A funding row over Fife’s town centre CCTV network could put public safety at risk, it has been claimed.
Almost £400,000 had been earmarked for a one-off maintenance programme to bring Fife’s CCTV provision up to date, amid warnings a failure to do so would hinder the police’s ability to respond to incidents at a much earlier stage.
An agreement was reached back in 2002 that Fife Council and Fife Constabulary would provide such funding on a 50/50 basis, and Fife councillors rubber-stamped the local authority’s share last year.
However, The Courier understands Police Scotland has reneged on that deal in favour of a rolling upgrade of the region’s 102-strong camera network in 12 town and urban centres – prompting real concerns about potential gaps in coverage.
With the importance of CCTV thrown into sharp focus by recent terror attacks at Westminster, Manchester and London, Councillor Margaret Kennedy, who was chair of Fife’s safer communities committee, has called on the Scottish Government to revisit its approach to the funding issue.
“CCTV will increasingly play a vital role in our resilience towards major incidents and international events,” she explained.
“Whilst delivery of policing on the ground should be directed towards the needs of the local area, the provision of CCTV should not become a postcode lottery.
“Our First Minister has recently been heard, quite rightly, emphasising the importance of reviewing our current status in terms of resources and ensuring that we have well-structured multi agency planning in the light of national terror events.
“However, our current position necessitates that we should have a far more focused, planned and resourced public space CCTV network which can continue to deliver for our communities.
“Yet the cabinet secretary for justice holds the line that “any decisions around maintaining or developing the CCTV network are matters for COSLA, local authorities and other partners including Police Scotland” with the Scottish Government “happy to contribute to the discussion as thinking develops”.
“This is not responsible emergency resilience planning in my view.”
Fife’s CCTV system remains one of the most extensive in operation in Europe, but a report to Fife’s safer communities committee last year highlighted the need for an urgent upgrade.
Cameras are understood to be up to 19 years old in places, and certain faults are becoming more prevalent, with acceptable repair times deemed not possible or economically viable as some components are beyond their life expectancy.
Indeed, councillors were told some of the analogue camera equipment currently used will be obsolete in one to four years as manufacturers cease production of key components.
There were also warnings that, without the one-off investment, evidence gathering and early intervention for incidents would be compromised, while certain camera locations might have to be decommissioned due to a lack of spares.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson said the Scottish Government recognises the “valuable” role CCTV systems play in law enforcement, but said the development and management of public space CCTV was a matter for local authorities and the police.
“I nevertheless appreciate the challenges at local level with regard to funding,” he continued.
“The Scottish Government’s expectation is that local authorities and the police fund CCTV locally from their existing funds, with decisions on expenditure part of the normal process of identifying and meeting local priorities.
“The Scottish Government does not provide any direct funding for CCTV and we do not have any plans to change this position.”