WOKINGHAM town is to finally get a new CCTV system.
Town Council bosses took the decision this week following months of anti-social behaviour and violence in the town.
Up to £15,000 will be spent on deploying cameras around the town hall covering the main trouble spots.
The decision has been largely welcomed although it is not known when the work will begin or if CCTV will be rolled out to other parts of the town.
In recent months there has been growing concern over a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour in Wokingham with repeated calls for cameras to be installed.
Calls for new CCTV began in earnest at Christmas when decorations, including some made by Wokingham school children, on the Market Place Christmas tree were trashed several times. An estimated £3,000 worth of damage was caused by the thoughtless vandals.
Shop owners have been hit by repeated vandalism attack, including seeing shop windows smashed in SpecSavers and Kerry Roberts Barbers. Some have warned they could be forced out of town due to increased insurance and repair costs.
There has also been a spate of vandalism on cars and assaults on people enjoying a night out in the town, some of which have been reported inside.
And last week, there was revulsion following the news that a man had been stabbed in Station Approach. An 18-year-old has been released on bail in relation to that attack.
The decision to install CCTV around the town hall has been largely welcomed although there are claims of electioneering in the run up to the May elections: all town council seats are up for grabs as well as some Borough council seats.
Conservative candidate for Wescott East in the Wokingham Town Council elections, Dave Davies, said: “With the increase in anti-social behaviour within the Town and recent stabbing I am delighted that the Council have authorised the funding needed for the Town Council to install necessary CCTV in the Town.
“I look forward to working with the Police and Borough Council to help deter this behaviour and ensure that criminals are brought to justice.”
Imogen Shepherd-Dubey, LibDem candidate for Emmbrook ward in the town council elections, described CCTV as “a deterrent not a solution”.
“I fully support cameras, but they are not the be all and end all. We badly need more police presence on the streets of the town, especially at weekends when the pubs are closing as that is when a lot of anti-social behaviour occurs.
“There are other parts of the town where there is anti-social behaviour so will they also be covered? CCTV can be helpful but it is still necessary to identify those caught on camera.”
However, Labour group leader on Wokingham Borough Council, Cllr Andy Croy, described the news as “a gesture”.
‘It’s typical of Wokingham’s Tories that they announce a gesture like this just before an election. They have done it with their expensive and pointless future survey of residents’ views of Tory overbuilding and they are doing it with this project.
“£15,000 does seem a little cheap for a complete system offering decent coverage. I suspect we will get a token camera or two but most of the town will not receive any extra reassurance.
“If a decent system can be obtained then my residents in Woodley will be furious that once again it is one rule for Wokingham Town and another for Woodley Town.
“Hopefully the camera will record just how dangerous mixed pedestrian/parking areas are and will be used to show the number of near-misses that occur every week.
“I note the same meeting also included a presentation of gifts to retiring councillors. The absurdity of our Council Tax being spent on gifts shows just what a cosy little club we have.
“I am sure residents will make their views known on May 2.”
Editor’s note – the print edition mistakenly referred to Cllr Croy as a candidate in this year’s borough elections. He is not and we are happy to set the record straight.