Bid for £2m to keep Northern Ireland's street lights burning
More than two-thirds of street lights that go out are not being repaired because of Stormont budget cuts.
There are now almost 17,200 street lights out across Northern Ireland, a further increase on recent totals.
Around 8,100 lights which have gone out since maintenance contracts were suspended in August have been repaired, but a senior Department of Regional Development official has revealed that only about 30% of defects are being fixed.
Now a bid for £2m of emergency funding is being made to prevent the region from sliding further into darkness as the winter progresses.
The Executive is being asked to find the funding in its January monitoring round as the proportion of lights going out and not being repaired continues to increase.
DRD Minister Danny Kennedy confirmed: "We are bidding for £2m, which would allow us to bring in external contractors to address street lighting outages."
Last month the total number of lights out was put at around 15,000 - an increase of about 4,000 from October.
The latest total of more than 17,000 represents just over 6% of the total number of lights here - approximately 280,000.
A DRD statement yesterday said: "Our operations and maintenance staff have managed to repair almost one-third of the lights out since August."
Mr Kennedy also made clear the draft budget for the next financial year, 2015-16, which is at the centre of current negotiations between the five Executive parties, does not provide sufficient funding for street lighting repairs.
John Irvine, DRD's director of network services, told MLAs: "The gap between the number of lights going out and the number of lights being fixed is widening.
"Our staff in street lighting are under a lot of pressure.
"They take all the calls from members of the public who are not very happy about the situation. That is the position that we are in."