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.