295. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the low number of community-based CCTV systems that have been approved; the cause of the low number of applications and approvals; if the scheme will be reviewed in view of the fact that only €166,749 out of an allocation of €2 million has been drawn down by the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40054/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for a Partnership Government commits to supporting investment in CCTV systems. In pursuance of this commitment, a grant-aid scheme was launched by my Department in 2017 to assist groups in the establishment of community-based CCTV systems in their local areas. It is intended that the scheme will run for three years with funding of some €1 million being made available each year.
Community CCTV is governed by section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána, CCTV, Order 2006, SI No 289 of 2006. This legal framework requires that any proposed community CCTV scheme must be approved by the local Joint Policing Committee:
- have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner, and
- have the prior support of the relevant local authority, which must also act as data controller.
This is the legal basis for all community CCTV schemes, regardless of whether or not grant funding is sought from my Department to assist in their establishment.
I can inform the Deputy that the number of applications to the scheme and funds approved have both increased: There have to date been 27 applications to the scheme. 19 applications have been approved, with grant aid totalling more than €453,000 already approved, from the total €1 million available for 2018. A further five applications to the scheme are currently being assessed and considered. The remaining three applications have been returned to the applicants concerned to enable them to supply the information necessary to qualify for grant aid.
It is important to note that in establishing the grant-aid scheme, the Department consulted broadly including with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Attorney General as well as with stakeholders including County and City Management Association, CCMA, Local Government Management Agency, LGMA, Irish Rural Link as well as interested community groups. The application process and documentation were also streamlined, compared to the earlier community CCTV grant aid scheme operated by Pobal, on behalf of the Department.
Nonetheless and in response to the queries from some groups and local authorities, my officials continue to engage on the matter in particular through the LGMA and the CCMA, to address any concerns and clarify any queries arising.
The Deputy may also wish to be aware that the Data Protection Commissioner’s Office has confirmed as recently as May of this year that it does not have any concerns on the legislative basis for CCTV. However it is currently conducting an audit of the practice, operation and governance of CCTV. We expect findings from this process to be of great assistance to local authorities as they carry out their function of data controller.
As I have said in the past, I am keen to ensure that all interested groups, in both rural and urban areas, have the opportunity to take advantage of the availability of this grant aid scheme. Under the scheme, eligible community groups can apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum total of €40,000. Full details of the grant aid package are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie and support and guidance is available to help interested groups to apply for this funding through a dedicated email address firstname.lastname@example.org