Lowestoft CCTV plea

A clearer picture of the future of Lowestoft's creaking and outdated CCTV security cameras will be revealed within weeks following the formation of a special taskforce.

A clearer picture of the future of Lowestoft's creaking and outdated CCTV security cameras will be revealed within weeks following the formation of a special taskforce.

A working group of councillors, council officers and the police is formulating plans to save and

improve the crime-busting system which has suffered from years of underinvestment and a lack of long-term planning.

Options include privatisation, setting up a partnership with another council or even disbanding the system altogether.

The group is planning regular meetings over the next few months and will present its initial findings to a meeting of Waveney District Council's executive in March.

Councillor Bruce Provan, portfolio holder for housing and social inclusion, is a key member of the working group and insisted he was against getting rid of the cameras.

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He said: "We are looking at all options, but personally speaking, closing them down isn't one of them. We are looking at how we can pay for it and how we can get other parties interested.

"CCTV is crucial to prevent crime, but also to help catch the perpetrators of crime."

The EDP revealed the perilous state of Lowestoft's CCTV system in August when it emerged there had been occasions when there were no staff to monitor the cameras in the control room.

The quality of the pictures provided by the analogue cameras was also called into question and council officers spoke of the need to upgrade the system to digital.

Chief Insp Paul Bradford, Suffolk police's new commander for the Waveney area, said: "We are supporting the council with the review.

"We do see the value of CCTV, not only from the point of view of helping us to deter and reduce crime, but also the reassurance factor it can have for the public. We are keen to work with the council to take matters forward."

CCTV was introduced to Lowestoft in 1998 at a cost of £210,000, with £135,000 coming from the Government.

More than 30 cameras are operating in the town and the current budget for operations and maintenance is about £80,000 a year.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard demanded answers from the council when revelations about the cameras first emerged and said he was pleased progress was now being made.

He added: "I met with the chief executive and he assured me the council was committed to community safety and the use of CCTV.

"I very much welcome that; it's exactly what the people want."

District councillor and town shopkeeper Andrew Shepherd, who is also a member of the working party, said: "I think the only possible outcome is that there will be a newer system. I think CCTV gives a certain amount of security to people."