SOME 10,000 street lights in Northern Ireland are not working due to budget constraints, a leading member of the province’s legislative assembly has revealed.
The Social Democratic and Labour Party representative for Mid-Ulster Patsy McGlone, who obtained the milestone figure from the Department for Infrastructure, said the scale of the problem was ‘alarming’.
It’s an increase of 1,200 faulty luminaires recorded at the start of 2018, when 8,811 lights were described as defective by civil servants at Stormont.
The problem is due to a collapse in funding.
Spending on street lights over the last 12-month accounting period was £2.6 million, while a mere £900,000 is allocated in the budget for the current period.
McGlone wants action and money to tackle the issue.
‘Over recent months we have been reporting street lighting faults on an almost daily basis in every part of my constituency,’ he told the Belfast Telegraph.
‘The response has sadly been that, due to budgetary constraints, the department is only providing a limited street lighting repair service, with priority given to emergency repairs, group outages and all day burners, followed by single light defects.’
McGlone believes good street lighting was essential to deter crime and give residents a sense of security.
‘Adequate street lighting is imperative to provide safe streets, deter crime and anti-social behaviour and – crucially – provides elderly residents with security and safety and the assurance that they are not isolated and alone.
‘In some areas a single light can be 50 per cent of the lighting in a cul-de-sac, so the fact that one light is out makes a real difference.
‘I was advised this was due to budgetary constraints and, until additional funds became available, only a limited repair service would be possible.
‘I subsequently sought an intervention from the permanent secretary and sought details as to the extent of the problem.
‘To my astonishment, the department have now confirmed that almost 10,000 lights are out at present across the north.
‘This is unacceptable and is a direct result of budget cuts.
‘Do people really think that when you strip out vital financial and human resources from a basic service that it will have no impact?’
In 2018, a report compiled by the Department for Infrastructure stated that it was ‘possible’ that ALL street lights in Northern Ireland may have to be turned off in 2020 if no new money was found for maintenance.
In what it described as the ‘best possible scenario’, the budget report warned that 25 per cent of all Northern Ireland’s 286,000 street lights could go black.