Council being urged to take action to stop Borders’ CCTV systems falling into further disrepair

Councillor Watson McAteer alongside the surveillance camera watching over Hawick's Common Haugh car park.
Councillor Watson McAteer alongside the surveillance camera watching over Hawick's Common Haugh car park.

Council chiefs are being urged to take action to stop the region’s closed-circuit TV network falling further into disrepair.

Scottish Borders Council officers reported last month that CCTV systems here are no longer fit for purpose and told councillors that neitherthe local authority nor Police Scotland can afford to maintain them or install replacement cameras.

Currently, 19 of the council’s 70 CCTV cameras are out of order, and officers warn that that number will only increase and that some of those still functioning are already being hit by intermittent faults.

Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell is concerned about that accelerating deterioration in surveillance camera coverage and has put forward a motion to be discussed at the authority’s next full meeting, to be held at Kelso’s Tait Hall this Thursday, May 16, asking officers to come up with a list of options for improvements.

In his motion, he says: “Effective public CCTV can make a positive contribution to community safety, which is primarily the responsibility of the police but one in which the council has an obvious part to play.

“However, the capability of the system now operating in Borders towns has deteriorated.

“Whilst there are limited budgeted council funds to invest in the current CCTV system, and whilst there will be advantages in opening up opportunities for communities to participate in the definition of what is needed, any decisions need to be based on a quantified assessment of costs.

“I ask officers to prepare a report showing the costs and options for renewing or replacing existing public CCTV for each community with a CCTV system and to make that information part of a consultation with area partnerships, community planning partners and the police, fire and rescue, and safer communities board before bringing forward a final report for consideration by this council.

“Further to that, I ask that officers bring a report to the next council meeting with a consultation plan, including whether outside resources will need to be brought in, the cost of consultation and a timescale for that consultation.”

There are eight CCTV systems, all monitored by the police, operating in the Borders at present, covering Duns, Eyemouth, Galashiels, Hawick, Kelso, Melrose, Peebles and Selkirk.

The council is currently spending £40,000 a year on repairing those systems, and the plan is for that to continue until the region’s present cameras are beyond economic repair.

Police chiefs have confirmed that although they view the CCTV systems as a valuable resource, they will not be providing funding for their maintenance.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer will be among those backing Mr Bell’s motion as he has already tried, and failed, to have the decision made by the council’s executive last month to accept the current state of affairs called in for further scrutiny.

The former police chief said: “The motion calling for a detailed review of public space CCTV across the Borders follows hotly on the heels of a council report that recommended withdrawing funding for new CCTV equipment and terminating maintenance of existing systems when the current budget runs out.

“These recommendations were presented to a small number of councillors who form the executive committee and, remarkably, were nodded through without the vast majority of elected councillors having an opportunity to challenge a decision that has serious consequences for the safety and security of all those they represent.

“It is very important that we do all we can to support our severely-stretched police officers and provide reassurance to communities that are feeling the impact of increasing crime.

“CCTV plays a vital role is helping prevent and solve crime, and I find it completely incomprehensible that decisions that impact on the safety, health and wellbeing of our communities can be taken without a full and complete assessment of the consequences.

“Only this week we have learned how CCTV helped detect a serious crime in one Borders town.

“This motion follows a refusal of the council’s chief executive to allow the original report to be procedurally called in for scrutiny, and I hope all councillors will support a logical attempt to have this serious issue democratically discussed by all elected councillors.”