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Part-night lighting review rejection: "a slap in the face"
Complaints and recommended changes to the controversial part-night lighting scheme have been confined to the trash bin after the results of a day-long review were completely ignored.
A meeting where the policy of turning off the street lights between midnight and 6am, held in October, has been described as a waste of time and taxpayers’ money after its findings were rejected by Hertfordshire County Council.
Councillors voted unanimously to turn on lights in areas used by people walking home from jobs or nights out, and to turn off lights in areas that are not used.
However, cabinet member for highways Terry Douris rejected each of the seven suggestions, claiming the scheme needed to be "definitive and consistent".
Liberal Democrat group leader Stephen Giles-Medhurst said: "We have been led up the garden path.
"A promise of a review was widely used by Conservatives in May’s county council elections, but it has turned out to be a whitewash as no changes are to be made.
"We suggested a way of getting some lights back on without it costing the county a penny, but even this was turned down. Clearly we were all conned and the process has turned out to be a charade.
"Not one of the suggested changes that allows for local flexibility have been accepted by the Conservative hierarchy. That is a disgrace."
Greater flexibility to allow councillors to turn on lights in places like cul-de-sacs, areas with busy night life, and routes commonly used by pedestrians at night were voted for during the review.
However, councillor Douris said: "The current policy, whilst not universally popular, nor universally unpopular, is definitive and consistent, which is important when in the face of public or legal challenge.
"This will create inconsistencies geographically and through time, given that members may change at elections and may have different funding priorities.
"Increasing lighting will immediately increase our costs and carbon impact. This would contribute to additional costs, which would necessitate the council to find savings elsewhere."
A further suggestion to move towards LED lighting "when it is financially viable and reliability and efficiency has reached a level to make a scheme viable" will be considered next year.
Stephen Giles-Medhurst said two years ago some areas, including Colonial Way, had to be lit overnight due to historical crime levels or pedestrian usage, and could now be turned off.
Councillor Douris said: "I agree that areas could be converted in instances when the request is made by the local members and supported, in writing, by the local Chief Inspector and by the local community.
"I do not feel that any change to the policy is appropriate at this time."
Labour councillor Nigel Bell said: "Despite petitions and residents complaints about the policy and the Tories saying they would listen to alternative views they have just cast aside those other views.
"County councillors were hoping to be given greater flexibility to keep lights on but on reading this it seems to be largely rejected, again so much for the Tory County idea of ‘localism’ and members being able to respond to groups and petitions in the particular area.
"What do we tell the shift workers and women and the vulnerable who are afraid to venture out after midnight especially if they have no alternative because it is for their job?
"What is the point of a one-day scrutiny if it is not going to be listened to and taken seriously by the Tory controlled County Council?"
Councillor Giles-Medhurst added: "The overview and scrutiny committee unanimously wanted change. All three parties agreed this; we expected some of these if not all of them to be implemented.
"This is first time I can recall that a review has come up with a series of recommendations and all of which have been rejected by the executive member.
"It is a waste of time and tax payer money to hold these meetings if they are going to be ignored. People have been let down and completely ignored.
"This is a huge slap in the face."
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