Southend set to hire out CCTV service

Southend could become a spy camera hotspot as council bosses consider allowing other authorities to link CCTV up to the city’s central control room for a fee.

There are currently 207 cameras controlled by Southend Council, with 26 monitors in a central control room and a further three monitors elsewhere in the city.

The council is now considering allowing other councils to hook their CCTV up to the central control room in Southend, for a fee, to provide 24-hour surveillance.

Martin Terry, councillor responsible for public protection, said: “There are local authorities who have got some cameras but they don’t monitor them 24 hours. They want to improve so what we are saying is we’ve done all the hard work.

“It’s all done digitally so it’s just a matter of connecting up and saying well we can monitor your system for you at a cost but that cost helps reduce the overall burden to them – and to Southend it’s a benefit of scale.

“It’s been done at other local authorities around the country. We are just looking at innovative ways we can help to reduce our overheads and thereby help Southend residents because we face a tough challenge.”

Big Brother Watch, a group that campaigns against public surveillance, has said the number of CCTV cameras on the UK’s streets is “out of control”, and has raised concerns about the potential use of facial recognition to track people.

However, Cllr Terry said all CCTV control room staff were trained in data protection laws. The council also said a data protection impact assessment would have to be completed.

Cllr Terry added: “It could be any organisation in the town that would like 24-hour monitoring but also in particular we are also looking at other local authorities.

“We have a very sophisticated and one of the best systems in the region in Southend so we will be discussing it with other local authorities who need to upgrade their own systems but would like to avoid all the cash investment costs that we’ve incurred.

“If that helps them and it helps us by combining our services then that’s what we hope to do.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter