Lancashire County Council reduced its spending on street lighting by more than £8m over five years, figures reveal.
Councils across England have faced huge financial challenges in the wake of years of central funding cuts, with many forced to review their budgets for local services – including street lights – to save money.
Some have made large savings on carbon emissions and energy bills by switching to LED lights, or by operating partial night-time switch-off regimes for lamps in their area.
But the killing of Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house in London earlier this month, has prompted a wave of concern about women’s safety on the streets.
The Government said it is taking a series of “immediate steps” to improve security, including a doubling of the Safer Streets fund – which provides neighbourhood measures such as better lighting and CCTV – to £45m.
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows Lancashire County Council spent around £5.6m on street lights in the area in 2019-20.
That was down from 2014-15, when the council spent around £14m, after the figure was adjusted for inflation – a real-terms cut of 60 Per cent over five years.
Across England, street light spending fell by 15 per cent in real terms over the same period.
Nesil Caliskan, chair of the safer and stronger communities board at the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said: “Community safety is a top priority for local authorities.
“Despite significant funding pressures in recent years, councils continue to spend and invest heavily on streetlighting, including in upgraded, environmentally friendly lighting which costs less to run.
“We are pleased at the extension of the Safer Streets Fund, but its primary aim is to tackle persistent street crime and burglary, so while helpful to see increased funding for crime prevention measures, there needs to be a renewed focus on measures that will effectively tackle violence against women and girls.”
She added that there needs to be a “wider societal cultural shift” towards preventing abusive and violent behaviour.
“Women and girls should be safe walking home alone on any street in the country, at any time of day,” she said.
In parts of the country, calls have been made for street lights to be switched back on at night over safety fears.
Petitions launched in Lincolnshire and Warwickshire have each attracted thousands of signatures, while Essex County Council is reportedly reviewing a 2014 decision to switch off 70% of lamps in the area.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government is committed to doing “everything we can” to make the streets safe for women following Ms Everard’s death.