Labour-controlled Caerphilly County Borough Council is forcing through a programme of switching off street lights in residential areas between midnight and 5.30am in a cost cutting measure. The mass Switch Off began in April last year and will continue for more than 12 months.
Many thousands of street lights are being switched off. People, particularly the elderly, have told Plaid Cymru that this action by the council makes them feel less secure and more vulnerable. Turning off street lights should be an absolute last resort.
What the local authority should have done is carry out a test switch-off in a small area and then assessed the impact before deciding whether or not to proceed any further. They should also have asked communities for their views.
Councillor Colin Mann, Leader of the Plaid Cymru Group on Caerphilly Council said:
“This scheme has been operating since April and there is need for a review of its impact so far, including whether there has been an increase in road accidents.
“Older people in particular feel more vulnerable and are worried about a reduction in security because the lights are being switched off.
“During this month’s community council by-election in Bedwas a number of residents told us about their concerns about the impact of this scheme. Dan Llewellyn, the successful Plaid Cymru candidate in the by-election wrote to the council raising concerns.”
Responding to Councillor Dan Llewellyn, the council said: “Where street lighting is installed its function is to assist in the safe use of the highway. Though providing some security benefit up until midnight, any overspill of light from the street lighting should only be considered as a welcome by-product.”
Commenting on the response, Councillor Colin Mann added: “The reply goes no way to allay the concerns of residents.”
Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell, Plaid's candidate for Caerphilly at the next Senedd elections, said: “Street lighting is vitally important to safety and feelings of community cohesion. If street lights are switched off, it means that many people choose to avoid going out after dark, and it increases the risk of attacks on vulnerable people.
"I know that times are tough, but street lighting really is one of the last things we should cut. I hope the council will reverse this retrograde move. It could have many worrying consequences.”
We demand an urgent rethink of this policy, with a view to reversing it. In the meantime, there should be a halt on any more street lights in our communities being switched off.