Boston Borough Council’s leader has supported East Lindsey District Council’s claim it is being held to ransom by BT over delays up-dating a CCTV system which police have described as ‘not fit for purpose.’
ELDC admits failings in the system are having a ‘severe impact’ on residents, businesses and millions of visitors.
It operates a CCTV service in partnership with seven town and parish councils – Alford, Chapel St Leonards, Horncastle, Ingoldmells, Louth, Mablethorpe and Sutton on Sea and Skegness.
In March 2016, the district council agreed to invest in a refurbishment scheme to ensure the system was ‘fit for the future.’
It followed a decision to link up with a system already run by Boston Borough Council and monitored by specially trained officers in a control room at Boston.
The refurbishment involved the replacement of all 97 analogue cameras across the seven towns and parishes at a cost of £432,000. In order to complete the changeover, the old analogue network needs to be converted to a digital system.
An order was placed by Boston Borough Council with BT in July 2016. But 13 months on, ELDC claims it is no nearer to being able to install the digital cameras.
Now, ELDC’s deputy leader Graham Marsh has taken the unprecedented step of writing a strongly worded letter to BT’s Chief Executive Gavin Patterson.
Coun Marsh accuses BT of a ‘totally unacceptable service’.
He says that apart from the initial £432,000 outlay on the cameras, BT is holding the councils to ransom by charging £56,000 a year to keep the outdated system running.
Coun Marsh says: “While we are fortunate to live in a low-crime area, CCTV has a very important role to play in detecting crime, preventing crime and making our communities feel safe.
“Secondly, and to rub salt into the wound, in order to try and maintain the old analogue system, we have been left with no option but to continue paying for the old BT network at a cost of £56,000 per year.
“When considering the refurbishment scheme, one of the critical factors was the amount of money that could be saved by joining forces with our neighbouring Borough Council at Boston to deliver the service.
“Despite explaining this to your employees on numerous occasions, my officers have been greeted with a ‘brick wall’ approach that no information can be given out as ELDC did not place the order.
“Add to this the fact that colleagues at Boston Borough Council are also not being furnished with any information on the progress with the order, the project is on hold indefinitely.
“As a result, the council is being held to ransom to pay £56,000 to keep an old analogue system running when it could be saving money if a different section within BT would complete a job for which an order was placed 13 months ago.
“In a climate where public safety is crucial and public spending is under constant scrutiny, I must challenge the inaction of your company and the impact that this is having on our plans to roll out an improved CCTV service. I would ask that you look into this matter with some urgency and respond with a clear plan.”
The letter is signed by all seven councils in the partnership, Boston Borough Council leader Coun Michael Cooper, Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones and Lincolnshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Shaun West.
Several serving police officers have said the outdated system has a number of failings, including poor night-time coverage.
A BT spokesman said: “This is proving to be a very complex upgrade which is taking longer than planned and we’re sorry for that.
“The programme relies on a huge amount of infrastructure being installed, much of it underground, and this engineering work can be unpredictable at times.
“Engineers working on the project have encountered underground blockages that have needed clearing and in some cases have had to plan and find alternative routes for cable. All of which takes time.
“We had hoped to be finished by now but a small amount of engineering work remains outstanding, mainly in the Skegness area. Unfortunately, this is on hold due to local restrictions on roadworks there during the holiday season. We’re in dialogue with the council to try and get this done at the first opportunity.
“We understand the frustrations raised by Coun Marsh and are happy to meet with him to discuss in more detail.”