No U-turn on Leeds City Council street light switch-off

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Leeds city Council will NOT be reversing its controversial street-light switch off policy, or using a £6.6m ‘windfall’ to install low-energy light bulbs instead, despite a senior parliamentary colleague’s apparent backing for the idea.

A meeting of Leeds City Council’s full council heard last night that the authority is sticking with its policy of part-switching off some street lights from midnight to 5.30am in many parts of the city, in a bid to save £1.3m over 10 years.

Speaking during a question and answer session yesterday, leader of the opposition Lib Dem group councillor Stewart Golton, quizzed the city’s transport and economy boss Richard Lewis on the issue, asking if he agreed with Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn.

Mr Benn was quoted recently as saying that councils should switch to low energy bulbs rather than switching off lights, as “street lights ensure that people are safe on our roads and feel safe walking home”.

Coun Lewis replied: “Not entirely.”

Mr Benn had been speaking in the context of national Labour Party research, which found that more than 100 local authorities had been switching off or dimming street lights in recent years as part of cost-cutting measures.

The YEP reported last month that Leeds City Council was set to receive a £6.6m refund following the resolution to a long-running dispute over a failing streetlighting PFI contract and a series of performance-related issues and counter claims.

Coun Golton said at the time: “Instead of saving money at the expense of people’s safety, the council could invest in this new technology to cut their energy bills instead.”

Responding to Coun Golton’s renewed calls, Coun Lewis explained to the chamber that the authority was “unfortunately not in the position where 
we can speculate to accumulate”.

Using the refund cash as suggested would not “solve any problems in the long term” he added, and the money could only “be helpful in the short term when it comes”.

“I don’t think we are in a position to not switch off street lights,” Coun Lewis told colleagues, adding that local authorities of every political party were in similar dilemmas.

“Not many of them will be saying they will leave [street] lights on,” he said.

Coun Golton had previously pointed out that neighbouring Wakefield Council had announced its new LED bulbs should save £1m every year.