Details of questions should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support at least three working days prior to the meeting - by 10am on Thursday 17 February 2022. Further information and a copy of the procedure are available from Democratic Services (Committees) (Tel: 01392 265115) with details about speaking at Council to be found here: Public Speaking at Meetings
The Lord Mayor reported the receipt of a question from a member of the public.
Mr Cox to Councillor Bialyk, Leader.
A CCTV room, manned, managed, properly could save lives. You claim "safe city”, but too often run it neglectfully after acquiring almost £500,000 to support safer streets. Why is funding not found to man adequately to keep everyone safe, in turn confirming that lives matter more than money?
The Deputy Leader, Councillor Wright, on behalf of the Leader responded that the Safer Streets funding was a one off capital grant from the Home Office and not an ongoing revenue funding - meaning that it could not be used for staffing and salaries. Funding had been spent on updating and expanding the CCTV equipment and infrastructure to give better coverage, improve images and recordings facilities and to make the system simpler and more efficient for our controllers to operate. This would improve the detection of crime and anti-social behaviour and improve the quality of evidence gathered to aid the police.
The Council always aimed to have two people in the control centre which was achieved for the vast majority of the time, however, due to instances of unexpected sickness it was not always able to achieve that.
In order to guarantee two members of staff for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week accounting for unforeseen sickness and absence, five members of staff needed to be employed. This created an additional funding need of £155,550 per year.
Currently, there was insufficient revenue funding to employ the five additional staff members required to guarantee a minimum of two people in the control room on every shift, but continued ways to achieve this, would be addressed, one of which was to continue talks with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall.
The Deputy Leader thanked Mr Cox and acknowledged the work that he and his family were doing to help shape ongoing discussions and partnerships across the City.
The Lord Mayor invited Mr Cox to ask a supplementary question.
Mr Cox stated that he could only respond with his immediate thoughts as he had not been appraised of the response prior to the meeting. He referred to an email he had sent to Members further detailing a number of his concerns including the failure to ensure the CCTV system was fully operational at all times and that the control centre was adequately staffed.
Referring to the detail set out in the response that a comprehensive staffing of the control centre would require five staff at a cost of £155,000, he urged the Council to commit itself to making this investment. Following on from the tragedy of the loss of his daughter Lorraine, he believed that the incident may have exacerbated the fears many already had about safety in the city centre, particularly at night. It was paramount therefore for the Council to commit itself to such funding to restore residents’ confidence that the city was safe, that the vulnerable were protected and that such an incident could not occur again.
He further referred to the importance of Exeter’s night time economy, the role the University played in that economy and, more importantly, the safety of its students, some of whom could also be considered as vulnerable, which were further reasons for the Council to commit to full investment in safety measures.
In conclusion, he invited Members to unite and join him and others in the Supporting Safer Streets Campaign and a march on Sunday 6 March 2022 to raise funds and awareness for the campaign.
The Lord Mayor thanked Mr Cox for addressing the Council and referred to further conversations that would be taking place on the issues raised.
The Leader advised that City Council officers would be preparing a detailed response to Mr Cox’s email. He also stated that the seriousness of the matter was recognised and that he and his colleagues understood the issues raised and would continue to meet with him to discuss these matters. He thanked Mr Cox for attending and speaking at Council.