Westminster City Council’s Cabinet has agreed to decommission the authority’s current CCTV network of 75 cameras from 1 September 2016. The Cabinet also agreed to continue constructive talks with the Mayor’s Office for policing and crime and the Metropolitan Police to try to work towards a pan-London solution.
Providing CCTV coverage is what is termed a non-statutory council service. This means that it is not legally required and is at the discretion of every council as to whether they provide it. The crime and disorder CCTV system in Westminster is primarily used to provide reactive support for the police in securing arrests and prosecutions relating to crimes committed in sight of cameras.
Whilst the council has set aside £1.7m to upgrade the entire system, which is ageing and at times can be unreliable, there have been discussions with the police, business partners, MOPAC, the GLA and Government for many years about the issue of ongoing CCTV running costs, of up to £1m per year. To date, no support has been forthcoming.
There are many other cameras operational in central London that are not being affected by the council’s decision, for example those cameras operated by Transport for London and thousands operated by private businesses. The CCTV systems operating in Westminster’s housing estates will also be unaffected. In addition, there are many other crime prevention initiatives that are run successfully, often in partnership, with the police, council and businesses that do not involve fixed CCTV cameras and the council will continue to build on those processes.
If no solution can be found, the Cabinet will decide at a future meeting where to allocate the £1.7m currently earmarked for upgrading the CCTV system on other, potentially more effective crime prevention measures, such as improving the public realm or better street lighting.
Cllr Nickie Aiken, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, said: “Like many other local authorities around the country, our current view is that we are not able to continue to subsidise this non-statutory service when there are many other pressures on our budgets and where other partners are the main beneficiaries. We will keep talking and in the past week have had very constructive discussions with the Mayor, the Metropolitan Police and Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. We want to work towards a pan-London solution that is right for the capital as criminals don’t stop at borough borders.”