Motion to save town centre CCTV funding fails
Funding cut could lead to CCTV monitoring being “significantly reduced”
by Andy Mitchell, Local Democracy Reporter
Planned cuts that could lead to the end of “all live monitoring” of CCTV across Cherwell have been railed against by opposition councillors.
Cherwell District Council is proposing to save £99,000 by ending financial support for public space CCTV that it partly funds alongside Thames Valley Police.
The authority, which is seeking to save or generate an extra £2.6million in 2022-23, is not required to provide the service but its own report acknowledges “universal benefits for residents, visitors and businesses in Cherwell”.
There are 80 cameras, located across Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington, connected to a control room operated and monitored by four Thames Valley Police staff.
The council currently pays some staff costs and for the maintenance, repair and refurbishment of CCTV equipment itself.
The report adds: “The impact of this decision depends on the response of Thames Valley Police. (They) could choose to meet the funding shortfall and take over the entire management of the CCTV system which would then lead to no overall impact. However, this is unlikely.
“It is more likely that the reduction of funding will lead to operational hours of the system being significantly reduced and potentially all live monitoring of the system ceasing.
“The system is likely to become mainly a tool to be used for retrospective evidence gathering and will degrade over time.”
Councillor Sean Woodcock (Lab, Banbury Ruscote), leader of the opposition at Cherwell District Council, said: “We were all presented with the results of the survey that said residents in Cherwell prioritise tackling anti-social behaviour and crime. That is something they want to see protected yet you want to cut CCTV across the district.
“The report says Thames Valley Police could pay for it but it also says that is unlikely, so you are cutting it.
“I do understand why the party of Matt Hancock and Allegra Stratton is not keen on recording equipment but this move is very much out of touch with the priorities of residents.
“It hampers the detection and prevention of crime and we will not be supporting it.”
It was suggested by Budget Planning Committee chair Councillor Nicholas Mawer (Con, Bicester North & Caversfield) that it would be helpful for an alternative saving to be put forward for the council’s executive to consider.
Councillor Barry Wood (Con, Fringford & Heyfords), leader of Cherwell District Council backed that suggestion and then pointed out that government funding for the authority may lead to this cut being reversed by the time the budget is discussed by all councillors in February.
“I think you have to proceed with what you have and wait for the various things to drop into place,” said Cllr Wood.
“There could be all sorts of arrangements with all the districts across the Thames Valley about how CCTV is financed. All of them are different and I think there is a definite argument that it should be rationalised.”
Councillor Conrad Copeland (Lib Dem, Kidlington West) emphatically rejected that way forward.
“Rather than Councillor Wood’s proposal to pursue public finance in an incredibly bull-headed way – ‘we’ve got this so this is what we are doing’ – I have generally found prudence to be a better measure.
“It seems to me that all we are asking for at this stage is for officers to come up with an alternative saving. I don’t see a problem with doing that.”
Councillor Woodcock proposed to recommend the removal of cuts to CCTV funding altogether, inviting the council to “come up with something else”, but that was voted down by six of the seven Conservative members on the committee.
Cllr Mawer and independent member Councillor Les Sibley abstained. Labour and Liberal Democrats provided the three votes to maintain CCTV funding.
Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam