Liberal Democrat Councillors have criticised Tory-run Surrey County Council after it was revealed that residents who are set to lose their street lighting at night were not formally consulted on the proposal.
At a meeting of the Council's Cabinet on Tuesday 18th October, the ruling Conservative administration agreed proposals that would see 44,000 lights switched off between midnight and 5am. However a consultation which was carried out in August that boasted a 75% approval figure for the plan, was actually conducted through the Council's residents' panels, drawn from people all over the county, rather than those specifically affected by the turning off of street lights.
Furthermore, a study published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) into the correlation between crime, road safety and the turning off of street lights was also cited by the administration as evidence to proceed, with the assertion that "the LSHTM found no link between street lights being dimmed or switched off and any increase in road accidents or crime", although the same report contains a rather stark disclaimer in its conclusion:
"it is important to note that it does not mean that this will be the case under all conditions, and so changes to lighting should be managed carefully".
Councillor Stephen Cooksey, Liberal Democrat Spokesman for Highways & Environment said:
"It seems logical to me that the people the County Council should have consulted with were the residents who were having their street lights turned off, rather than a panel of residents spread out around the county. Holding a consultation in August when so many people are on holiday and unable to respond does not sound like a sensible idea either. Instead the Tories are claiming to have carried out a consultation that endorses their policy, which is misleading to say the least.
"My experience is that most people are keen to see additional lighting in poorly lit areas, and this has been even more the case in the light of continued reductions in police resources. The Conservatives are making a political choice to reduce funding for services but at the same time increasing council tax. To take people along with them in their decision making, the Tories at County Hall shouldn't be afraid to engage with residents and ask them what they really think of this proposal, rather than hiding behind a disingenuous and flawed consultation".