Up to 33,000 street lights in Surrey may be switched off every night between midnight and 5am as a cost-cutting measure planned by Surrey County Council (SCC).
Perhaps if things are a bit tight and they want to save a few bob the County Council gumbies should think twice about investing £58m on a “risky” £100m venture with “Your Waverley?”
The five-hour switch-off could be introduced to quiet areas on October 1. It is intended to save as much as £240,000 this financial year.
Cllr Mark Brett-Warburton (Con, Guildford South-East) said: “There have been reductions to the grants SCC receives from the Government and therefore we are working as hard as possible to reduce the impact it has on increases in Council Tax.
That’s funny and there we were at the Waverley Web thinking that our council taxes had been increased .
“It isn’t street lighting in particular that is being targeted, but one of many areas across the whole spectrum of services being reviewed to ensure budgets are used as effectively as possible.
That’s alright then spending £58m on the Brightwells/East Street development in Farnham, even though legal experts warned them they could be entering a “very risky venture” with their Waverley friends.
“However, the technology in SCC’s street lights means we have the ability to set different lighting patterns, and so because of this, it has been included as an area for exploration.”
The measure, which is being considered due to ever-increasing demand for council services and a simultaneous reduction in government funding, has given rise to concerns over possible effects on motorist and pedestrian safety in and around Guildford.
Maybe someone at Gumby Towers on the Planet Zonk might consider that dumping the county in the dark, might… just might cost other authorities more money, than they will save? The emergency services picking up the young, the old, and the motorists from ditches?
Cllr Pauline Searle (Lib Dem, Guildford North) said that, while she understood that the council’s budget was under increasing pressure from limited government funds and an ageing population, she was concerned about the impact such a measure would have on early morning commuters.
What about all those poor devils who work during the night. All those nurses, doctors, paramedics, firemen, police officers, shop workers, etc…
“We know many people work night shifts and have early morning starts,” she said. “These residents will be travelling when the lights are off and could be very vulnerable.”
Cllr Searle also suggested that the switch-offs might have implications for Guildford’s night-time revellers: “Guildford has a very lively night-time economy, and though the town centre will not be affected, once [people] travel out of Guildford to go home it could be in an area with no lighting.”
Guildford resident George Proudman said he was concerned for the safety of pedestrians travelling in the dark.
“It probably would increase danger to pedestrians,” he said, “if they’re, say, coming home from nights out or coming back late from work.
“In general I’m against it, but if there are actually valid savings that could be put towards something else that’s as important, then maybe it’s worth it. I’m not passionate about streetlights, but they’re something I’d rather have.
“Ultimately the council needs to decide whether the money that they’ll save outweighs the dangers of turning off street lights.”
Helen Naisby, who lives on one of the quieter streets in Guildford, which might possibly be targeted by such a measure, believed that switching off the street lights was a better alternative to cuts to other services, like Social Care.
“Sounds like a very good way to save money,” she said, “if you can save that much; but I would be concerned about safety if areas are thrown into darkness. It would have to be done in selected areas.
“I think [the measure] would impact me. Not that I’m driving hugely between the hours of twelve and five in the morning, mostly, but maybe [SCC] should think about people walking home on weekends.
“Maybe weekends they could leave them lit longer, factoring in that people go out on late night parties and might be more inclined to be coming home late.”
Roads throughout Surrey will be assessed by council officers over the coming months before the planned implementation of the “Part Night Lighting” in October. As a result, Cllr Brett-Warbuton said that it is not yet clear which roads in the Guildford borough will be affected but the impact on Guildford was likely to be low.
Cllr Searle concluded: “I would hope this will be a trial period, say of sixth months, to be assessed to see that there has been no adverse impact on residents’ safety or crime.”