07:38 Wednesday 6th January 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: Cambridge City Council says it’s willing to stump up the cash to keep the lights on in the city centre if the County Council goes ahead with plans to switch them off overnight. Eight town and parish councils have also said they’d be willing to contribute, including Grantchester, where Dave Webster has been for us this morning.
DAVE WEBSTER: It’s very eerie out here. It’s almost like a Sherlock Holmes novel. There’s a lot of fog. There’s a lot of mist. It’s very dark. It’s very very cold underfoot as well. We counted about three streetlamps in the centre of the village. Well it would save £270,000 a year to turn even more off, but Cambridgeshire County Council’s plans to switch off most of the streetlights in the county between midnight and six am proved very very controversial, with people concerned about crime and also their safety. Well the County Council asked both the public what they thought of the idea, and other small authorities if they’d be willing to contribute towards the costs of the switch-off. Of the councils that responded, eight of the town and parish councils including Grantchester Parish Council said yes, they would be willing to contribute to all or some of the streetlights. Fourteen said that they wouldn’t consider it. Cambridge City Council has said it’s willing to pay two-thirds of the costs, between two am and six am, a proposal the County Council says it will consider. Well I’m joined by Cambridge City councillor Ann Sinnott. So Ann, why has the City Council decided to find the money for these streetlights?
The County Council has a duty of care to provide for the safety of residents in the city. And as I said, there are real safety concerns.
ANN SINNOTT: Well I think first of all you have to bear in mind that the Highways Committee haven’t yet met, and its decision hasn’t been formally made. We are at City hoping that even at this late hour they will reconsider this plan.
DAVE WEBSTER: So this is really important to you.
ANN SINNOTT: It’s absolutely an ill-conceived plan. It has real safety issues for the city, so we’re hoping they will reconsider.
DAVE WEBSTER: Can you just say one of those safety issues?
ANN SINNOTT: If you look at the results of the public consultation more than 50% are women, and of those who strongly disagree with the plan, more than 64% are women. Two-thirds of comments came from the city. A third of those were from students. The overwhelming majority of those were also women. So women have real fears.
DAVE WEBSTER: Can the City Council afford this? Does this mean that money won’t be going to other areas?
ANN SINNOTT: Yes of course, because unlike the parish councils, we cannot raise the precept, ie the parish council version of council tax. Parishes can levy a charge, an extra charge on their residents. We in the city cannot. Our council tax is set nationally. So we cannot raise council tax to pay for this. So of course we have to find the money elsewhere. And I would just say that if we do end up in this compromise situation, I would much rather see the County Council reducing switch-off hours from two until five in the morning, because between five and six in the morning, there are about half a dozen or so trains that come in and out of Cambridge with commuters. There are shift workers going to and from Addenbrookes in that hour also. So that would be a better compromise because it would be a 50% compromise on the hours.
DAVE WEBSTER: One very final brief question, has the County Council passed on their financial troubles to you?
ANN SINNOTT: The County Council? Well yes. You know we all have great sympathy with the County Council. All councils have sympathy with other councils, because we’re all in the same situation. We’re facing more massive cuts. But the County Council has a duty of care to provide for the safety of residents in the city. And as I said, there are real safety concerns.
DOTTY MCLEOD: That was our reporter Dave Webster in Grantchester earlier on this morning, meeting with City councillor Ann Sinnott. We do have this statement from Cambridgeshire County Council whose plans these are to switch off or dim streetlights across the county at some point. They say: “We’ve been working closely with authorities across Cambridgeshire to find local solutions and understand the various needs of the areas. Many councils have come forward with offers of paying for lights, and we welcome Cambridge City Council’s suggestion which will be looked at by councillors.