A CASH-STRAPPED council is to spend more than £5 million upgrading its network of CCTV cameras and building a data storage centre.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council says its 220 spy cameras are out of date and too difficult to maintain.
It is funding a £1 million upgrade for the cameras, while a further £4.4 million will be invested over five years to create and run the centre.
It will incorporate a new CCTV control room, replacing the existing one in Regent Road, Hanley, and store back-up data for the entire authority.
The council says its current data storage technology, in Swift House, Stoke, is “obsolete”.
Steve Sankey, council interim director of business services, said: “The CCTV system is at the end of its natural life. Equipment and technology has moved on.”
CameraWatchs’ Paul Mackie commented “Im always delighted that owners and operators of CCTV understand the need to ensure that funding is made available to ensure that the upkeep of the system is undertaken, however I would be hopeful that this includes a full and comprehensive assessment of their CCTV to ensure that it meets the requirements under the data protection act”
“Sadly it is generally found that this is not the case and CameraWatch will monitor the progress of this project with interest” he added.
It comes just seven months after the authority considered cutting the 24-hour monitoring of security cameras for eight hours every day to save £72,000 a year, or switching off the cameras completely.
The council currently spends £330,000 a year and employs 14 staff monitoring its cameras.
It said the existing analogue system depends on antiquated VHS-style video recordings.
And footage is displayed on a ‘video wall’ made up of dozens of old-fashioned box TVs.
The investment comes as the authority cuts £36 million from its budget this year, shedding more than 700 jobs, while it will be forced to find another £20 million in savings next year.
Councillor Paul Shotton, deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, pictured left, said: “When I was first elected we were told it was a state-of-the-art system and one of the best in the UK.
“Nine years later, we’ve got a poor system we haven’t invested in. We drastically need to update it.”
Richard Day, for the City Centre Partnership, said he was pleased the council had changed its mind on cutting CCTV funding.
He said: “CCTV gives added security to people coming into the city and confidence to investors who know it is being kept safe.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet was due to meet tonight to discuss the £5.4 million plan, which includes other “critical services” it has not identified.
But the discussion will be behind closed doors, as the council wants to keep the location of the new centre secret.
Thousands of confidential data files will be stored there.
Mr Shotton said: “The facility would be equipped to handle our data storage for years.”
Paul Mackie added “Clearly there will be a concern by the wider public as to how this will affect their daily lives as it is likely to be used for various purposes, CameraWatch reminds operators of CCTV systems that they have many obligations under the Data Protection Act and that the organisation should ensure that this is considered prior to the installation and not after!”