras date from the 1990s, have poor image quality compared with modern cameras, and are now becoming unreliable.

In 2014 TDC set aside £440,000 to update the system. But instead of using this money to develop a state of the art 21st century CCTV security infrastructure, TDC looks set to strike a highly questionable deal which will result in the closure of the Council’s CCTV control centre with up to six redundancies being made, the handing over of the monitoring of Thanet’s 103 cameras to Canterbury City Council’s (CCC)  CCTV team, and agreeing a 10 year contract with BT to maintain the Council’s  CCTV infrastructure.

The details of this deal, which are set out in a report which will be discussed by TDCs ruling Cabinet next Thursday (15 June) are scant and unconvincing. There is no information about how much BT will be paid for its 10 year infrastructure maintenance contract with the Council. Nor is there any information about how much CCC will be charging to monitor Thanet’s 103 cameras. The only meaningful financial information provided in the report is a claim that revenue savings of “around £119,000” might be generated by the proposal from year 2 onwards. Plus the possibility of a one-off £300,000 windfall from selling off the CCTV control centre  at Hawley Square Margate.
If I was a councillor I would refuse to make a decision based on the appallingly inadequate financial information contained in this report. I would be demanding a fully costed financial appraisal setting out all of the charges before I agreed to offload the Council’s CCTV operation to third parties.
But even if full financial information were to be provided the report totally fails to address itself to the extremely important operational issues which will be raised by handing over TDCs CCTV monitoring functions to CCC. For example does CCC’s   monitoring team have sufficient capacity to properly supervise up to 2-300 cameras operating across the 2 districts at the same time?  Bearing in mind that the 2 districts attract millions of visitors each year and that Canterbury is also home to tens of thousands of students, does the CCC monitoring team have the capacity to handle pressure points such as summer weekends or major events? Also how would the CCC monitoring team   manage major emergencies happening in the 2 districts at the same time? Last but not least, how will it be possible for  the CCC monitoring team to develop the  intimate knowledge of Thanet’s streets and geography required to detect and follow events and guide the emergency services towards  these events when, as the report states, TDC’s  CCTV staff are likely to made redundant? None of these critically important operational issues are mentioned by the report making it, in my opinion, a weak, ill-considered document which, in its current form, is not suitable to be presented to the Cabinet.
If I was a Cabinet member, especially in these times of heightened public safety sensitivity,  severe terror alerts and the fact that Thanet has some of the highest crime rates in Kent, I would refuse to look at any  proposals to change CCTV management and monitoring  arrangements unless and until they included a comprehensive public safety risk analysis.
But worst of all, as the report itself notes, the proposals being presented to the Cabinet meeting next week will have a “significant effect on communities”. If this is the case then why the fuck have TDC failed to consult with the public about how a very  important system for monitoring and managing their safety is likely to operate in the future? Not to consult on an issue as important as this is an insult to the residents of Thanet and a profoundly undemocratic action, especially from Council which is run by political party (UKIP) which has had a lot to say about  law and order and terror in recent weeks.
Personally I think the current report should be withdrawn because its totally inadequate and unfit for purpose and that a new, more detailed and comprehensive report,  is produced which is subject to a full public consultation before a final decision is made.

Even then I doubt I would agree to the hiving off of CCTV management, monitoring   and maintenance to third parties because community safety should be the responsibility of the local authority and not be privatised to someone else. And most importantly of all community safety should not be compromised or weakened by a back door cost cutting exercise.


1 comment:

  1. Well said Ian - where are these 103 cameras? Weren't most of them put in the TDC civil servants car park to protect their cars? Who is monitoring the town centre CCTV? It never seems to work to deter/detect crime