'Costly' plan for automatic number plate recognition cameras in Central Bedfordshire scrapped

Wheels were put in motion by previous Conservative administration
An ANPR vanAn ANPR van
An ANPR van

A “costly” plan to introduce automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras in Central Bedfordshire is being scrapped by the new Independent administration on the local authority.

The wheels were put in motion for the rollout of static and mobile ANPR technology by the previous Conservative ruling group on Central Bedfordshire Council.

But its successors in balancing the books say financial concerns are responsible for the decision in the current economic climate.

Council leader and Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny also referred to “questionable financial decisions of the past” in a social media post.

“We’ve worked with council officers since the summer going through the forthcoming budget with a fine toothcomb, looking for any areas of potential savings which don’t have an impact on key services to local residents,” he explained.

“In the process, we discovered the previous administration agreed a scheme to introduce ANPR technology to be used by traffic wardens. This would have required £500,000 of public money eventually.

“This involved buying four new vehicles, while extra ANPR equipment would have cost the council a further £240,000 over a five-year period. The associated licences and maintenance contracts would have taken the total cost to around £500,000.

“We also discovered that traffic wardens would have to get out of their cars to put a ticket on the window of an offending vehicle. This was because of the regulations on public streets, even if a camera in their car showed the vehicle was illegally parked. So there wasn’t even much of a time-saving,” he added.

“We believe the council still needs to do more to improve parking enforcement and have asked officers to step up efforts to recruit more traffic wardens.”

The previous Conservative administration on CBC outlined its plans for ANPR cameras in February 2022.

Then executive member for corporate resources David Shelvey told the council’s executive: “We’ve included almost £13m in our capital expenditure for highways.

“It was also suggested there should be extra spending on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras,” he said. “This is our intention and is already built into this budget.”

Conservative Dunstable Central councillor Carole Hegley asked for clarity over whether there would be ANPR cameras in vehicles, as well as static ones, because of “an expectation in the town” for both.

Executive member for highways and former Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno replied: “ANPR cameras have a number of uses.

“They can be used for goods vehicle weight limits. We also have ANPR vehicles, which we’ve got on order. So we’ll be looking to roll out schemes on both of those across the coming years.

“We’re picking up on the ANPR camera recommendation. There’s new legislation which will allow us to take a look at moving traffic violations. We’ve put money in the budgets to support that and hope as it comes forward we can hit the ground running.”

Earlier this month it was revealed CBC faces an almost £9m budget overspend in the current financial year, after the release of contingency, with work continuing to reduce the deficit.