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Calls for official review into town's CCTV

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Pressure mounts on West Berkshire Council to review security system in Newbury town centre

CALLS for an official review into the switch-over of the CCTV system covering Newbury have been made this week as a fresh round of break-ins have plagued premises across the town.

Despite assurances from council officers three weeks ago that it would be complete by mid-January, the system is reportedly still not fully operational following its protracted transfer from the control room at Newbury to a new digital set-up in Windsor, a move which will save the council £250,000 a year.

This week it also emerged that a town centre safety scheme manager, responsible for co-ordinating the ShopSafe scheme, has been made redundant as a cost-

cutting measure. (For more on this story, click on the related stories link above).

Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Roger Hunneman (Victoria), this week said that his party has called for an investigation into CCTV.

He said: “We are very concerned, and we are asking for an urgent review at Overview and Scrutiny. Particular emphasis will be placed on the project plan, the communications plan and whether the council methodology was adhered to.”

West Berkshire Council has this week again refused to confirm if there had been a delay, or confirm the number of active cameras, however Labour party spokesman Richard Garvie said on Monday that he believed only 24 CCTV cameras out of 40 were working properly.

“We need an investigation on this matter, and the sooner it is called the better,” he said.

The portfolio holder for community safety, Anthony Stansfeld (Con, Kintbury) said issues of cameras on top of poles had caused an initial hitch, but argued that scheme was “95 per cent there”.

“I am very happy with the way the transfer has gone. It's the same with any project, you are not going to find an operation like this where you move without a single glitch.”

West Berkshire Council spokesman Keith Ulyatt said as far as the council was concerned, the situation had not changed.

“As previously said, there is no need for an investigation since we know that the delays were caused by the severe weather and by some cabling issues.”

He said that the council would not divulge information on the delay, or when the switchover was expected to be complete, owing to security reasons.

Retailers in the town have said that most mornings they resign themselves to the fact they may have been subject to a break-in, and are worried that the CCTV system is not currently providing any protection.

Jo Reynolds, the manager of Ginchey hairdressers in Bartholomew Street, said that her store had been burgled twice in the last week.

She said: “For us women, at night, especially around Christmas, to know the CCTV has been out of action is scary, it makes us feel unsafe. To know if the cameras are all working would be nice, as would some protection.”

Several businesses in nearby Inch's Yard, including Lunch Express, Julian's hairdressers, and Jill's Dry Cleaning, have also reported break-ins over the last week.

CCTV footage has as so far proved inconclusive in each of the reports, according to Thames Valley Police, and the feeling among many of the shop owners is that it will stay that way.

Mary Ireland, the manager of Lunch Express, in Inch's Yard, said: “It's just non-stop.

“There are cameras around here but they are facing the wrong way. We are not getting enough protection. The police are really good at responding but you never hear anything back.”

The manager of Julian's hairdressers, Julian Hendey, said that his premises had also been broken into twice in the last week.

He said that he felt he was not getting the protection the town's CCTV cameras were meant to provide.

A spokeswoman for Jill's Dry Cleaning, in the same precinct, said that offenders had broken in last Tuesday and attempting to open the till had printed out a read-off, giving police the exact time the offence had occurred.

She said: “Where is the CCTV? Everyone here is so frustrated. You just expect every morning that you'll come in and find you've been done over.”

Instances of anti-social behaviour could also be going unmonitored according to Torr Hovichit, the director of Torr fashion boutique on Bartholomew Street, who said that she had installed her own cameras inside the store as the feeling among shop owners was the cameras covering the street were out of action.

However the owner of Supernova cycle shop, which opened in Newbury three weeks ago and has already been burgled twice, has said that police police had confirmed that part of one of the incidents had been caught on CCTV, (see the story on this page).

Town centre Inspector Dave Milsom, of Newbury police, confirmed that officers were investigating a spate of burglaries along Bartholomew Street.

He said: “Part of those investigations are enquires into whether CCTV has captured any evidence. So far our enquiries have been inconclusive and so whilst we are waiting for the results of CCTV, it would be inappropriate to comment on the current state of a live investigation.”

Anyone with information that could help with enquiries should contact police via the 24-hour police enquiry centre on 0845 8 505 505, or anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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