Cambridgeshire Police chief speaks out on Hunts CCTV row

CAMBRIDGESHIRE’S police chief has defended his decision not to contribute towards CCTV, despite ongoing calls for the force to make a financial contribution.

Huntingdonshire District Council’s executive leader, Jason Ablewhite, has stressed that 24-hour manned surveillance of Huntingdonshire’s 93-camera network will be lost from next April unless funding can be found from elsewhere – HDC no longer covers the �300,000 annual running costs.

The district council was considering mothballing the entire system because of budget cuts, but has instead asked Huntingdonshire town councils and the county’s police force to chip in.

On Friday, town and parish clerks from St Ives, Huntingdon and Ramsey met to discuss the issue – all three councils have provisionally agreed to provide some funding for the scheme.

Talks are also progressing with Peterborough City Council on moving its CCTV operation to Huntingdon.

But Cambridgeshire police have repeatedly refused to help fund CCTV, and Chief Constable Simon Parr showed no signs of backing down during an exclusive interview with The Hunts Post.

He insisted funding all or part of the system would not be possible in the wake of Government budget cuts.

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He said: “If we take it on for one part of the county, we need to take it on for all. That could cost �3-4million, which is the equivalent of 140 Pcs.

“All local authorities under the Crime and Disorder Act have a duty to promote the prevention of crime. What we are not prepared to do is to say we will spend that �4m when our local authority colleagues have a duty in law to help.

“There is also a public interest issue. If CCTV is totally owned and run by the police, then people would think ‘this is police surveillance. The police are watching us all the time.’

“It is better that it is owned by the community, and we just use it when there is something going on.”

Mr Parr said he was optimistic a way could be found to keep the 93-camera network.

He said: “Is there a middle ground in this? Can we change whether it is monitored 24 hours a day? Is there a way of using police officers who are desk-bound to come back and work in there?

“We are all agreed we need CCTV. It is just a question of getting provision. I am certain we will find a way through it, but we cannot take on one without taking on the others.”

At a Cambridgeshire Police Authority scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, members supported Mr Parr’s decision not to make a financial contribution to CCTV at this stage.

In a letter to St Ives town clerk Alison Melnyczuk, the authority’s chairman Ruth Rogers wrote: “The constabulary has contributed towards the installation of CCTV cameras in other parts of Huntingdonshire, but has never financially supported the ongoing cost of their operation.

“To do so now, while making significant cuts to the force budget, would be an additional expense that would inevitably impact on the number of officers and staff available to police the community in St Ives and elsewhere.”

Cllr Ablewhite said: “I can understand they [the police] are in a difficult situation. However, this partnership working has been going on for some years. The district council has been funding all of it.

“This is an opportunity for all our partners at parish and police level to contribute. We are not talking about them paying for the whole system but, if they can contribute in some way at least, we will have some service for the future.””