Bognor Regis town council faces dilemma on CCTV

A crucial decision will decide the fate of CCTV cameras in Bognor Regis.

Town councillors are being asked to pay more to ensure the crime-busting equipment in the town centre and along the seafront continues.

They will discuss the matter at their council meeting on March 12. Their decision will respond to Arun District Council’s request for more money towards the operation of the 12 cameras.

District councillor Simon McDougall raised the matter at last week’s budget debate at Arun. He said later: “To my mind, it will be an undue burden put on the electorate of the four wards of Bognor.

“It’s a cost which should be borne by the electors across all of the district because people from all over the district come to the town centre and benefit from the cameras.

“We have got used to them and I would be very concerned if they were switched off. That would mean we would have no security coverage in the town, particularly at weekends when, obviously, the nightlife is is considerably larger than it is during the week.”

The nine cameras around Bognor were officially switched on in September 1998. Three extended the coverage into Felpham the following August.

It is believed the town council has since paid £2,000 a year towards their running costs. Arun wants to move that to a 50:50 split in line with the costs other councils with cameras – Littlehampton and Rustington – will pay though the new amount involved has not been revealed.

Arun’s councillors have stressed they want the cameras to stay on.

Cllr Paul Wotherspoon, in charge of the district council’s cabinet community safety work, said: “Our own research and that of Sussex Police shows how valuable CCTV cameras can be in helping to make people feel safe.

“This was demonstrated again by the results of a recent survey of Bognor town centre traders – a joint initiative between Arun and the town council – where traders said security cameras are a top concern for them.”

Sussex Police operates and maintains the cameras across the district on behalf of Arun for an annual fee which was about £30,000.

In April 2009, councillors voted to end this annual payment from next month in a £3.2m package of savings.

However, the operating part of the contract with Sussex Police has since been renegotiated to a reduced yearly cost of some £21,000.

Arun’s leader, Gillian Brown, said: “We faced some very challenging decisions in 2009, as we will face in the future, and £30,000 was a significant annual saving.

“But we and Sussex Police have been working hard to bring the cost of the contract down and have also asked the relevant town and parish councils if they will contribute more towards the annual cost of running the cameras.”

The town council declined to comment about the matter because it regarded it as confidential.