Street lights in Bexley could be switched off overnight

PUBLISHED: 12:48 06 October 2015 | UPDATED: 17:31 06 October 2015

Street lamps

Street lamps

(c) Ryan McVay

Council unmoved by disastrous results of scheme in Kent

Street lights in Bexley could be switched off overnight under the latest cost-cutting moves by the cash-strapped council.

Undeterred by the utter failure of a similar scheme in Kent, which met with huge opposition and actually ended up costing the county council more money, Bexley is blithely pushing ahead with its plans.

It wants to turn lights off between midnight and 5.30am to reduce its annual £1 million electricity bill – and, although it says it wants to know what people think, is already experimenting with a switch-off in part of the borough.

Bexley Neighbourhood Watch says the blackout could lead to an increase in crime – and that there are other, better ways to cut the bill.

“We are worried about these plans. We feel a total switch-off could encourage criminals and result in increased theft and burglary,” said Dana Wiffen, chairman of Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association.

“We understand that the council needs to cut street lighting costs, but feel low-energy lightbulbs, or alternative street lights switched off is the safest way forward for people in Bexley.”

Over the next four years the council needs to cut around £50 million – a third of its budget - on top of the £60 million it has already been ordered to chop by the Tories since 2010.

Deputy council leader Alex Sawyer said: “We have not taken the decision to implement this pilot lightly.

“We cannot go on spending as much as we do on our street lights. If we can save more than £300,000 a year by making this change, that is money that can go towards a frontline service that unfortunately may need it more.

“We have taken advice from the emergency services and spoken to other boroughs that have carried out the same exercise. We will monitor the pilot and listen to comments at the end to see if it is feasible to roll it out across the borough.”

Ensuring people’s safety might, of course, be considered a frontline service …

The pilot will run for between four and six months and if the council deems it successful, it is likely to be extended across the borough.

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