CCTV costs Hastings council over £500k

CCTV camera in Hastings town centre
CCTV camera in Hastings town centre

MORE than £500,000 has been spent by the council maintaining its CCTV system in town in the last four years.

There are also 96 cameras around Hastings and St Leonards, compared to just 17 in neighbouring Eastbourne.

The figures were released by campaign group, Big Brother Watch, which believes authorities are spending too much on surveillance.

They appear in a report called The Price of Privacy which reveals that councils across the UK spent £515 million in total on CCTV between 2007 and 2011.

Its findings were gathered through Freedom of Information requests to local authorities.

The data shows that Hastings Borough Council (HBC) spent £573,129 on CCTV maintenance and staffing costs, such as wages over the same period.

A total of £38,000 was spent on installing cameras between 2007 and 2011 but the money came from Sussex Police and the Safer Hastings Partnership.

According to the data, Eastbourne Borough Council used £40,930 over the four-year period on its 17 cameras, Rother District Council spent £37,008 on 56 CCTV cameras, and East Sussex County Council, £32,334 on 10, between 2007 and last year.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties of Big Brother Watch, said: “Britain has an out-of-control surveillance culture that is doing little to improve public safety but has made our cities the most watched in the world.

“Surveillance is an important tool in modern policing but it is not a substitute for policing. In too many cities across the country every corner has a camera but only a few ever see a police officer. Despite millions of cameras, Britain’s crime rate is not significantly lower than comparable countries that do not have such a vast surveillance state.

“There is no credible evidence that more cameras will reduce crime, yet councils have poured enough money into CCTV in just four years that would have put more than 4,000 extra police officers on the streets.”

Kevin Boorman, HBC spokesman, said: “The figures supplied to Big Brother Watch include both staff costs for monitoring the system, and physical improvements to the system.

“Our control room staff don’t just monitor CCTV, they operate our 24/7 Council emergency service, and deal with out of hours incidents, environmental health staff dealing with noise complaints and so on.

“Public place crime and disorder in Hastings is now less than that recorded in Eastbourne, which is in large part due to the success of our CCTV monitoring operation.

“This has a good track record of deterring and detecting crime and has resulted in commendations for our monitoring staff from Sussex Police.

“Crime in our car parks is almost nil which wasn’t the case 11 years ago before we introduced CCTV monitoring.

“We are working closely with East Sussex County Council and Sussex Police on a project to determine the most appropriate way forward for the CCTV monitoring service, and other services associated with the control room.

“We are in the process of reviewing the entire operation and developing options for the future which will be considered within the next six months.

“The review includes looking at best practice elsewhere including the potential for additional income generation to offset our operating costs.”