Westminster City Council has decided to turn off its CCTV network to save £1 million a year. Despite the benefits to crime prevention and public safety, they say they can no longer afford to provide a non-statutory service that is not required by law.

The Cabinet Report states that the evidence that CCTV alone plays a significant role in preventing general crime and improving safety is limited and that the service primarily benefits the Police in terms of securing prosecutions and the operational deployment of resources, but who do not make any financial contribution to the revenue costs of the system, while the operational benefit to the Council is limited and as such, continued investment in the service cannot be justified at a time of financial restraint.

The Report goes on to say that the current CCTV system is reaching the end of its operational life, contracts for control room staffing and maintenance of the system are due to expire over the next year and the expected annual revenue cost for the continued provision of CCTV cannot be met within existing budget projections.

While under section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the Council has a general power to do all it reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder, there is no statutory duty to provide CCTV and as the impact of CCTV on crime prevention is considered to be limited the Council says that the decision to decommission their CCTV service does not breach the Council’s statutory duties.

All local authorities are under increasing budgetary constraints and are looking at whether they can continue to provide non-statutory services. I suspect that in time and in most cases they will no longer be able to do so. The public is going to have to get used to a very different level of service provision from their local authorities, where the only services they provide are those they are legally obliged to provide.

But even where statutory duties are imposed on local authorities, we are seeing a push from central government towards duties being moderated by the concept of affordability.

The bigger question is whether this marks the beginning of the end for even essential local authority functions.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.