You may remember the curious decision of Preston City Council to leave its City Centre CCTV system without live monitoring twice a week in order to save £10,000. As that Council’s former lead officer for reducing crime, I was stunned by this decision, and asked those shortlisted for nominations for Police and Crime Commissioner to join me in condemning the decision. This included approaches to the 3 shortlisted candidates for Labour, who all want to reduce crime in Lancashire, but who all have a pressing need to secure Labour member’s votes, including those in Preston, which is under Labour control.
And then Ibby Master responded, for which he gets credit, and we will discuss his response below. On refreshing the memories of the other 2 Labour candidates as to my approach, Mark Atkinson responded to say he didn’t plan to comment, and Clive Grunshaw just didn’t respond. Perhaps he is waiting for his response to come back from the typing pool? (See this article and comments if you don’t get that reference)
Ibby Master’s response was straightforward enough – the cuts to CCTV monitoring were the inevitable response to Coalition cuts, so the responsibility lies with the Tory-led coalition, not with Preston Labour group whose hand was forced. There’s more, and I will put the full response in the comments to this article, to distinguish it from the main text.
Sadly, I can’t get the cross-party response to this issue that I was hoping for. To me, knowing that Preston City Council’s budget is measured in the tens of millions, it was clear that the damage caused by moving from 24-hour monitoring was disproportionate to the £10,000 saved. I’ve managed crime reduction in 3 partnerships since 1998, and for years (though not at Preston) I was the Head of Service and budget holder for CCTV. I have received letters and emails from one Divisional Police Commander after another in thanks for the work of this or that CCTV operator whose actions and skill have kept someone safe, seen an offender arrested, secured property, or done all three. These successes were only possible because the service was monitored live.
Last year I was at Preston Crown Court and listened to a prosecutor recounting the facts in open court behind this case, where an asylum seeker jumped on and attempted to rape a student in the small hours in Preston City Centre. On that occasion he got away, and was apprehended soon after, but this decision by Preston City Council only makes it more likely that this sort of crime will take place, will possibly progress beyond an attempt, and that the offender will escape without being brought to justice. To accept that impact for £10,000 off a multi-million budget is madness.
Live monitoring is expensive, and CCTV systems that are not monitored live have their place, but certain areas such as a city centre require live monitoring, and the reassurance and deterrence that CCTV provides is substantially damaged without it.
It is not good enough for Ibby Master to exonerate Preston Council and blame the coalition, or for the other candidates to stay silent, especially Clive Grunshaw. At Lancashire Police Authority, both Ibby and Clive voted to reject a government grant of £2 million this year, choosing instead to raise Council Tax by £1.7 million, and leave the Police Authority and Lancashire Police £300,000 out of pocket. With that they could have helped Preston City Council out of this difficulty 30 times over, while still having lower Council Tax bills for Preston’s residents.
Blaming ‘the cuts’ is further evidence they just don’t get it.
This is Ibby Master’s full response.
Preston Council’s CCTV monitoring decision “inevitable”.
Ibby Master, one of Labour’s shortlisted candidates for Lancashire’s Police & Crime Commissioner position believes that Preston Council’s decision to reduce CCTV monitoring was inevitable.
When asked to explain his conviction Mr Master’s views were emphatically partisan “I concur wholeheartedly that CCTV cameras can and do provide a valuable tool to fight crime and, in addition, provides reassurance to our communities. However, under the current regime of cut backs, and then further cut backs, from the Tory-led Coalition Government, I have to put the blame for the reduction in monitoring of CCTV cameras, please note not a loss of cameras, entirely at the feet of the Coalition Government rather than Preston City Council. The cutbacks have forced the hands of not just this Council, but that of many others too, leading to an inevitable reduction in many services.”
Mr Master continued, “the Coalition have made cut backs too fast and by too much. Since this Tory-led coalition came to power 5,000 Police officers have already been removed from service. Ironically this is happening at a time when the British Crime Survey reported the biggest rise in personal crime in a decade. And to compound our misery still further more cuts are on their way:
– 20% cut to the Police Force Budget leading to a loss of 16,000 Police Officers by 2015
– ASBOs are to be scrapped (Lancashire has issued more than 750 since their introduction in 1999)
– The definition of domestic violence for legal aid is to be narrowed
– Over 6,000 staff are to be cut from the UK Border Agency
Compare this to when Labour left office in May 2010.
• There were a record numbers of police officers on the street, with over 16,500 more than in 1997
• In addition there were over 16,000 new Police Community Support Officers
• Crime fell by 43%: the chance of being a victim was at the lowest since records began.
Labour’s record on Law & Order was exemplary compared to the current governments appalling record. I will be campaigning heavily in the local council elections bringing the current Government’s appalling record to peoples’ attention. As someone who has been actively involved in making Lancashire one of the UK’s best-ranked constabularies, I will be explaining to our communities the many ways a vote for Labour actually stops the erosion of their security and services; and hence make the streets of their neighbourhood that much safer again”.
– ENDS –
18th April 2012
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Sam I fear you may have strayed some way past your balanced position and arbiter of a website that seeks to offer a relatively unbiased presentation of the facts. I personally would find the £10k or accept that the logical conclusion of the policy is to scrap the live monitoring altogether. The first time an incident took place (such as you described) 10 mins after someone had clocked off, the community would be so incandescent that they CCTV partnership would be looking for several new members. This is a no brainer. The reason why I think you have strayed is your criticism of the decision to put up the precept. This was so clearly a manipulative ploy by the Government who pretend they believe in localism, yet like their predecessors use their view of what is acceptable or what they want to achieve to shape the offer of the funding settlement. By all means criticise Preston for what is very inconsistent approach on their CCTV but leave your personal view of how to handle the poisoned chalice of the precept outside of this website if you want to remain aloof from the fray (my own response is indicated in question 1 from Jon Harvey – see my website home page).
Oh, I don’t want to remain aloof – you know I don’t shy away from expressing my view, whether they be in favour of the government’s proposals or against. As I find one analysis more attractive, I support that party and my personal views will tend to be with them more often than not, but it is not slavish loyalty. Rather than refrain from expressing views myself, I seek to provide balance by inviting others to express their views, and the reader can make thir own judgement.
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