Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex are among the shire counties that are losing their streetlights or seeing them dimmed, a survey by Labour has revealed.
Cuts to local government funding by the Tory-led government and high energy prices have driven 75% of the councils in England to either turn off or dim at least some of their streetlights at night.
Conservative controlled Surrey County Council has dimmed 99% of its street lights, 74% of lights have been dimmed in Hampshire, while in West Sussex the Tories have switched off 42% of lights and dimmed 21%, in East Sussex 31% of lights have been turned off and 25% dimmed.
Street lights ensure that people are safe on our roads and feel safe walking home," Hilary Benn MP
The proportion of streetlights being switched off or dimmed at night has soared under the Tory-led government from 2.6% in May 2010 to 24% of all streetlights now.
Labour’s Salford City Council carried out a self-funded invest-to-save retrofit to modernise street lighting, through Urban Vision, a joint venture partnership. Following a successful pilot study of 2000 retrofitted street lights in 300 streets, the council will refit a further 24,000 lights, covering nearly every street in the city
Hilary Benn MP, Labour's Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, said: "Street lights ensure that people are safe on our roads and feel safe walking home, especially at this time of the year when the nights have drawn in.
“Our research shows however that significant areas of Britain have been plunged into darkness since May 2010 as a result of David Cameron and Eric Pickles’ policies. Eric Pickles has even boasted that he ‘loves’ switching off streetlights, which will do nothing to reassure people walking home in the dark.
“David Cameron and Eric Pickles need to tell their shire councils to get their act together and do what forward-thinking authorities are already doing by investing in new technologies like LED lights to save money on electricity bills and keep residents safe.”
Notes for Editors:
141 councils of 150 responsible for street lights answered Labour’s survey.
50 councils are switching off some streetlights and 98 are dimming some streetlights at night.
106 are doing one or the other.
42 are doing both.
35 are doing neither.
Effect on shire counties
|%age of lights switched off||%age of lights dimmed||%age of lights either switched off or dimmed|
National Audit Office Report
The National Audit Office recently reported that cuts to councils were bearing down on frontline services.
“The Government will reduce its funding to local authorities by an estimated 28% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2014-15. Further planned cuts will bring the total reduction to 37% by 2015-16, excluding the Better Care Fund and public health grant. Although there have been no financial failures in local authorities in this period, a survey of local auditors shows that authorities are showing signs of financial pressure. Over a quarter of single tier and county councils (those authorities responsible for social care and education) had to make unplanned reductions in service spend to deliver their 2013-14 budgets. Auditors are increasingly concerned about local authorities’ capacity to make further savings, with 52% of single tier and county councils not being well-placed to deliver their medium-term financial plans…
“Local authorities have tried to protect spending on social care services. Other service areas such as housing services (-34%) and culture and leisure services (-29%) have seen larger reductions. While local authorities have tried to make savings through efficiencies rather than by reducing services, there is some evidence of reduction in service levels.”
Alternatives to switching off streetlights
Labour’s Salford City Council carried out a self-funded invest-to-save retrofit to modernise street lighting, through Urban Vision, a joint venture partnership. Following a successful pilot study of 2000 retrofitted street lights in 300 streets, the council will refit a further 24,000 lights, covering nearly every street in the city. The project will reduce the street lighting energy bill, currently £1.2 million per year, by 50% and the maintenance budget, of £0.8million per year, by 70%, saving nearly £20 million over the next two decades. The retrofit will also provide nearly a third of the 30% carbon emission reduction target the council aims to reach by 2013. The system makes further energy savings by reducing light intensity, but not switching the lights off, between midnight and 6am.
Eric Pickles’ attitude to streetlights
Earlier this year Eric Pickles was quoted in Basildon, Essex, as criticising Tory Basildon councillors who wanted Tory Essex County Council councillors to put streetlights back on:
“In a time when we are on the cusp with regards to our electricity supply, we can’t have lights burning all night on the off chance someone wants to get out and do aerobics at 3am.
“I love it because I am economy-minded. It’s saving a phenomenal amount of money, it’s decreased crime because burglars love ambient lighting, it’s nice to see the night sky and, as someone who lives in a main street that has had its lights cut off, I can get a good night’s sleep.”
A few weeks later local police demanded the streetlights be switched back on, as a result of a spate of burglaries.
A systematic review of streetlighting by Cambridge criminologist David Farrington in 2008 concluded that “improved street lighting should continue to be used to prevent crime in public areas. It has few negative effects and clear benefits for law-abiding citizens.”
Studies of Bristol, Birmingham and Dudley support a beneficial effect of improved street lighting on crime, with an average 20 percent decrease in crime in experimental areas compared to control areas. In Dudley, the area with improved street lighting experienced a significant decrease in crime, and those living in the area reported feeling less fearful of crime, with a significant increase in the number of female pedestrians on the streets after dark.
The former Local and Regional Transport Minister Norman Baker MP said in 2011 that “good street lighting is vitally important in cutting road accidents”.
The AA have done extensive research on the impact of streetlights being switched off on road safety, finding it has contributed to road deaths and injuries.
 Urban Vision (Urban Vision website)
2 Salford Street Lighting Retrofit Programme (Urban Vision report)
3 Welsh, B.P., Farrington, D.C. Effects of improved street lighting on crime. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2008: 13.
4 Farrington, D.P., Welsh, B.C. (2004) Measuring the effects of improved street lighting on crime- a reply to Dr Marchant. British Journal of Criminology 44, 448-467.
5 Painter, K. and Farrington, D.P. (1997) The crime reducing effect of improved street lighting: The Dudley project. In Clarke, R.V. (Ed.) Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies (2nd ed.). Guilderland, N.Y.: Harrow and Heston (pp. 209-226).
6 Department for Transport press release