At present, a specially trained team monitor the dozens of cameras dotted around the Isle of Wight from the control room at Island Roads’ HQ in Newport. Staff are able to take control of the cameras, both night and day, to provide real-time visuals as things unfold.
However, the powers that be at County Hall are planning to either redeploy or completely ditch its 5 members of staff at the control room in favour of simply recording footage for review at a later time. CCTV will still function on the Island but won’t be actively monitored around the clock.
Concerns have been raised that with no staff to man the cameras there will be no facility to provide instant assistance to the emergency services such as following a suspect, tracking a missing person or reporting a crime in progress. However, Hampshire Constabulary will have access
A prime example of the importance of controllable CCTV is February 2017 when a drink-driver was followed through the streets of Newport before plunging into the River Medina. The whole incident was caught on camera and later presented in court.
Furthermore, it is thought that more pressure will be placed on Police officers as they will have to collate evidence from the recordings themselves.
The proposed closure is part of the Isle of Wight Council’s agreed initial savings with Island Roads following a renegotiation of the highways PFI contract. The arrangement, which started on 1st April, is a £600,000-a-year cost reduction over the next 18 years of the agreement, or £11.4 million in total when index-linked.
The council, supported by Jasmine Consulting, is continuing to work with Island Roads to identify further savings that can be implemented from April 2020. When completed, the total savings over the lifetime of the contract could total around £40million.
In a statement, the Council have confirmed to Island Echo that the arrangement’s implementation will lead to a number of post reductions at Island Roads and its subcontractors, including 5 from CCTV monitoring and similar numbers in the area of street cleaning and also grass cutting.
Councillor Ian Ward, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, added:
“This very successful contract has transformed our Island roads since it started six years ago, and it will continue to do so. It has delivered some of the best roads in the country and, with these savings, it represents even better value for money for Islanders.
“The savings do not affect road resurfacing and footpath improvements plus high priority maintenance and road safety works, which will continue as required.
“It does however mean people will find, some aspects of maintenance and services reduced for example, grass verges will not be cut as often to encourage biodiversity, and roadside bins will not be emptied as frequently. However, these changes are an evolution of the original contract as we have discovered the service was better than needed in some areas.”
In all areas, Island Roads is looking at redeployment and other avenues to keep any compulsory redundancies to a minimum.
The council has also agreed to look favourably on applications from those affected by redundancy for any jobs it advertises. In practice this means, that if the person meets a council job specification, the authority will guarantee an interview.
Service director at Island Roads, Steve Ashman, said:
“While under this new agreement, we will be providing a reduced level of service, we are confident residents will continue to receive an extensive, high quality programme of highways improvement and maintenance.”
There appears to have been no consultation with members of the public about the proposed closure of the CCTV control room, despite its important to public safety.
The news comes just weeks after a series of anti social behaviour incidents in Newport town centre and at a time when Police resources are stretched.