Streetlights which were dimmed or turned off as part of cost-saving measures by Cambridgeshire County Council have been turned back on, following a meeting earlier this month.
Since April, some 33,500 streetlights were dimmed by 60 per cent in the county, with another 23,500 switched off between 2am and 6am – a decision which led to floods of complaints from residents.
“This decision was the wrong decision,” county councillor for St Ives, Paul Bullen, said.
“It was a knee-jerk reaction to having to save money and my view is that the first priority is the safety of the residents and two of the main things, especially in the winter, is gritting icy roads and having lights when it’s dark.
“There are a lot of people who have problems with sight and they can’t see when the lights are switched off.”
In St Ives, town councillors also expressed concern over crime and safety.
“I think it [reversing the decision] makes the council look better,” he said.
“If the council is prepared to put it’s hand up and say ‘Look, we did something in the best interests of the electorate, but we now admit we got it wrong and will put it right,’ then I think the public will think more of us for doing that than just defend the decision made in the first place.”
As part of the reversal, parish, town, and city councils will also no longer have to pay to keep their lights on themselves – something which would have cost around £13,000 for St Ives.
Instead, the county council has taken on the cost again, with money coming from general reserves.
In the long-run though, Councillor Bullen, who put forward the motion to turn the lights back on, says he hopes funds from the council-owned Cambridgeshire Housing and Investment Company will help.
“The county council has a significant portfolio of land and property assets and we need to realise that,” he said.
“The prime aim [of it] is to raise revenue and that will be ploughed back into the council to provide frontline services, which includes social care for the elderly. We can’t keep increasing council tax. In my view it’s an unfair tax, it’s regressive, and it actually penalises the poor to provide services.”
Since the meeting on December 13, lights will now be lit throughout the night, with adjustments having been made by the council’s contractor Balfour Beatty.
Councillor Mac McGuire, chairman of the highways and community infrastructure committee, said: “Following the council’s decision, which was supported by the majority of members, the lights are now back on.
“This means that lights will be brought back to the levels they were before the changes were made and residents should start to see the changes from now as the thousands of lights are reprogrammed. I would also like to thank all the councils and communities that worked with us to look for alternatives and local solutions.”