October 24th, 2016

Lighting deal not such a bright idea

Updated: 4:40 pm, May 07, 2015

A COSTLY deal with a private firm means new street lights continue to be installed across the city despite hundreds more being switched off.

The city council signed a £250million contract with Balfour Beatty back in 2007 to replace every city street light up to 2015 and then maintain them up to 2035.

It means around 250 street lights newly-installed by the firm have since been turned off by the cash-strapped council.

Bosses will save £60,000 per year by turning off lights on Kenilworth Road and parts of the A45 to go along with a trial – launched in December 2012 – to switch off columns on the A444.

But they have said they are unable to renegotiate the Balfour Beatty deal despite admitting with hindsight the deal might not have been done at all.

City development chief Coun Rachel Lancaster told the Observer: “There has only been a maximum of 250 columns – out of thousands – that we have put in and then not needed. And we didn’t know we didn’t need them at the time.

“Had we known there was going to be a global economic crisis that hit the UK then we would have known the impact that would have. At the time this was the best offer we could get.”

But she added: “Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it is still a good deal that gives us flexibility.

“It has proved its worth because year-on-year we have saved money and if we hadn’t entered into the contract there would be no facility to dim or turn off individual lights.

“If there’s an increase in crime or an accident then we can turn them on instantly.

Good response

“We’ve had a lot of positive comments from residents and by and large the public response has been good.”

Warwickshire County Council has saved hundreds of thousands of pounds by switching off street lights at night – even in residential areas.

But the policy has provoked angry responses from locals and was even branded a factor in the death of a Warwick University student who was hit by a taxi in a road covered by the switch off although a recent report found crime had actually fallen in dark areas while deaths and serious injuries had risen but only slightly.

Coun Lancaster told us the council was considering every option in its bid to balance the books against a backdrop of harsh government cuts.

She said it would have considered a mass light switch off if the Balfour Beatty deal had not been signed.

“Any money we save on hardware has to go back to Balfour Beatty – we have to spend money with them as part of the contract – but we’ll save around £60,000 in electricity costs and carbon tax per year.

“We have no intention of turning lights off in residential roads.”