Bedford Borough Council cut street light spending by hundreds of thousands of pounds in five years

But money has been invested in energy efficient lanterns instead

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 12:15 pm

Bedford Borough Council reduced its spending on street lighting by hundreds of thousands of pounds over five years, figures reveal.

But it says that it is committed to community safety, and that energy efficient lanterns have allowed it to save money.

Councils across England have faced huge financial challenges in the wake of years of central funding cuts, with many forced to review their budgets for local services – including street lights – to save money.

Money has been invested in energy efficient lanterns instead (stock image)
Money has been invested in energy efficient lanterns instead (stock image)

Some have made large savings on carbon emissions and energy bills by switching to LED lights, or by operating partial night-time switch-off regimes for lamps in their area.

But the killing of Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home from a friend's house in London last month, has prompted a wave of concern about women's safety on the streets.

The Government said it is taking a series of "immediate steps" to improve security, including a doubling of the Safer Streets fund – which provides neighbourhood measures such as better lighting and CCTV – to £45 million.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows Bedford Borough Council spent £903,000 on street lights in the area in 2019-20.

That was down from 2014-15, when the council spent around £1.9 million, after the figure was adjusted for inflation – a real-terms cut of 52 per cent over five years.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesman said: “We are committed to community safety and recognise the important part played by adequate street lighting. Consequently the council does not switch off street lighting unless parishes specifically make the request.

“While the overall spending on street lighting has fallen in Bedford borough, a significant part of this is due to the council successfully bidding for funding from the DfT, which helped pay for us to upgrade our street lanterns to LED versions. The lanterns that we installed are far more energy efficient than previous versions, allowing us to make ongoing savings year on year while significantly reducing our carbon footprint.

“Bedford Borough Council has continued to invest over £500,000 of capital funds per year into the upkeep of our streetlights. We also provide a small pot of funds, which allows us to install additional lighting when we receive requests. This funding is prioritised against a number of factors relating to the site we have received the request for, including crime levels, use by vulnerable people, existing light levels and whether it is an enclosed footpath.”

Nesil Caliskan, chair of the safer and stronger communities board at the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said: "Community safety is a top priority for local authorities.

"Despite significant funding pressures in recent years, councils continue to spend and invest heavily on streetlighting, including in upgraded, environmentally friendly lighting which costs less to run.

“Women and girls should be safe walking home alone on any street in the country, at any time of day," she added.