It’s going dark: streetlights to be turned off in Rugby to cut council costs

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A MOVE to switch streetlights off after midnight has raised fears over the safety of people out at night.

A bid to save £500,000 a year on electricity bills will see lights turned off from midnight until 5.30am throughout Warwickshire.

It could see the majority of the county council’s 49,000 street lights switched off.

The move could see the county’s street lighting bill fall from around £2.2 million per year to around £1.7 million.

And it will save Shire Hall thousands in a forthcoming Government charge of £12 per tonne of CO2 used.

At present, to power the county’s lighting produces 15,000 tonnes of CO2, meaning a potential yearly bill of £180,000.

Warwickshire Police and the county council have been in close consultation over the move and stressed that crime hotspots, town centres, busy junctions and other areas will be looked at closely before decisions are made on which lights will be switched off.

George Stepney, community protection manager for Warwickshire Police, said with “managed risk and professional judgement” the savings have to be considered.

He said: “There’s lots of our communities that already have restricted lighting.

“There has always been that fear of crime at night, but most crime takes place during the day.

“A lot of it is fear of crime and the perception of crime but the reality is that at night a lot of people are at home safely locked away.

“We’ve done a lot of work with the county council as regards high-footfall areas and where there are crime hotspots.”

Liz Welsh, volunteer co-ordinator of the charity Safeline, which offers help and advice to victims of rape and sexual abuse in Warwickshire said darker streets could make people feel “vulnerable and quite unsafe”.

She added: “A lot of our clients have suffered rape which will make them feel even more vulnerable if there are no street lights.

“This needs to be looked at very carefully and consideration needs to be made for those frightened of crime and those who have been victims of it, particularly sex crimes.”

A county council spokesman said around £1.6 million would be spent buying and installing timer equipment for the street lights and all of it will be bought by the start of April, 2013.

A “task and finish” study group deciding which lights go off, which includes police, councillors from every district council and borough in the county, the three main Shire Hall parties and council officers, is scheduled to finish its work in September.