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CCTV cameras for York bin lorries
NEW bin lorries in York are being fitted with CCTV cameras, sparking criticism from privacy campaigners.
The footage will allow waste bosses to monitor vehicles, and assess reports of damaged bins or insurance claims from residents, City of York Council says, while new tracking equipment is being installed to the authority’s fleet to check on “efficiency”, cut costs and see whether certain addresses need “special action”.
But privacy groups claimed CCTV could be a “needless intrusion” on staff and turn waste and recycling trucks into “mobile surveillance vehicles”. They said providing a live camera feed was a waste of money.
The council said the vehicles’ average cost was about £175,000 and operating and maintaining the waste fleet cost £1.53 million this year. It said the new, larger fleet could allow 750 extra weekly collections, cut fuel bills by 20 per cent and mean less rubbish going to landfill.
The current five-year-old vehicles are approaching the end of their lifespan, increasing repair and fuel costs. The council said the replacements would be more environmentally friendly, with cleaner diesel engines and quieter electric lifts.
Geoff Derham, head of waste and cleaning services at the council, said other authorities had installed CCTV in waste vehicles, including Bath and North-East Somerset, Bolton and Perth and Kinross. He said: “This will provide a live feed to enable officers to monitor vehicles and increase supervision.
“It will also be linked to the tracking system so that, if necessary, footage can be used as evidence to support residents’ reports of damaged bins or for insurance claims.”
Coun David Levene, cabinet member for environmental services, said: “The new vehicles are designed so we can access the one per cent of households in remote parts of York, meaning an additional 750 collections could be made per week.
“Crews will also be able to see first-hand if properties require special action, such as assisted collection, and they can receive direct information in real-time on issues such as damaged bins and non-presented bins. Instant messaging is also a part of the system and will, as it is rolled out, replace reliance on mobile phones.”
The council said footage will be stored securely for 90 days. The technology’s cost will be spread throughout the new vehicles’ use and it will be installed over the next year, saving £10,000 towards an overall 2013/14 waste services cost-cutting target of £300,000.
Dr Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, said: “The use of surveillance needs to be justified and the case hasn’t been made here, neither for the protection of workers’ privacy or that of people whose bins are being collected. I have a hard time understanding how surveillance is seen to be necessary for damaged bins or insurance claims. It sounds like quite a waste of money to have a real-time bin collection feed.”
Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles said: “CCTV is definitely not going to help people’s bins get emptied, and it looks like this scheme is a way of managers checking up on staff, while raising the potential for bin collection lorries to double up as mobile surveillance vehicles.”
Osbaldwick councillor Mark Warters said he feared equipment may be used to enforce charging for garden waste collections, if proposals to introduce this are agreed. He said: “The technology can surely be used for this purpose, and that would mean any decision on green waste-charging has been pre-empted.”
A council spokeswoman said the equipment was not related to “any form of charging” and would not record information from households.