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Maidstone council considering stopping 24/7 monitoring of CCTV as it proposes upgrading to HD cameras

CCTV cameras in Maidstone may no longer be watched around-the-clock by staff as the council looks to make crucial budget savings.

Thirty-two cameras across the County Town are currently monitored on a 24/7 basis from a control room in Strood as part of a partnership with other councils.

However, with the current equipment needing replacing imminently, particularly after the 2017 floods in the Town Hall, bosses are looking to install new high definition (HD), Wi-Fi enabled cameras in their place.

CCTV is currently monitored at the Civic Centre, Strood
CCTV is currently monitored at the Civic Centre, Strood

The Communities, Housing and Environment committee proposes spending £110,00 on upgrading the equipment, and estimates savings will be made long-term by eliminating the costs of round-the-clock monitoring.

The council invited bids from companies for a monitored service last year, but found that even on reduced hours, it was not financially viable.

Key stakeholders were also asked if they would offer to help meet the costs - as the town hall's CCTV services are currently running more than £70,000 over budget - but none were received.

As a result, it is now looking to scrap live monitoring of footage, but insists there is "no evidence" the plan will have a "negative impact" on its duties around crime and disorder.

It also said that as it does not employ such staff directly, it was unable to confirm how many jobs could be affected by the switch.

Under the new proposals, camera data will be sent via Wi-Fi back to the council's IT suite, where it can then be downloaded when captured evidence is required.

The new system is said to be more cost-effective, providing a much better quality of recording, and will allow the council to provide easy access of footage to its own officers and specific partners, such as Kent Police, via a secure cloud network.

Furthermore, the possibility of an external organisation providing a monitored service at a later stage is not ruled out by the system's technical specification.

The committee says this "future proofs the system so as not to limit the council’s options in the future should the budgetary position change due to external contributions; or an organisation puts forward a viable proposition that meets the Medium Term Financial Strategy".

The council reviewed its CCTV services in 2016, and was recommended to assess which cameras could be removed, following findings that more than half the static cameras pick up three or fewer incidents a month, and 40% of businesses have their own surveillance.

The recommendations were backed by members on Tuesday and will now go to the Policy and Resources Committee in June for approval.

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