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Officers had 'available opportunity' to tell councillor CCTV cameras had been switched off, report finds

Grace Witherden

Reporter:

Grace Witherden

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An investigation report into why Royal Borough councillors were not informed eight CCTV cameras were no longer in operation has been published today.

The report found council officers failed to inform Cllr Carwyn Cox, cabinet member for environmental services, the cameras had been switched off despite the ‘available opportunity’.

It recommended the council review the code of conduct for employees in relation to officer duty to lead members.

In January, Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) told the Advertiser it was a ‘done deal’ that 30 cameras would be scrapped as part of a review into the borough’s CCTV network.

In response Cllr Carwyn Cox (Con, Hurley and Walthams) and leader of the council Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) told cabinet members no cameras had been switched off.

But Cllr Werner then produced an email understood to be from the CCTV control room listing cameras which had been switched off since December.

The report states the eight cameras that were switched off in December were operating on legacy networks that were coming to the end of their serviceable life and needed upgrading.

It states information about the eight CCTV cameras not operating was ‘key information’ and its ‘politically sensitive’ nature meant it was reasonable to expect it should have been shared with Cllr Cox.

It states ‘Employee 1’ tried to reinstate the cameras on Wednesday, February 1 after the lead member informed them of an assurance he had made to ‘Member 1’ that no cameras would be switched off until after a review of the CCTV.

It states: “The opportunity to fully inform the lead member was not taken at this point. This calls into question the motivation of Employee 1 for not fully informing the lead member at a key point.”

“There is no evidence that information was withheld with any malicious intent or desire to mislead the lead member.

“Decisions were taken with the best interests of the council in mind in terms of minimising financial impacts and achieving savings.”

In the conclusion, the report found the failure to inform Cllr Cox could be considered as a Code of Conduct for Employees issue and possibly suitable for further action but consideration should be given to Cllr Cox’s view that ‘lessons have been learned’ to move forward.

No change in process is recommended, as the report found there was no failure to apply correct processes, but it recommended considering a review to the code of conduct.

It also states the former strategic director for operations and customer services Simon Fletcher, who left the Royal Borough in November, declined to be invovled in the investigation, but evidence shows he was fully aware of the decision not to renew the cameras network.

 

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