Female safety at night brings into question cuts to streetlights

Concerns over switching off Powys street lights have been raised again amid a nationwide debate on preventing violence against women.

Street lights In Llanidloes at dusk
Street lights In Llanidloes at dusk

The decision to switch off some streetlights in the county was taken by councillors over a decade ago as part of a cost cutting exercise.

But recent events, highlighted by the murder of Sarah Everard in London earlier this year bring the decision into question.

Last month, Met Police officer, Wayne Couzens was jailed for life for Ms Everard’s murder.

At Powys County Council’s Finance Panel meeting on October 8, councillors discussed the proposed cuts and savings from last year that have been rolled over to this financial year.

Councillor David Thomas asked if council heads of service considered “public opinion” before going ahead with savings.

He had noted that a “cost reduction” of £13,820 made from a review street lighting from the 2019/20 budget had been rolled forward to this year.

The saving, according to the report would be made by limiting council funding to “conflict areas only.”

The report added that the council wanted town and community councils to pay for any additional streetlights.

Cllr Thomas said: “There is an emphasis on violence against women, and rightfully so, it’s a high-profile issue, I’m surprised to see that a reduction in street-lighting should still be in there.

“My understanding of conflict areas is that they are things like hospitals, fire stations older people’s accommodation, but the savings seem very limited, only £13,280.

“I think the rationale behind all of that has now changed considerably, if it is a proposal for a reduction there could be a backlash.”

The council’s head of finance, Jane Thomas said: “They were all approved by the council for delivery as part of the budget setting process, the impact assessments would consider that.

“If things have changed, services would need to factor that in as they further consider delivery of these, my understanding is that will have been done.

“I understand there were savings in previous years, and this was the tail end of it.”

When the 2020/21 budget was set in March 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the council had expected to make “cost reductions” of £12.394million.

The report shows that £9.453 million or 76 per cent of these was achieved, but £2.941 million was not.

Of this sum, £1.744 million was passed forward to be achieved in 2021/22.

Originally for the 2019/20 a review into street lighting with a hope that town and community councils could pay for local lighting needs, saving £150,000, was reduced to £75,000

This was because it was feared that darker streets would help criminals.

Earlier this year Cllrs Joy Jones and Les Skilton started a campaign to switch lights back on.

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