Towns explore options for axed CCTV service

CCTV camera

CCTV camera - Credit: Archant

Town leaders in Fakenham and Wells will explore partnerships with other communities in a bid to investigate keeping the CCTV coverage which North Norfolk District Council decided to scrap this week.

Both town councils met this week after Monday’s district cabinet meeting, when members voted unanimously to stop paying for the service by March 31, saving about £200,000 a year.

Communities have been given just six weeks to decide whether they want to accept responsibility for running the entire system collectively, or run their own individual set-ups at their own expense – in either case, NNDC will give them the equipment for nothing.

The decision has provoked an angry reaction from Fakenham and Wells, and both are now seeking an urgent discussion with the other towns affected – Cromer, North Walsham and Sheringham – to assess the best course of action.

At Fakenham Town Council’s meeting on Tuesday evening, mayor Adrian Vertigan said an invitation had already been received from the clerk of North Walsham Town Council offering to set up a meeting.

He said: “Personally, I feel we should do that and have a face-to-face get-together. We only have six weeks to express an interest, which is not very long. My concern is that we will not be able to get a plan costed in time, even if we get together and decide to go forward.

“I feel we have been let down by our (district) councillors but in reality they didn’t stand a chance. The decision was made by cabinet and that is where the fault lies.”

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The meeting also heard from a security expert who said Fakenham’s 18 out-dated cameras needed to be replaced at a roughly-estimated cost of £5,000-£8,000 each – added to the potential costs of staffing the service and maintaining the fibre-optic cable connection.

Charles English, of Fakenham-based firm English Security, said: “The quality of the images on the CCTV at present is out of date. For each position, a 2.5MP (megapixel) image would be pretty good, but what we have got at the moment is something like 0.3MP. A still image taken from these cameras is grainy at best.

“They need replacing, it’s as simple as that. If you take all that on board it is going to be a massive spend.”

Among the town councillors who joined the debate was David Cubitt, who said: “I just think it is going too be too expensive for us to take on, but we need to know what the other towns are doing.”

Deputy mayor Jeremy Punchard said: “I think we have got to think outside the box. We are governed by this NNDC bubble but we have got Long Stratton and Diss commissioning it (CCTV), so there are opportunities across Norfolk to be part of a bigger conglomerate.

“West Norfolk Council make a profit on their system by selling the service to big business.”

Wells Town Council met on Monday, just a few hours after the NNDC decision was reached.

After the meeting, council chairman Allen Frary said: “North Walsham are keen to hold a meeting with all the other councils, and the feeling was that we should go along to this meeting to see what the options are.

“This is my own personal opinion, but I would be very surprised if the town council would be able to take it on. We have got four cameras in Wells which could cost the town £16,000, and at the end of the day my gut feeling is that I don’t think we can afford that. We would have to raise the precept no end to cover it, and then we have got issues of who would monitor the cameras or maintain them if they were broken.”

The £16,000 figure came from an “educated guestimate” by town clerk Greg Hewitt, a former policeman who retired in 2011 after 20 years working in Fakenham and Wells. He calculated a rough cost of £4,000 per camera, based on 54 cameras in the district costing a total of just over £200,000 to run.

He said: “I was policing Wells when the CCTV was installed and it reduced the amount of disorder and vandalism overnight. It made a huge difference and I am amazed that NNDC have taken the decision to get rid of it. It is a retrograde step for something that was seen as such a useful tool 10 or 12 years ago to now be done away with as easily as this.”

At Monday’s NNDC cabinet meeting, deputy leader Rhodri Oliver, said the council needed to find just over £1m of revenue savings by 2016-2017, and that there was no firm proof that CCTV reduced crime.

“We are working in the context of the worst cuts in the history of local government, or at least since the 1974 reform act,” he said. “All decisions are going to be difficult but we need to protect our front-line services, and balance the budget.”