POLITICIANS did not consult residents over whether they wanted their street lighting switched off at night but did spend almost £200,000 asking paid consultants their opinion about the cost-cutting measure, it has emerged.

The county council’s Conservative administration has come under fire from opposition parties who say the money should have been spent consulting the public over the controversial scheme.

However the man in charge, portfolio holder for highways and transport Stuart Pile, dismissed criticism over a lack of public consultation saying he doubted it would have produced a "useful conclusion".

Records seen by the Watford Observer show Hertfordshire County Council was invoiced by Ducreux Limited, which specialises in reducing energy use, at the end of every month between April and December last year.

Each bill was for around £20,000 and the total amount spent was £190,434.82.

The news comes as a film noir-style detective drama, created to educate Hertfordshire residents and cut food waste, has been branded "a massive waste" of taxpayers’ money.

The professionally-produced three-part video titled "Waste Not, Want Not" tells the story of private investigator Rex Green’s efforts to save the county from a compost catastrophe.

It was commissioned by WasteAware, a partnership between Hertfordshire County Council and other local authorities, to explain the issues around properly separating food and garden waste from other rubbish. The cost was £21,000 and it has been watched just over 1,000 times.

Councillor Rob Prowse, Lib Dem environment spokesman, said: "The film itself seems a massive waste."

Ducreux worked with the council on the part-night lighting scheme, where the street lights are switched off between midnight and 6am.

It also offered advice on how to secure a new company to provide street lighting when the council's own contract runs out later this year.

Since the switch-off was implemented in south west Hertfordshire last year it has proved highly controversial with residents.

A petition on the county council’s website has collected more than 4,000 signatures demanding the lights be turned back one.

Nigel Bell, Labour county councillor for Holywell and Vicarage, branded the £200,000 spend on consultants "a joke" and said the money should have been used to consult residents instead.

He said County Hall should rein in its spending on other things before turning off critical services like street lighting.

Councillor Bell said. "There is a massive amount of spending the county is doing that they should be looking at. It looks to me that they have got their priorities wrong.

"Our policy is that we want the lights back on as it is a question of safety and crime."

Liberal Democrat leader Stephen Giles-Medhurst said all consultancy spending should be examined.

He said: "You shouldn't need to consult on street lights, they are things that only turn off and on so what is there to consult over?

"The questions is, has that bill been included in the estimated saving, because it certainly wasn't detailed in the council's cabinet."

The scheme has also been beset by technical problems which has led to repair work on more than 40,000 lamps .

Concillor Pile defended the spend on consultants saying the council consulted the company on a range of issues.

He said: "They haven't just been helping with part-night lighting, but they have had an extensive engagement.

"If you consider that £200,000 is the cost of four council officers, they've actually saved us a considerable amount of money.

"We don't have the expertise in house to do the work which is why consultants like this are set up.

"Any consultation with the public would have cost considerably more than £200,000 and a useful conclusion would have been difficult to come to."

"Ducreux have reduced our energy cost irrespective of part-night lighting, and cut 6,500 to 7,000 tonnes of carbon through part-night lighting."