City council's CCTV cameras will undergo £1m upgrade despite cuts
A £1 MILLION proposal to upgrade CCTV to new digital technology is to go ahead – despite city council plans to slash its monitoring of the cameras in budget cuts.
Residents have raised concerns that Stoke-on-Trent City Council's plans to scale back its observation of the city's camera network will lead to an increase in crime.
The move will help save £782,000 with the loss of 19 jobs alongside plans to cut the environmental crime unit which investigates fly-tipping, littering and dog-fouling.
But the authority has confirmed it is continuing with plans to upgrade its network of 238 cameras to digital as its current spy cameras are out of date and too difficult to maintain.
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It is also spending more than £4 million on a data centre – including a new CCTV monitoring unit.
Cameras will continue to operate around-the-clock but staffing will be reduced and they will no longer be monitored at times of 'low demand' as part of the council's £21.1 million savings for 2013/14. Staffordshire Police has acknowledged the importance of the city's CCTV cameras in improving safety and reducing fear of crime. But the force, which declined to comment directly on the budget proposal, has turned down several requests from the city council to help pay for the cameras as it tackles its own budget cuts.
Steven Pritchard, chairman of the residents' association in Portland and Cobridge, where there are seven cameras, said: "In our case the cameras don't bring a lot of benefit because they are already not being monitored at the right times.
"We've asked them to use the cameras to tackle some of the fly-tipping problems we've had.
"I don't see the rationale behind the plan. Like a lot of things they're doing it seems short-sighted because if they end up having to clear up more fly-tipping it is only going to cost them more money."
Jim Gibson, chairman of Chell Heath residents' association, said: "There's a reason these things are done in the first place.
"The reason hasn't become any less relevant so there's no cause to do this."
Little Chell and Stanfields councillor Dave Conway, leader of the opposition City Independents, added: "The cameras were put in because of concerns about crime and Stoke North MP Joan Walley was instrumental in getting them installed.
"They cost a lot of money and they were put there for a purpose."
Pete Price, the city council's assistant director for technical services, said: "Community CCTV is an important but non-statutory service wholly funded by the council.
"Continuance of the service at the current scale has had to be proposed for reduction to meet the budget available to the council, along with other equally sensitive areas.
"We will work to deliver reductions at those times when there is a low level of demand on the service, to minimise the impact on customers, and the system will continue to operate on a 24/7 basis – even though staffing levels may be lower at certain times."