Three important items were debated at the Epsom and Ewell Borough Council Crime and Disorder Committee meeting on 12 September 2023. The Video Surveillance System Policy (VSS), the Community Safety Intervention Policy, and the Community Safety Action Plan. The press and public were excluded from The Community Safety Review Report discussion.
The Public Protection Manager, introduced the Video Surveillance System Policy (VSS). He clarified the need for the council to update its policy on video surveillance systems, highlighting the growing public concern as well as changing laws and regulations. “This item is really to start to address that,” he said. “By studying the route to adopt a policy which will govern the use of video surveillance for the entire council,” The proposed policy would regulate the use of video surveillance throughout the council, including body-worn cameras, CCTV, and potential emerging technologies like drones and artificial intelligence (AI).
During the discussion, Councillor Phil Neale (RA Cuddington) raised questions regarding funding availability. He asked, “Are there funds available from central government? And have we investigated all those routes to get the funding so that we can have a robust and working CCTV system?”
The officer assured that funds were being sourced effectively. “Yes, I can say that the present system in Epsom town is brand new, as of February of this year, replaced a system that was funded by the Home Office seemingly 30 years ago, and was updated also with Home Office funding for this year.”
Councillor Alex Coley, (RA Ruxley) the Chair of the Committee added, “That was a sizable grant from the Home Office at £271,000 as part of the safer streets initiative, which that CCTV provision is part.”
After a short discussion, the motion for the Video Surveillance System Policy was passed and is recommended for adoption at Full Council.
The second item discussed was the Community Safety Intervention Policy.The Officer explained that this policy aims to allocate resources efficiently, focusing on high-priority and needy cases, with victims’ interests at the forefront. It seeks to empower individuals to resolve lower-priority issues independently, rather than relying on the council for every concern.
Councillor James Lawrence (LibDem College) inquired about the policy’s applicability to councillors facing harassment. Lawrence asked, “I was just wondering, and I understand that resources are short in council, but is the policy for dealing with harassment [of a] councillor? Would that be through the same process as this or would there be a different route or more prioritised routes?”
The Officer clarified that criminal harassment falls under the police’s jurisdiction, but the policy complements it and applies to all members of society. “There is such thing as criminal harassment, and that’s under separate criminal law dealt with exclusively by the police, actually. […]. So it certainly would apply to any member of society,” Nelson said.
The community safety intervention policy was recommended for adoption at full council.
The third item was the Community Safety Action Plan. At the beginning of the discussion, Councillor Alex Coley, the Chair of the Committee said, “This is something that I’ve asked for. It lays out a series of actions that we are committed to taking over, I believe, a two-year period as part of the CSP (Community Safety Partnership), and it will go to public consultation, so that partners, stakeholders and the public, including councillors, have an opportunity to feedback their thoughts, and that can then be adopted at a future committee.”
The Officer emphasised that this marks the first time their service area has released an action plan with the intent to involve the public in consultations. “We are primarily driven by the priorities of the Community Safety Partnership, which is a statutory coming together of partners in which two non-statutory members have also been invited to take part,” he added. He further explained that while the partnership establishes a high-level strategic plan, individual organisations are encouraged to develop their specific strategies for implementing the overarching policy. In this instance, the council has meticulously extracted practical actions from the policy priorities agreed upon within the Community Safety Partnership (CSP).
Cllr Bernie Muir (Conservative – Horton) expressed concerns about the quality of data and suggested formalising data contributions from partners within the plan’s framework,
Cllr Coley clarified, “The community safety action plan is a plan for the CSP (Community Safety Partnership) itself.” He also encouraged Cllr Muir to provide recommendations during the consultation.
All councillors agreed to the draft plan for public consultation and to agree to receive the results of the consultation and any resulting revisions to the action plan at the next meeting of the committee.
The Community Safety Review Report was discussed during the private session of the meeting, which was conducted without press or public participation. The decision is based on legal advice, citing that this portion of the meeting falls under paragraph 3 of Schedule 12 of the Local Government Act 1972. Specifically, it pertains to information related to the financial or business affairs of specific individuals or entities.