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Residents being left in dark for up to three weeks despite £1m fund to fix street lights

By Noel McAdam

Published 26/11/2016

Minister Chris Hazzard
Minister Chris Hazzard
Nichola Mallon

Faulty street lights across Northern Ireland are taking almost three weeks to repair.

The average turnaround time is 13 working days, Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said.

That is the gap between any faulty light being reported and fixed, he told SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon in a written Assembly answer. Based on the five-day working week, it is equivalent to nearly three weeks.

The delays are in spite of a £1m-plus injection to tackle the backlog of malfunctioning lights.

And almost £60,000 has also been paid out in compensation for injuries caused by defective lights in the last year.

Mr Hazzard was unable to state which areas of Northern Ireland are suffering worst.

"Unfortunately it is not possible for my department to provide a breakdown of response times by constituency," he said.

Ms Mallon said the average 13-day figure masked the reality in many areas of the province.

She added that even the equivalent of nearly three working weeks is "too long".

"Very often estimated approximations can mask the reality experienced in different parts of Northern Ireland," the MLA added. "In my experience in north Belfast it often takes longer than 13 working days for a faulty light to be repaired after it is reported.

"Things have improved, given that not that long ago there were huge backlogs of broken street lights but in areas, especially where elderly and vulnerable people live, 13 working days is still too long."

It is almost a year since Mr Hazzard's predecessor in the former Department for Regional Development, Michelle McIlveen, said the backlog of broken lights which plunged many streets into prolonged darkness would be repaired by spring of this year.

The DUP MLA, now the Agriculture Minister, took over from Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy after his party pulled out of the Executive and set up a new online reporting facility for street lighting faults.

Around £1m was allocated to the new Department for Infrastructure for LED street lighting as part of the October monitoring round. Back in June it was allocated an additional £500,000 on top of the initial £1m budget set out for routine street lighting maintenance in 2016-17.

At that point the department said it had received reports of 48,000 street light outages over the preceding 12 months - 42,500 of which had already been repaired.

Normally private contractors carry out about 75% of street light repairs with the remaining 25% down to the department's own staff.

Earlier this year figures showed personal injury cases related to deficient or non-existent street lighting were on the rise.

Last year alone 16 claims resulted in £59,000 being paid out.

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