One-quarter of street lights across England have been turned off or dimmed by councils to save money on energy bills, raising fears that public safety is being put at risk.
A survey of local authorities found that 24 per cent of lights have been switched off or turned down – compared with 2.6 per cent in 2010.
Three-quarters of councils are economising on street lighting, the Labour Party survey also found. Surrey Council reported that it was dimming 99 per cent of its lights, while Essex said it had turned off 83 per cent of lights.
Hilary Benn, the shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, said wide areas of the country had “been plunged into darkness”. Fifty councils said they were switching off street lights at night, 98 were dimming lights and 42 were doing both. Nine English town halls didn’t respond to the survey.
In April, Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said he “loves” lights being extinguished because he was “economy-minded” and claimed darkness deterred burglars because they liked “ambient light”.
The next month police in his Essex constituency of Brentwood ordered lights to be switched on because of a sharp n increase in burglaries.
In Devon postal delivery drivers raised fears over their safety this month because of some lights being switched off between midnight and 5.30am. Other councils drawing up fresh plans to save money on lighting include Cambridgeshire, North Yorkshire, Leeds and Hounslow.
A recent survey by Unison found 85 per cent of female members said a lack of street lighting make them feel less safe at night and 70 per cent said it would put them off from going out
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