Last week the Labour Party criticised councils for reducing street lighting. I have noted before that there has been something of u-turn from Labour on this. When there was a Labour Government there was constant pressure on councils to cut back on street lighting – to reduce carbon emissions rather than any great interest in saving money.
The efforts to make this a party political issue are also contrived. Labour have complained that the councils with the highest ration of street lights being turned off or dimmed are Conservative ones. That makes no attempt to recognise attitudes to street lighting are different in the countryside to the cities. A very Zone 1 mentality. Where Labour are in control of the countryside their councillors have often backed turning off lights – Labour-run Derbyshire has turned off 40,000 of them.
The BBC reported emotive examples where it was claimed that reduced traffic lighting had caused deaths. They did not report contrary examples where accidents have apparently been caused by drivers being blinded by lighting.
The latest figures show a decline in the number of road casualties. Essex has seen a fall of 28 per cent compared with the annual average for 2005-09. (The measure is for the number killed or seriously injured by billion vehicle kilometres – the alternative measures also show a big fall in the number of accidents in that county.) England has seen a fall of 15 per cent. Yet the Shadow Communities Secretary Hilary Benn has portrayed Essex County Council as the great villain.
I don’t say that those figures prove reducing street lighting improves safety. There will be lots of factors involved. But they certainly cast doubt on Mr Benn’s claim to have proved the opposite.
The Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said:
“This is complete hypocrisy from the Labour Party, given when in government, the likes of Ed Miliband and Hilary Benn bullied and cajoled councils into cutting street lights as part of their climate change zealotry in Whitehall. This Government values the role of street lighting – but it should be a local decision, street by street, on what local residents actually want in their neighbourhood.”
This is an example of where localism should be allowed to triumph. Local people know their roads best. Labour’s attack is dishonest as they do not propose increasing Government funding to local authorities. Indeed it is pretty obvious that a Labour Government would implement further cuts. If councils are to be ordered to turn the lights back on then Mr Benn should be challenged as to where he feels they should make the cuts instead.