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Town centre CCTV switched off

Cameras have not been in operation in Newbury since April 1

TOWN centre crime is not being recorded on CCTV cameras after West Berkshire Council stopped funding them, with no replacement system in place.

The cameras – considered vital in deterring criminals and reducing crime – were switched off on April 1 and have not been in operation since.

The 22 cameras in the town were, up until March 31, funded by West Berkshire Council. But last month, the council voted in favour of cutting its funding towards the service, as part of its wider plan to save £17.5m.

This week, opposition councillor Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) accused the council of keeping the public in the dark, while a Newbury business owner expressed his concern that ‘people still think the cameras are on’.

Advanced discussions have taken place between Newbury Town Council, Thames Valley Police, the Newbury Business Improvement District (BID) and other partners over the last few months about retaining CCTV.

The town council has confirmed it would put in £12,000 and has applied for £36,000 from Thames Valley Police. The BID would manage the cameras.

Once funding is in place, Newbury BID would still have to contact BT to get the lines switched over to the Kennet centre – where the town’s CCTV cameras will be monitored from in future. The BID said the process could take up to three months to complete.

Mr Dillon said: “The council needs to be straight with residents. People need to be aware if CCTV is not in operation.

“I’m disappointed that when the council decided to switch the cameras off on April 1, they had no definite plan in place to keep the service going.”

Michael Beatty, who owns the Octopus furniture shop in Bartholomew Street, said: “The worst thing is people think they are on but they aren’t. CCTV plays an important role in reducing crime.”

A spokesman for West Berkshire Council, Martin Dunscombe, confirmed that as of April 1, the cameras were no longer operational. “However we have retained the most recent footage for 30 days, in line with the industry best practice,” he said.

Mr Dillon also questioned why the council had not used some of the £1.4m ‘transitional funding’ it received from central government to give the town council more time to secure the money.

Mr Dunscombe said that CCTV attracted fewer consultation responses than other cuts proposals, and as a result the council felt the money was better spent on other services.

Superintendent Jim Weems, the LPA commander for West Berkshire, said: “There are well advanced negotiations in place around providing a CCTV service in the town centre.”

Russell Downing, managing director of Newbury BID, admitted that having no CCTV cameras in operation was a “concern”.

He added: “We need to be grown up about it and realise we are where we are. We have go a collaborative group of people working together to try and achieve the best outcome.”

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