As relevant authorities under the Protection of Freedoms Act, local authorities must pay due regard to the surveillance camera code of practice. You’re probably aware of the local authority CCTV systems that cover town centres but often there will be many other systems controlled by a local authority. These could be housing, community centres, leisure centres, parks and so on – how do local authority CCTV managers keep an overview of all the CCTV across their organisation? At Huntingdonshire they’ve come up with the solution.
Martin Beaumont, CCTV manager of a shared service for Huntingdonshire District Council and Cambridge City Council said:
“We’ve introduced a single point of contact (SPOC) for all CCTV issues – in Cambridge that’s me. I act as the main contact point for anything related to CCTV and have been able to introduce organisation CCTV policies and procedures. I can also ensure that any staff across the organisation operating CCTV are properly trained, keep them up to date on changes to legislation and help them develop.”
Pointing out the risks
If local authorities don’t have a good understanding of the CCTV they operate they can face financial, legal and reputational risk. Do organisations know how many cameras they have, where they are, why they are there and if they are being operated within the legislative framework?
“In our council’s case it was found that there were 144 PSS cameras all under tight control and meeting the requirements of the legislation, but that there were over 300 other council cameras spread over 29 sites with no standardised procedures, purchasing or maintenance system or centralised control. The systems were being operated by people with no training or understanding of their role or responsibility, no knowledge of legislation, no codes of practice, operational manuals or standard signage. It was also found that some cameras were unnecessary and not fit for purpose,” said Martin.
Martin carried out an audit of the council to find out exactly where all its cameras are located and who has responsibility for them. It’s meant that they can standardise signage, set out clear roles and responsibilities, improve competence and importantly enabled him to set up a governance board to scrutinise the use of CCTV across the breadth of the council.
“There’s continued interest in all things CCTV, public bodies who fail to grasp this nettle are leaving themselves wide open to all sorts of risk and none of us can afford that. So public bodies should be doing everything they can to protect themselves from the risks. A simple way of doing this is by appointing a CCTV SPOC and it is a solution I would recommend all public bodies to consider,” added Beaumont.
If you would like more information about how your organisation could set up a CCTV SPOC, please contact the Surveillance Camera Commissioner.