Suffolk councils say £3m spend on CCTV between 2012 and 2015 is money well spent
PUBLISHED: 09:00 23 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:17 23 February 2016
More than £3million has been spent on CCTV systems by local authorities in Suffolk over the last three years, according to a new report.
Councils in the county committed a total of £3,461,538 to the installation, maintenance and monitoring of the systems between 2012 and 2015, research by campaign group Big Brother Watch found. The number of public CCTV cameras totalled 438.
Council chiefs defended their CCTV policies by insisting they help prevent crime.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council emerged as the highest spender on CCTV in the county. It spent £1,468,173 – more than places including Norwich, Colchester and Newcastle – and used 101 cameras.
In 2015 St Edmundsbury Borough Council invested £425,000 in relocating and building a state-of-the-art CCTV control room at West Suffolk House, in Bury St Edmunds. It is hoped the new control room will save £36,000 a year in total operating costs to the council and will also have extra capacity to create commercial income by managing CCTV on behalf of businesses and other councils.
The control room currently monitors 142 cameras across St Edmundsbury, Forest Heath and Mid Suffolk, with each council paying St Edmundsury for the service. The cameras cover Bury, Mildenhall, Newmarket, Brandon, Stowmarket and Haverhill.
The figures provided by Big Brother Watch do not take into account the income generated by the control room, just total expenditure.
Peter Stevens, cabinet member for operations at St Edmundsbury, said: “We considered that the CCTV room was a worthwhile investment and decided that the council should make use of the opportunity for generating extra income from the service.
“At the opening last year we were delighted with the standard of the facilities and the staffing and I am confident that it will be a great success.”
In Ipswich, a total of £1,400,731 was spent on CCTV systems between 2012/13 and 2014/15 by Ipswich Borough Council (IBC). The authority has 228 cameras.
Neil MacDonald, Safer Ipswich portfolio-holder at IBC, said: “We monitor more than 200 cameras in the town and pick up 100% of the cost. We believe investing in CCTV helps to combat crime and the fear of crime on our streets and create a safer Ipswich.”
The report says Suffolk Coastal District Council spent nothing on CCTV systems over the last three years. Steve Gallant, cabinet member with responsibility for community health, said: “Suffolk Coastal is a particularly safe area to live in, work in or visit.
“However, we recognise that low crime is not the same as no crime, so we work closely with our Safer Neighbourhood Policing teams to ensure the safety of local people and are particularly involved in initiatives to engage young people, such as crucial crew and operation camouflage.”
Nationally, local authorities in the UK committed at least £277m to the installation, maintenance and monitoring of the systems and controlled at least 51,600 CCTV cameras.
Big Brother Watch chief executive Renate Samson said: “A measured approach should be taken with any surveillance system. Privacy should always be given as much weight as security.”
The report was based on Freedom of Information requests.