Council slashes street-light spending in Nottinghamshire by 47 per cent -- thanks to energy savings
Nottinghamshire County Council reduced its spending on street lighting – including in Mansfield and Ashfield – by more than £4 million over five years, new figures reveal.
But it insists the dramatic fall can be attributed to energy-efficient savings, not cost-cutting.
Councils across England have faced huge financial challenges in the wake of years of government funding cuts, with many forced to review their budgets for local services to save money.
Street lighting has been one of the areas under review, with some authorities, including Nottinghamshire making large savings on carbon emissions and energy bills by switching to LED lights.
It has also managed to reduce spending without the need to switch off lights through the night, unlike some councils.
Data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government shows the council spent about £5.3 million on street lights in 2019/20.
This was down from 2014/15 when the council spent about £10m after the figure was adjusted for inflation. It represents a real-terms cut of 47 per cent over five years, much higher than the England average of 15 per cent over the same period.
However, a spokesperson for the county council, Gary Wood, head of highways and transport, explained there was a very good reason for this.
He said: “There has not been a reduction in street lighting across the county.
"Any reduction in spending is down to reduced energy costs as a result of making efficiencies with LED upgrades.
"Over the last five years, we have invested an additional £13 million into street lighting through the LED project.
"We have seen a decrease in our energy budget thanks to our investment in a more efficient infrastructure to reduce energy levels and carbon emissions.
"In fact, since the project began, we have saved more than 62 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, amounting to a saving of £7.5 million and a reduction of nearly 55,000 tonnes in carbon-dioxide emissions,
"Last year, Via East Midlands, who manage the highways on behalf of the county council, won the 2020 Association of Public Sector Excellence Street Lighting Innovation Award for the LED upgrade project.
"The introduction of LED lighting has also meant that all of our lighting remains on throughout the night.
"Our investment in street lighting doesn’t stop there. In 2020/21, a further £150,000 was invested in street lighting improvements as part of the Newark Safer Streets project and a further £125,000 to upgrade the NET tram line to LED lights.
"On safety, we continue to work closely with the police with regard to lighting improvement around the county.”
Street lighting is considered essential to help make the streets safe at night.
It has become a hot topic since the killing of Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house in London.
The Government says it is taking a series of steps to improve security, including a doubling of the Safer Streets Fund to £45 million. The fund provides neighbourhood measures, such as better lighting and CCTV.
Nesil Caliskan, chairman of the safer and stronger communities board at the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said: “Community safety is a top priority for local councils.
"Despite significant funding pressures in recent years, councils continue to spend and invest heavily on street lighting, including on upgraded, environmentally-friendly lighting.”