STREET lights could be dimmed from 8pm on some Sheffield streets as the council aims to cut £50m from its huge road repair programme due to start next year.
The idea has been put forward by council officers in response to the Government asking for savings on the £674m highways private finance initiative, which is designed to improve roads, footpaths, bridges and street lighting.
Already the 25-year project has been delayed from starting this summer to next April at the earliest and Sheffield will have to demonstrate the efficiency of its detailed strategy alongside two other authorities, the Isle of Wight and Birmingham.
After years of being labelled ‘pothole city’, the council has every expectation that its aim of repairing all roads, footpaths and street lights will be realised but elements of the massive programme are being scrutinised.
Suggested responses include dimming street lights from 8pm in some areas, switching them on later and turning them off earlier.
Savings could also be made by not replacing newer lamp-posts, scrapping plans for extra street lights and grit bins and not replacing missing roadside trees and problematic drainage gullies. The life span of traffic lights and street lights could be extended from 25 to 30 years and there could be a reduction in the number of road inspections.
Liberal Democrat council leader Paul Scriven has made securing the highways private finance from the coalition government initiative a top priority.
City Labour transport spokesman Coun Bryan Lodge said: “I am shocked that Coun Scriven can come out and say there will be no reduction in the scope or quality of the project. The requirement to buy extra grit bins is part of a programme to expand their number across the city each year due to increasingly severe winters.
“Additional street lighting was for areas which haven’t enough at the moment, to make them safer at night. Dimming the lighting was part of the original scheme but it was only to be done for a three-hour period, in the early hours of the morning and not in heavily-pedestrianised areas.
“Changing the settings so lights come on later in the afternoon and go off earlier in the evening means duller roads at dawn and dusk – at what risk to safety? And extending the life span of columns and equipment would create a maintenance backlog.”
Coun Scriven said: “Nothing has yet been agreed. The vast majority of savings we are making will be from changing arrangements for interest and payments rather than the actual work.
“Resurfacing of all roads and pavements will go ahead as promised. Regarding replacement of trees, separate funding has been allocated for Community Assemblies to decide what trees should be replaced and regarding the lights, they will be dimmed but not to an unsafe level. It will save the taxpayer money and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“We will not be doing what some Labour-run councils are doing and turning lights off completely. With replacement of equipment, we are looking at ways to ensure costs are kept to a minimum and if installations become dangerous before the end of their life span, they will be replaced.”