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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Police should pay for Carlisle's CCTV cameras if they are 'essential tool'

A senior councillor says she would expect police to pay for Carlisle’s CCTV system if a report shows it is an “essential tool” for the force.

Elsie Martlew photo
Elsie Martlew

Elsie Martlew added she was looking forward to findings due from the county’s temporary chief constable, Bernard Lawson, on the effectiveness of the system, which is facing cost-saving cut-backs.

Mrs Martlew also confirmed Carlisle City Council hoped to be in a position to accept a hand-out that could help fund CCTV or other measures to tackle antisocial behaviour.

Cumbria’s crime commissioner Richard Rhodes has pledged to give £100,000 to the city council that could go towards paying for the cameras – if it matches this funding itself.

This offer was made to all six Cumbrian district authorities following an ongoing debate over moves to strip back the service, or switch off cameras in various towns and areas.

In Carlisle City Council’s district, all but 15 of the 63 cameras are set to be switched off when the city council’s contract with BT comes to an end as surveillance screens are mothballed to save money.

The cuts are poised to leave only six cameras in the city centre plus nine in council car parks.

Mrs Martlew, city councillor with responsibility for CCTV, said: “As the funding comes with strings attached – it has to be match funded by the council and is only for one year, which makes long-term planning impossible – the acceptance isn’t straightforward.

“We and other district councils have been hard hit by Government cuts and finding funding is extremely difficult.

“We want other organisations to help fund the service that they use, rather than the whole cost being placed on the city council for what is a discretionary and not a statutory service,” added Mrs Martlew.

“In the meantime, I look forward to reading the findings of the report on CCTV.

“If this definitive report establishes CCTV as an essential tool for the police, then I expect them to pay for it.”

The Cumberland News exclusively revealed last week that nearly 480 requests were made in six months for footage from CCTV cameras that are set for the chop under the planned cutbacks in Carlisle.

Police made nearly 1,100 requests in total for images from all the cameras run by Carlisle City Council during the same period – June to December last year.

The city council has said slashes in the Government grant left it with no option but to cut back the service, adding if organisations valued it they should help.

The authority added Brampton parish council had expressed an interest in taking over the maintenance of CCTV cameras in their town.

It said housing provider Riverside, Carlisle’s biggest social landlord, had also indicated it might provide financial support.

Elsewhere in Cumbria, Eden Council has switched off its cameras in Penrith, Appleby and Kirkby Stephen.

Copeland has 20 cameras in Whitehaven, Egremont, Cleator Moor, Frizington and Millom. It stopped live surveillance in 2011-12 and plans to turn them off this year.

Allerdale has CCTV in Workington, Maryport, Aspatria and Wigton.

They are part-funded through private investment until April, but it is uncertain what will happen after that.

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