Generally local government has managed to absorb both a reduction in Government funding and a freeze on Council Tax bills – while increasing the level of satisfaction with the services provided. However reducing the amount of street lighting is certainly controversial. Personally I have long advocated reductions where prudent – not just to save money but to reduce light pollution which makes it harder for us to see the stars.
But really this is a classic case for applying localism – the arguments for reducing or increasing lighting will vary from one street corner to another.
Reducing street lighting may well increase fear of crime – that is an important consideration. However in Essex the reduction of street lighting has been followed by a reduction in night crime.
Anyway Labour are now trying to exploit the issue. They are highlighting the number of councils cutting back in this area – without going so far as to say that under a Labour Government it would be any different.
Labour used to tsake a rather different line.
When the Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Hilary Benn was DEFRA Secretary in 2007, he launched the Carbon Trust Standard which pressed councils to reduce street lighting as part of the Local Authority Carbon Management Programme.
When Yvette Cooper was Minister for Housing and Planning she said in 2004:
“We all recognise the fact that there is a series of tensions around light pollution. People in the cities will never have the same view of the night sky as one can get in the middle of Dartmoor… There can be tensions too at neighbourhood level between the security-obsessed householder who has glaring white security lights stuck to every corner of the house, which flicker on every time a little bird flies past or the cat runs across the garden, and the neighbour who… has a telescope and cannot see across the garden, let alone into the skies”
When Ed Miliband was Energy and Climate Change Secretary in 2009 his fellow departmental minister Joan Ruddock said:
“DECC is working to include street lighting in the Carbon Reduction Commitment. This will provide an incentive for local authorities to improve the energy efficiency of street lights. DECC is working closely with Communities and Local Government to develop the policy, in so far as it relates to local authorities.”
Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis says:
I would suggest the last person out of Labour HQ tonight should turn off the lights.