A controversial suggestion to scrap the town council’s funding of Princes Risborough’s CCTV cameras was branded “absolutely ridiculous” by a councillor who fears if they were taken away, gangs and vigilant groups could return to the streets.

Cllr Andy Ball suggested the £20,000 Princes Risborough spends on maintaining three CCTV cameras in the town could be better spent on looking after various parks that currently suffer with vandalism – but his fellow councils criticised the idea at a town council meeting on September 26.

He said: “£20,000 a year is roughly eight per cent of our budget. It is just my feeling that it is quite a lot of money to pay and it could be invested in our parks instead. Rather than the council deciding whether we should keep it on, maybe we could ask the residents.

“In the last two years, CCTV has only led to one arrest. Why pay £20,000 if it doesn’t serve any good at all? I'm not saying we should completely scrap it, we could re-site it to look after the parks.”

However, Cllr Alan Turner reminisced about the “horrendous” time before CCTV cameras were installed in 2007, when there were “fights up and down the street”.

Saying the suggestion made his “blood boil”, he said: “We were incurring costs throughout the town centre for criminal damage of tens of thousands of pounds a year. Shop keepers were going bananas, I was getting phone calls almost every evening from one retailer or another making threats and asking why I hadn’t personally got CCTV installed. I was told I would end up with blood on my hands if we didn’t have CCTV soon because the situation was so bad.

“There were running fights up and down the High Streets with gangs because we had very little police. There was an attempted bank robbery where a JCB was used to try and dig out a cash machine. A vigilante group was set up and police were so concerned. There was a jewellery robbery and another group of residents armed themselves with baseball bats.

“It was a town in crisis. The moment we put CCTV in it stopped - it has done its job and it is brilliant. It is a deterrent, it isn’t there purely to get arrest figures up. It is absolutely mad that we are even discussing this.”

Cllr Ball accused Cllr Turner of “scaremongering”, adding: “I've got a lot of time for you Alan but I don’t know if you’ve been on the old gin and tonics tonight. I've been in Risborough for 20 years and I've never heard so much scaremongering in my life. I have never seen gangs of yobs roaming round the High Street or a vigilante group.”

The motion put forward by Cllr Ball – to cease payments to Wycombe District Council for the CCTV – was not seconded and failed.