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.”
Now Conservative Government spending cuts are biting so hard Westminster cannot maintain the system they made central to their crime and security agenda. It is important to keep reviewing the best means of ensuring an effective crime and security response, and that current CCTV network needs further investment to remain operational. However we are deeply concerned that this decision is financially driven and that an alternative strategy is not yet in place. The public will understandably demand reassurance that there will be no increase in risk flowing from this decision and Westminster Council must be constructive in its engagement with the new Mayor, MOPAC and other key stakeholders to safeguard the public.
However there are particular concerns in wards outside the centre of Westminster 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.”
Labour Public Protection Spokesperson and Deputy Leader Patricia McAllister said “Westminster City Council Conservatives must ensure crime problems are addressed in all wards. Following on from repeated cuts to Westminster’s police stations and safer neighbourhood teams, closing the camera network will cause further public concern that this council and this government are not prioritising 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.