December 7 2013 Latest news:
Adam Lazzari and
Thursday, October 31, 2013
North Norfolk residents could be asked if they are prepared to accept a rise in council tax to keep CCTV in their towns.
The hike is one of the options being considered by councillors in Fakenham, North Walsham, Sheringham, Wells and Cromer, after they decided unanimously to look at ways to save the network – set to be axed next year.
And if their collective bid fails, one town council has said it would consider launching a legal battle to overturn the decision to scrap the cameras.
North Norfolk District Council’s (NNDC) cabinet voted earlier this month to bin the network, which covers the five towns, in a move which is set to save the authority £200,000 a year.
Town councillors vehemently objected to the decision and have now united in an ambitious bid to save the crime-busting cameras, by asking for more time to work out a business plan.
NNDC, which is set to switch the cameras off next March, gave the towns six weeks to express an interest in taking them on, and another six to come up with a business case.
Town councillors have written to the authority asking for a six-month extension.
Fakenham mayor Adrian Vertigan said: “Several options have been discussed.
“The cost of the service has to come from somewhere and one option could be to ask people if they are prepared to accept a rise in council tax to keep CCTV cameras.
“This could be a considerable rise and it would be a last resort. If we got to this stage, we would definitely consult fully with the public to see what they think.”
Wells Town Council chairman Allen Frary said: “A council tax rise was discussed but is currently not a firm proposal.
“We have no hard facts and figures to work on so we have asked for an extension of six months because it would be impossible for us to make a decision in just six weeks.”
Cromer mayor David Pritchard and Dave Robertson, from North Walsham Town Council, echoed their thoughts but both were keen to avoid a council tax rise.
Mr Pritchard said: “I believe CCTV should continue; however the cost is extremely prohibitive to town councils at the moment.
“If any of us were to go it on our own there would be serious implications for the council tax payer. It is something they’re already paying for.”
Mr Robertson added: “Why should we put the precept up for the people of North Walsham, so the district council can turn round and say ‘aren’t we good boys, we haven’t put our precept up?’”
Other options being considered are to save costs by reducing monitoring time of the CCTV cameras, applying for grants, seeing if businesses are prepared to sponsor the CCTV service, dipping into the town councils’ financial reserves and running the system through a network of volunteers – a system currently used in Gorleston.
If their extension request fails North Walsham councillors have said they will look to challenge the CCTV decision through a judicial review, and have set aside £5,000 for initial legal advice, and a quote to run the system themselves.
The town councils will meet again on November 13, when they hope to have heard back from NNDC.
NNDC leader Tom FitzPatrick said the council had not yet had a chance to discuss the letter. He added: “We said we would work with the town councils and that is what we will do.”