Street lights off and grass not cut as council slashes costs

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STREETlights across the county could be dimmed or switched off completely to cut costs.

The lights were ranked as the least cared-about service in a public consultation held by Hampshire County Council earlier this year.

The consultation asked residents to nominate areas where they thought money could be cut from and street lighting, weed killing and grass verge cutting came out as the bottom three areas.

Now the council is investigating how far it can cut back in these areas, in an attempt to save between £150,000 and £600,000 as it needs to plug an anticipated £98m shortfall in funding to April 2017.

Councillor Sean Woodward, executive member for economy, transport and environment, said: ‘There were some things that residents did not want to see savings made on and others that they were happy for us to look at.

‘Streetlights and the frequency of grass cutting on verges were just two.’

Cllr Woodward said a further consultation had been launched.

He said that areas such as highway maintenance, education and social care ranked highly as areas where people wanted to maintain funding.

He said successful trials of lowered streetlighting had already taken place, where lamps had been reduced to 25 per cent capacity.

He said: ‘We are likely to be switching them off where people say they do not want them, or need them. Some people would like them switched off altogether to prevent light pollution.’

But executive member for public protection at Fareham Borough Council Trevor Cartwright urged the county to consider carefully the impact to avoid anyone being put at risk.

He said: ‘Hampshire needs to save money, but they need to be careful that they only dim the lights, as switching them off could be a problem as it could give rise to crime.

‘Dimming will save money if the council carries out assessments of areas where they are going to do it.’

Cllr Woodward said grass verge cutting was already carried out by borough councils as the county did not cover aesthetic cutting.

To take part in the consultation, which runs until December 11, go to hants.gov.uk/highwaysconsultation.

A summary of the responses will be on the council’s website before a decision is made by Cllr Woodward on January 19.