by Angela Cole
The battle to keep CCTV monitoring in Maidstone is not over, after council officers were ordered to look again at the control centre’s future.
It looked almost certain last week that the council would press ahead with a proposed cost-cutting merger with Medway Council, despite fears it would jeopardise people’s safety.
Under the plan, CCTV operators would be based at Strood.
But Maidstone council’s cabinet member for community services, Cllr John A. Wilson (Con) decided on Monday that the proposal needed further consideration.
Medway Council wants to create a regional hub for CCTV monitoring, and has already taken on the monitoring of Swale.
It wants to add Maidstone’s cameras to its operation, keeping the existing cameras and staff.
Cllr Wilson’s decision now means the partnership arrangement with Medway Council will be looked into more closely, and some technical issues will have to be resolved.
The director of regeneration and community services must then report back to him with the result of consultation with 'stakeholders’.
Opponents fear the successful service would suffer without its local knowledge and base. There is also concern that the move has not yet been debated publicly.
Cllr David Pickett (Lib Dem) said: “I still think it is an ill-advised move.”
Maidstone Town Centre Management, which runs Maidsafe, a radio-operated monitoring system for businesses, which links directly with the CCTV operation, is strongly opposed the idea. Its directors were unanimous in their opposition at an emergency board meeting on Monday.
A spokesman said: “We were dismayed to learn that the council was considering the relocation of the CCTV Control Room out of Maidstone as this will adversely impact upon security and safety within our town.
“We understand the cost constraints under which the council must operate but believe that the safety and security for all is paramount. Retention of the CCTV Control Room within Maidstone is central to this.
“We are pleased to learn that no decision will be made until stakeholders’ views have been considered.
“We look forward to participating in this consultation.
“Additionally we consider other options will emerge that offer the retention of the CCTV Control Room in Maidstone and, thereby, retain the safe and secure environment for our town built up over several years.”
A decision may be made by the end of the year.
If it is decided that the move to Medway should go ahead, the Lib Dems are likely to call it in, to allow for a full debate.