Minister criticises authority over CCTV

ONE of the government's most senior ministers has rounded on a Suffolk authority whose costly mistake may have denied some Suffolk communities CCTV cover for ever.

ONE of the government's most senior ministers has rounded on a Suffolk authority whose costly mistake may have denied some Suffolk communities CCTV cover for ever.

John Denham, who is Minister of State at the Home Office, has expressed his disappointment over the withdrawal by Mid Suffolk district council from a spy camera initiative that would have covered small towns and villages in the heart of the county.

Councillors let £62,000 of government funding slip through their fingers after they had won the grant to set up a wandering CCTV scheme for small and isolated communities. When they realised too late that they would have to foot the bill for running costs themselves, councillors pulled out.

The Home Office are now said to be reluctant to allow the authority another chance of landing again such a highly prized handout, a view sure to dismay those hoping to cut crime in the mid Suffolk area.

The fallout from the row has united figures across the political divide as Mr Denham gave vent to his feelings in a letter to Tory MP David Ruffley, whose constituency includes parts of mid Suffolk such as Needham Market and surrounding villages that are directly affected by the embarrassing bungle.

"I share your disappointment that this CCTV scheme will not be implemented," wrote Mr Denham. "Given that the prospectus for Round 2 of the crime reduction programme stated clearly that bidders would be required to meeting revenue costs and run properly regulated schemes, I am surprised that Mid Suffolk District Council should raise these issues at such a late stage."

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Mr Ruffley branded the foul-up by the Lib Dem - Labour run council "pathetic" and called for council leader Penny Otton to apologise.

"It's been made clear to me by the Home Office that if they make errors of this kind, they have screwed up any chance of receiving any further funding for CCTV.

"This is a Labour minister telling Mid Suffolk they did not do their sums."

Last month the council installed 11 CCTV cameras in fixed positions in Stowmarket, a move widely welcomed but which also raised the possibility of displacing crime from one place to another.

Residents in Needham Market are now fearful that crime will continue to go unchecked in the town, which is only a couple of miles away from Stowmarket.

Town mayor Ian Mason said: "If you are a villain and you know there's cameras in Stowmarket but there isn't in Needham Market, where would you go? The town council was very disappointed that the CCTV was scrapped. We have a minority of hooligans here who nevertheless cause us so much grief."

Nigel Smithson, executive director at Mid Suffolk, said that there had already been an extensive correspondence on the matter and that Mr Denham's opinion was a "non-event".

He added that the council had looked into the issue of crime displacement when they investigated the viability of the scheme.

"There were some questions from members of outlying areas on this matter but based on the evidence we had seen there was nothing to substantiate that claim.

Mr Smithson added that mobile camera schemes were run under different planning rules to permanent cameras.

"They would have only been in Needham Market once a year for a month because of the planning differences."

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