CCTV cameras could be scrapped in Morecambe and Lancaster to save cash

CCTV camera
CCTV camera

CCTV cameras across Morecambe and Lancaster face the scrapheap in a bid to save money.

The controversial proposal has already met with strong opposition amid fears it would create an “open field for crime”.

Lancaster City Council is considering getting rid of the system altogether as one of its options, as it struggles with Government funding cuts.

It could also replace the ageing CCTV cameras which were installed in 1996, 1997 and 1998. They cost 
approximately £170k a yea - and cost approximately £170k a year to maintain - but finding the cash to do this could prove difficult.

Brendan Hughes, chairman of the Morecambe Business Improvement District, said: “Coupled with less police on the street it would be open field for crime to take place. They have to find the money for it. We would see the scrapping of CCTV as a massive step back.

“For fighting anti-social behaviour and violent crime, CCTV is a good back-up. I see it (being scrapped) as a massive negative point and so would other licensees and businesses.”

Manager of Lancaster BID, Liz Hickingbotham, said: “There has always been pressure on the CCTV budget and maintenance of equipment and it would cost an enormous amount to replace and update.

“From a law enforcement perspective it proves to be a useful tool.

“We are aware of the budget constraints and we are monitoring the situation.

“It’s not something any BID could look at on behalf of the city council because the costs are huge.

“We could look at partnerships and collaborations and what can be done within our remit.

“It’s on our radar and something we want to help with, along with retailers and business managers.”

The CCTV system consists of cameras in Morecambe and Lancaster connected to the control room at Lancaster police station.

There are 21 cameras in Lancaster and 15 CCTV cameras which are still functional in Morecambe.

The views seen on the monitors in the control room can also be seen by police staff at police HQ so if there are any specific incidents in Morecambe or Lancaster, the police can observe and direct resources accordingly.

The CCTV staff work closely with the police and PCSOs and provide assistance in the prevention of crime and deterring and detecting crime.

Inspector Kirstie Banks-Lyon said: “In terms of proposals for the CCTV system in Morecambe I am aware that the technology is now dated and costly to maintain.

“The council CCTV is only one tool that assists in the fight against crime, and is usually not the only source of evidence that is used.

“It has proved it’s worth on a number of occasions when the skilled CCTV operator is able to track a suspect from camera to camera and direct resources accordingly and a reduction in this either in staffing levels or equipment will no doubt have a detrimental effect.

“The CCTV on White Lund is a good example of private businesses investing in modern equipment.

“All public funded organisations are having to review expenditure and look at new ways to keep the public safe and I am confident that together with our partners in Lancaster City Council and Morecambe Town Council we will continue to work together to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.”

Clive Grunshaw, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire said: “Clearly CCTV is a useful tool if there are issues of crime and anti-social behaviour in an area but appreciate it can be costly to maintain and administer.

“There are some good examples in Lancashire of councils working together on collaborative projects to help fund their CCTV cameras while others have decided it is no longer a priority they can afford.

“Unfortunately one of the results of austerity is that councils are having to spread their ever decreasing budgets ever more thinly and it is for them to decide what their money funds in consultation with their residents and stakeholders.”

Options and costs for replacing both the cameras and the operating system are currently being investigated and members of Morecambe Town Council will be asked a consider a report shortly on the future of the system, and the level of investment that’s required were the system to remain.

One option would be for Lancaster City Council to discontinue the system, but they may choose to approach Morecambe Town Council to share the cost of the CCTV system.

Coun David Smith, Cabinet with responsibility for community safety, said: “Public CCTV provision in both Morecambe and Lancaster is funded by Lancaster City Council.

“Although the council does not have a duty to provide CCTV, it chooses to do so in order to support one of its corporate priorities of ‘clean, green and safe places’.

“Although the current CCTV system, which is located in key strategic locations throughout Lancaster and Morecambe town centres, is reaching the end of its life, the council tries to ensure it is kept up and running through regular planned maintenance and repairs when problems occur.

“Government reductions in funding for local government mean that we will be forced to decide what the spending priorities are for the council and what we can no longer afford to deliver.

“Cabinet will consider options for the future of CCTV as part of the budget process.”

Lancaster City Council’s cabinet meets on October 6 at 6pm.