The Great Switch-Off '96

The Cambridge Evening News of 19-Jan-1996 reported that the County Council's Transport Services Committee have been forced to cut spending by 1.8M and planned to: The City Council's Safer City Steering Committee protested to the County Council but the County Council seemed determined (reluctantly) to make the City streets more dangerous anyway.
(CEN 22-Jan)

As Mike Fiske said in a CEN letter on 23-Jan,

It then emerged that in some areas 1-in-4 streetlights could be switched off, since in others none would be, for safety reasons. And due to the way they are wired up, whole streets might have to be switched off. Coun. John Reynolds (Conservative, Girton) pointed out that this ridiculous policy would cost a lot of money to implement. Lamps switched off because of it would have to be marked clearly to prevent false fault reports.
(CEN 2-Feb-1996)

P.C. Vic Smith, who writes a safe-driving column for CEN, pointed out the dangers (7-Feb-1996): "...lives will be put at risk." "Fatal and injury accidents cost the county 150M in 1994."

County Councillor Dave Kelleway, Labour transport spokesman, was quoted as saying there was no evidence turning off lights led to more accidents or crime.
(CEN 22-Mar)

Some parish councils protested by refusing to cooperate with the County Council in planning the switch-off (CEN 21-Feb-1996). They would have done better to explain why each light is needed. Also, as the Opinion column said, "we do not want to hear tales of officials overruling local objections. They will not have to live in the dark."

Some details (based on John Reynolds' CEN letter of 15-Feb-1996):

As of 7-Mar-1996 (CEN, quoting LibDem County Councillor Geoffery Heathcock), the County Council started reviewing the decision, due to public pressure. The savings would still have to be made, all the more because of the recently-announced 1.9M loss by the County Council transport department's labour force, Cambridgeshire Construction, just before it was privatised. Strangely close to the supposed 1.8M savings requirement which started all this...

The Transport Services Committee agreed to consult local councils, offering them the chance to pay for their lights to stay on.

Cambridge City Council Transport subcommittee decided to pay 27,500 to the County Council to keep all the City lights on - Coun. Heathcock claiming it as a LibDem victory (CEN 22-Mar). It's hardly surprising he opposed the switch-off - he was also chairman of the Cambridge City Police Consultation Group at the time and was aware of the crime-reduction effect of lighting. The City asked the County to contribute 4,000, representing the savings to the County of not going through the exercise of switching lights off
(CEN 2-Apr).

In early July the County Council received an unexpected 400,000 from the Government, to be spent on roads, and decided to scrap the switch-off, for this year at least. The City Council will be able to use the 30,000 it earmarked for schemes such as improving street lighting.
(CEN 4-Jul)


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