Proposal to turn street lights off at night across Cambridgeshire

strand08:25 Monday 13th July 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Cambridgeshire County Council has come up with another way of saving energy, turning street lights off at nights. Of course it will also save money, which is in short supply for all our councils at the moment. Those are the positives. Not everyone though thinks this is a brilliant idea, Cambridge City Council worried it could be unsafe and could also hit businesses who function at nighttime. We’re going to be talking very shortly to Lewis Herbert who’s the Leader of Cambridge City Council. First though let’s speak with Tom Blackburne-Maze who is from the County Council. So Tom this is to save money. Is that about the top and bottom of it?
TOM BLACKBURNE-MAZE: Yes that’s part of it. Good morning Dotty. As you are aware the County Council must make considerable savings resulting from the reduction in central government funding that we receive. And to meet this huge challenge, we must make some very difficult decisions to ensure our remaining funds are used where they are most effective.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So what’s the plan? What hours would you be switching the lights off?
TOM BLACKBURNE-MAZE: Well we’re currently proposing to switch street lights off in residential areas that are covered by our central management system between the hours of midnight and six am. And we’re currently consulting on those proposals with local councils, to understand their comments and any concerns that they might have around that proposal.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And so this is residential streets. So not the main thoroughfares.
TOM BLACKBURNE-MAZE: That’s correct.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. And you have presumably considered the type of things that Louis Herbert is worried about, the impact on safety.What have you decided on that?
TOM BLACKBURNE-MAZE: We haven’t made any firm decisions at this moment in time. We’re currently consulting with all the local councils which this affects, and once we’ve received all of their comments we’ll be taking those into consideration before any firm decisions are made.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. Well let’s talk to Lewis Herbert, who is the Leader of Cambridge City Council. Morning Lewis.
LEWIS HERBERT: Morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What are your worries then?

LEWIS HERBERT: Well we’re a city that lives over the night as well as during the day. So the County Council, and I’m glad to hear Tom say currently proposing, is looking from next April to cut lighting across the county. I’d like everybody in Cambridgeshire to have a say. I’d like city residents to have a say. We’ve got a meeting tonight, and as Tom says, they are giving us the opportunity to come back with our views. We want the city centre lit. We want streets that have got crime records lit. We want areas of CCTV lit. We want all of the main walk home routes. In the Draft Plans for instance, Station Road isn’t lit. So we’ve got trains coming in at 2am into the darkness. I appreciate these are draft plans, but on the principle we just don ‘t think our residents want a city like Cambridge in the dark.
DOTTY MCLEOD: You do have tight budgets of course for Cambridge City Council as well, so can you not sympathise with the need to save money?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well we do, and it’s a Conservative government that has capped councils at 2%. But we’ve just had a glorious Big Weekend, and the County Council saying they want to shift the burden of this onto us. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think they’ve also looked Dotty at their obligations under the Crime and Disorder Act. They’ve got responsibilities to keep the place safe, and that’s where lighting comes in at night.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What about that then Tom? Because you have no statutory duty to pay for street lighting per se, but there is this responsibility for public safety.
TOM BLACKBURNE-MAZE: You’re absolutely right, and we will be taking that into consideration. We are liaising with the police, and we just need to make sure that we’re doing the right thing with the monies that we have got, in order that we put those to those that are most in need.
DOTTY MCLEOD: I think you probably know what I’m getting at Tom when I say, is this really up for consultation. Or is it going to happen?
TOM BLACKBURNE-MAZE: Well something is certainly going to happen, but at this moment in time we’re trying to refine those details with local councils, to make sure that when we have to implement something difficult like this, that we are actually taking everybody’s thoughts into consideration, to make sure that we address all of those concerns as much as we possibly can.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK.Lewis, do you feel that your concerns are being addressed as much as they possibly can?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well I am concerned whether this is already a done deal. So if the County Council really is consulting then they need to listen. So we will respond. We will look through all of the draft maps that they’ve come forward with, and we’ll give them the ideas. But we still come back to the point, and Tom isn’t the political leadership, this is such a change Dotty. Everybody in Cambridgeshire should be asked for their views. How does this rank with other priorities for spending? And we’ve had the Libyan crimes. We’ve had other problems at night. We are not just a city that you can just switch the lights off. And there are other ways of saving. I think Tom’s looking at dimming, or may already have dimmed a lot of the lights. Selective dimming of the lights could save a load of energy bills.
DOTTY MCLEOD: If you are so worried about this Lewis, the City Council could always stump up the cash.
LEWIS HERBERT: Well as we said we’re capped at 2%. Tom knows the pressures on the City Council as well. We don’t know what George Osborne’s got in store. That wasn’t part of last week’s announcements. We still don’t know what our spending is for the next five years. And we’ve got huge cuts in housing that were hidden in that Budget, big cuts in welfare. So we’re all in it together. So if we’re all in it together, it doesn’t pay the County Council just to shove a bill across in the hope that the City Council is going to pick up the tab.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. Lewis, thank you very much. Lewis Herbert there who is the Labour Leader of Cambridge City Council. And thanks also to Tom Blackburne-Maze from Cambridgeshire County Council. Talk about these proposals for turning street lights off between midnight and 6am across the whole of Cambridgeshire.