Big switch off could spark ‘compo’ claims

A leading Lincolnshire councillor has ruled out the chances of a U-turn on a decision to switch off thousands of street lights across the county.

Residents have condemned Lincolnshire County Council’s policy of turning off lights to save money.

There have been claims it will plunge communities into the ‘dark ages’ and spark a huge increase in crime.

Now, Coun Colin Mair - the UKIP leader at County Hall - has admitted that while he understands the concerns of residents, there is no turning back.

Coun Mair is warning the council could be hit by a rush of compensation claims from people who suffer an injury in areas where lights are turned off.

He said: “The information I have is that crime figures have not spiked in areas where lights have been switched off.

“That was the principal worry but there is a second worry about injuries.

“Basically, the advice given to people is buy a torch.

“That’s something we are used to in rural areas but it’s different in towns and cities.

“I can understand why people are concerned.

“The lights are switched off between midnight and 6am. There is an obvious concern for shift workers and people who have good reason to be out at that time.

“I am concerned for vulnerable communities which include elderly people.

“We have several of those (communities) in my patch (Coningsby and Tattershall) and it does not take a very big crack in the pavement to throw these people off balance.

“Add in it being pitch dark and we have created a risk. I can see the compensation claims coming in.”

Coun Mair welcomed the installation of new LED lights but stressed the changes to lighting hours were too advanced to consider a re-think.

He added: “It’s not just street lights. Footway lights are being switched off. They are mainly the responsibility of district councils.

“Towns and parishes have been offered the chance to keep lights on - if they pay for them. The only way small councils can do that is by increasing the precept.

“People are already fed up that they are paying higher council tax bills for less services.

“First, it was cuts to social care and closing libraries and toilets - now lights. People know councils need to save money but putting up precepts is like a stealth tax.”