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Maidstone Borough Council keeps eye on CCTV costs after £80,000 overspend

Big Brother is watching you - but perhaps not for much longer as the use of CCTV in Maidstone faces an uncertain future.

The borough council is reviewing its service as it tries to make £4.2m savings in the next four years.

The move, which could see some cameras become a thing of the past, was followed by public consultation asking people how safe they feel in the County Town.

CCTV could be a thing of the past
CCTV could be a thing of the past

Criticism was also levelled at police after it was argued the borough’s static cameras mostly benefited the force which does not contribute any money.

The council owns 95 static cameras and 28 mobile cameras, which are monitored 24/7 from a control room in Strood as part of a partnership with other councils.

The cost of running the cameras in 2015/16 was around £340,000 – £232,000 of which was for the contract with Medway.

CCTV budgets are £80,000 overspent, due to an unrealised historic budget saving, a reduction in income from monitoring for organisations including the NHS and KCC, and a historic overspend on the cost of the static camera fibre lines to transport information.

The CCTV centre
The CCTV centre

The Safer Communities Consultation was carried out by the borough council to assess how safe people felt in the town centre and surrounding areas.

The findings of the survey, which received responses from 1,025 residents and 58 business owners, were detailed at the Communities, Housing, and Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday.

A key matter of contention was that although police use footage, they were unable to contribute towards the costs of the system.

The report also found police had requested use of the mobile cameras more often than the public, which raised questions as to why they weren’t paying for them.

Inspectors have rated Kent Police "outstanding"
Inspectors have rated Kent Police "outstanding"

This was tied into the results of the survey, which showed that although 68% of respondents agreed with the statement that CCTV improves public safety, and 65% said they felt safer due to the presence of CCTV, the main factors were well-lit streets and police presence.

It was recommended the council 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.

No decision was reached, but the council intends to extend the current agreement for another year, with further reviews taking place in that time.

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