A COUNCILLOR is calling on Warwickshire boss Coun Izzi Seccombe to apologise for suggesting calls to keep streets lit at night were a ‘bandwagon’ issue.
Labour group leader Coun Helen Adkins has written to the Warwickshire County Council Conservative leader demanding a review of the part night-lighting system after safety fears were raised following the case of suspected murder victim Sarah Everard in London.
During a question and answer session last month, Coun Seccombe had responded to a question about keeping some street lights on in essential areas by saying that while she empathised with fears of walking in the dark, the issue ‘seemed like a bandwagon to jump on’ ahead of May elections, and warned councillors not to make ‘knee jerk reactions’.
Coun Adkins has since accused the leader of ‘dismissive language’.
She wrote: “It has been particularly disappointing, Coun Seccombe, to hear you minimise local people’s concerns by referring to this as a ‘bandwagon’ issue.
“Residents’ calls have been met with ridicule and inaction. A review of street lighting can and must be done in consultation with local people, and we urge you to understand their experiences before using such dismissive language.
“We hear over and over again how women, and girls in particular, just want to feel safe walking down their street. There also needs to be more safety for night shift workers.
“Many street lights are environmentally friendly and affordable now, so this decision cannot only be about money. Even if it was simply a question of money, you have already both hiked local council tax considerably in recent years without addressing this issue. So much more needs to be done to reduce the fear of crime and the reality of daily occurrences of harassment, stalking and violence.”
She has also urged Coun Seccombe to apologise.
In response, Coun Seccombe said she recognised the fear of crime played a part in people’s wellbeing, but said the lighting policy did not appear to be associated with a crime increase.
She told the Observer: “The tragic death of Sarah Everard shocked and saddened everyone at Warwickshire County Council. We want our streets to not only be safe but to feel safe too and we will continue to work with partners across the county to keep people safe.
“We recognise however that fear of crime is an important aspect of peoples’ feeling of wellbeing and that people are currently, understandably, feeling extremely concerned. Since its introduction, we have regularly monitored the policy and evidence shows us that the introduction of part-night lighting is not associated with increases in crime.
“We understand people are anxious and we value the views of our residents. The petition will be very carefully considered.”
Of the 50,000 streetlights operated by the county council, 35 per cent are on all night if they meet a criteria including being close to potential road hazards, care homes and A&E departments, and in alleyways and along cycle paths away from roads. The rest turn off at midnight from Sunday to Thursday, and 1am on Friday and Saturday nights.
The authority says since the introduction of the part-night lighting in 2013 and LED technology, streetlighting electricity consumption has reduced by nearly 60 per cent.
A petition to keep all lights on all night through launched by resident Chloe Fojtik has so far been signed by 3,500 people.
A motion is set to be proposed by Independent Stratford councillor Jason Fojtik, seconded by Liberal Democrat councillor Victoria Alcock, at a Stratford District Council meeting on Monday (April 19), to demand the county council turns on all street lighting throughout the night with immediate effect.