THE “appalling” process for reporting CCTV faults in Westhoughton is putting people at risk, a meeting was told.

In a heated council debate, Cllr Phil Ashcroft, Conservative member for White Horse, described the system as “not fit for purpose”.

The discussion followed revelations that four of the seven cameras in Market Street were not working during an armed robbery at the Co-op store on January 6, which came two days after the Betfred store was targeted.

Westhoughton Town Council cited the festive season and high winds as reasons for faults being left unaddressed for as much as a month.

It emerged that an engineer went to repair a camera on December 20 — 17 days before the Co-op raid — but felt it was unsafe to use a cherry picker because of high winds.

Westhoughton town clerk Christine Morris, who works 18 hours a week, is responsible for sanctioning repairs to cameras.

This means faults — which can require BT, security firm ADT, or an electricity provider to fix them — can go unaddressed for up to three days when she is not working.

Council leader, Cllr David Chadwick, who has previously declared his support for the current process, said the council will never be able to get it “100 per cent right”.

On request from Cllr Ashcroft, members agreed to review whether an emergency procedure for reporting faults can be introduced.

Cllr Chadwick said only the town clerk could conduct such talks with contractors.

The council spent £14,000 on CCTV upkeep and crime prevention in 2013/14, with £20,000 earmarked for this during the next financial year.

It paid £4,000 for new cameras last year and has set aside £2,700 of next year’s budget for this.

Members agreed Mrs Morris should include the number of hours cameras are down in her annual budget report in January, so they can decide whether the CCTV provides value for money.

Cllr Ashcroft, who voted in favour of extra funding for CCTV a few months ago, said: “It is totally unacceptable — people are paying for these cameras and these agencies don’t seem to care whether they work or not.

“We are putting the people of Westhoughton at risk.”

He also questioned why, following a recent discovery, a camera on the post office in Market Street is sometimes filming only the back of a sign had not been reported by Emerson, who monitor the cameras.

Cllr Chadwick said the process for fixing faults is not straightforward, as multiple firms must investigate to see if they are responsible.

No arrests have been made in connection with either robbery.