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Big stores to have meeting over CCTV

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A meeting of Newbury's larger stores is to be held as calls for a review of the CCTV system intensifies

SOME of Newbury's big name stores are to hold talks over the issue of CCTV in Newbury as calls for a scrutiny review into the switch-over of the town's closed circuit camera station to a new hub in Windsor and Maidenhead intensify.

At a time when the CCTV system is being moved to its new high-tech home, a series of break-ins and incidents of anti-social behaviour in the town appear to have gone uncaptured despite the presence of cameras, prompting calls for an investigation from politicians and local retailers.

Liz Chandler, chairwoman of the Town Centre Partnership, which represents retailers such as Marks and Spencer and Camp Hopson as well as other businesses in Newbury, said that a meeting between some of the town's larger stores in which the issue would be brought up, was to be called imminently.

“There will be a meeting set up which will include all the bigger groups, and there is an urgency to move it forward fairly quickly,” she said.

“We are kept in the loop and we frequently get reports from the safety teams, but I am not in a position to state how individual retailers feel about CCTV,” she said.

Shadow portfolio holder for community safety, Roger Hunneman (Lib Dem, Victoria), said this week that he had spoken to the chairman of West Berkshire Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Brian Bedwell (Con, Calcot), and he was pleased to announce Mr Bedwell would put the call to the committee vote.

Should enough members back the calls, an analysis of the station's move to it's new high-tech home will be undertaken.

Mr Hunneman said that he was aware of the disquiet of retailers in the town, but did not wish to make a political issue of the problem ahead of any review into the switch-over, which is expected to save the council £250,000.

A series of incidents including break-ins and anti-social behaviour, some of which appear to have gone unmonitored despite the presence of CCTV cameras in Bartholomew Street, Newbury, over the Christmas period have worried traders in the town, according to the chairman of the Newbury Retailers Association Brian Burgess.

He said he believes the problem lies with the service being provided by the station at Windsor and Maidenhead, but the council has ignored his requests to visit the hub.

“This whole debacle has been a total disaster and there should definitely be an enquiry. I am fearful that Newbury will never get back to the system we had before which was top notch with excellent administrators.”

“The chief executive of West Berkshire Council should be pursuing this matter with the utmost urgency to find out what has gone wrong.”

Labour party spokesman Richard Garvie has expressed frustration that the council has given him mixed messages over the issue of how many cameras are currently working, and has published a series of exchanges between himself and high ranking council officials on the Newburytoday.co.uk website forum.

“Despite the official council line being that all of the cameras were working, the chief executive had said very clearly that only 20 cameras were visible and that none could be controlled from Windsor. If the chief executive had access to this information, I'm pretty sure that officers would have known this too.

“Things gradually improved through January to a point where 24 cameras were visible in Windsor by the end of the month. They told us there was a slight delay due to “the bad weather". January was relatively mild, how come it still hasn't been resolved?”

The next scheduled Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission meeting is scheduled for March 1.

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