Labour councillors have responded with concern to Westminster Council’s announcement that it is planning to switch off all of its crime and disorder cameras across the city, only three years after Conservative Council Leader Cllr Philippa Roe declared in her budget speech that “Westminster has been a beacon in the use of public realm CCTV for many years. Our camera deployments are proportionate, appropriate, based on evidence of need and have a clear value in protecting our communities.”
While Labour recognises that the current CCTV network needs further investment to remain operational long-term and that in previous years MOPAC and the Metropolitan Police have failed to offer an appropriate financial contribution towards its operation, Westminster’s decision risks hampering the ability to respond to crime and keep the city secure. Westminster must work with the new Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Metropolitan Police, Camden Council and other key stakeholders to ensure the centre of London remains secure.
However there are particular concerns in wards outside the centre where public spaces are less likely to be covered by TFL or private CCTV cameras. Labour are calling on the council to provide reassurance that areas that have had a high number of incidents recorded on the current camera network such as Harrow Road, Hyde Park and Church Street wards won’t be left without support. If cameras are switched off or transferred from council control, Labour is calling on Westminster to use the money saved to make clear and specific commitments to delivering public realm security works, such as improved lighting, and supporting the work of the integrated gangs unit and other human security measures.
Labour group leader Adam Hug said, “CCTV provides reassurance to communities across Westminster and the council’s U-turn on support for cameras leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Tory government budget cuts continue to make our city less safe and Westminster Council Conservatives must commit to reinvesting any savings in public protection.”
Notes to editors
The decision will be formally made at the Westminster Council Cabinet meeting on Monday 6th June, for implementation by September 2016. The Council aims to cut around £1 million per year from the public safety budget and avoid a planned capital spend of £1.7 million. For more details see http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=130&MId=3943, particularly Appendix A which contains the ward breakdowns on the current number of incidents per CCTV camera by ward.
According to the Council this decision does not currently impact the CCTV network operated by CityWest Homes on their housing estates to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour.