Street lights switch-off as council cuts spending
By DOMINIC BAREHAM THE safety of elderly villagers could be threatened if South Cambridgeshire District Council decides to go ahead and cut street lights, councillors have warned. The concerns of Sawston parish councillors were the result of the district
By DOMINIC BAREHAM
THE safety of elderly villagers could be threatened if South Cambridgeshire District Council decides to go ahead and cut street lights, councillors have warned.
The concerns of Sawston parish councillors were the result of the district council's decision to cut 103 footway lights in the village.
They felt this would affect Sawston particularly badly because of the large number of elderly people living there.
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The parish council decided it would not take on the responsibility for the lights, but would write to the district council instead to express its concern that it was not consulted before the decision was made.
Other letters will be sent to Cambridgeshire County Council, as well as South Cambridgeshire MP Andrew Lansley, to complain about the cuts.
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District Council representative Paul Quigley told last Tuesday's parish council meeting the cuts had to be made because the government had capped the council's budget, requiring spending to be reduced by 24 per cent.
The result was that services had to be cut and as the district council did not have a statutory duty to provide the footway lights across the area, it decided it could save the £66,000 it spends annually.
If Sawston council had decided to go ahead then the annual cost of maintaining each light would have been £34, with an additional £700 to £1,000 for replacement costs.
Currently, the district council as the lighting authority is responsible for maintaining 1,800 footway lights across 83 parishes.
But the parish council is also a lighting authority and its decision not to take on responsibility for the lights means parts of Sawston will almost certainly be shrouded in darkness when the district switches off on April 1.
Councillor Jackie Smith told the district council representatives: "You can't be responsible for leaving this village in darkness at this time of year with lots of elderly people living here.
"I think it is disgusting."
But district councillor Daphne Spink, portfolio holder for environmental health, said if the parish council took over the street lights there would only be a one per cent increase in the council's precept and, in any case, the county council would be taking on responsibility for some of the lights.
She said: "Sawston Parish Council, however, has not been capped and has the power to step in and take over funding of the lights if they wish to. The parish council also has a responsibility to make their streets safe.
"If the parish council does not step in the lights will have to be switched off from April 1 and eventually removed. I would therefore urge the parish council to reconsider their decision in order to save the footway lights.