10,000 street lights not working across Northern Ireland as cuts mean blackout to get worse
Almost 10,000 street lights across Northern Ireland are out of order, according to an MLA.
Mid Ulster SDLP representative Patsy McGlone said yesterday he'd been given the shock figure by the Department for Infrastructure.
Expenditure on street light repairs in 2018-19 was £2.6m, while the current 2019-20 budget is just £0.9m, according to the department.
Mr McGlone called for urgent action to remedy the street light blackout.
"Over recent months we have been reporting street lighting faults on an almost daily basis in every part of my constituency," he said.
"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."
Mr McGlone said good street lighting was essential to deter crime and give residents a sense of security.
He expressed concern at the scale of the blackout.
"This is alarming," he added.
"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% 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?"
Two years ago a Department for Infrastructure internal document said it was possible that all street lights in Northern Ireland may have to be switched off in 2020 if no new money was found to maintain and replace them.
In the 'best possible' scenario, the budget document warned that a quarter of all Northern Ireland's 286,000 street lights would go dark.
While the current figure of 10,000 is nowhere close to the 70,000 lights in that particular prediction, it still represents a significant worsening from the position in January 2018, when 8,811 lights were reported to be out of action by Stormont officials.
The Department for Infrastructure was approached for a response to Mr McGlone's claims, but had not responded by the time we went to press.