Shropshire Council are now belatedly upgrading their street lights to LED. They could have upgraded a long time ago but chose not to. They could have been building up savings or re-investing the savings for years.
They could have funded it with a cheap loan using the Green Investment Bank (now axed). They could have used their then large capital pot with a cheaper internal loan. They tried bidding for government money to upgrade only the oldest lights. Their bid failed through lack of vision and ambition – other councils secured funds to upgrade the whole network.
Liberal Democrats suggested the upgrade over 3 years ago at and tried to get a better a plan added to the budget in 2017 ( See my call for the upgrade in 2017). More and more councils were upgrading – siting significant savings. Yet the Conservatives repeated insisted that it was too expensive.
Last year it was admited that it would take 36 years to upgrade at the rate they were progressing. A patently stupid timescale for which they were roundly crisised. Now, belatedly, very belatedly, they have opted to carry out the upgrade. Officers project nearly £900,000 savings a year by upgrading. If they had upgraded in 2017 the would have accrued savings of over £2 by now… even more if they had upgraded in 2015 – arguably over £3m.
At a time of financial strain, passing over on such straightforward savings is appalling. What makes it worse is these aren’t one-off savings. They are revenue savings which happen every year and take the strain off our council tax bills. Such gross mismanagement of public funds is not acceptable.
- How many potholes would those savings have fixed?
- How many hard pressed services could have been supported with that money?
- How much could have been ploughed back into upgrading other parts of the lighting network?
A more visionary council would have banked the savings and used them to support services or generate more savings. Upgrading would also have improved lighting whlst cutting light polution, helping to cut crime and helping to improve road safety. Indirect savings which all have a cash value.
All in all it just isn’t good enough. Sadly we see this sort of stupidity regularly from the Conservative-run Shropshire Council. As we all battle with our own budgets we deserve better than this. We demand better than this Conservative Administration.
By contrast, West Felton parish council upgraded all of their lights using The Neighbourhood Fund. This fund is drawn from the Community Infrastructure Levy, paid for by developers and didn’t put any pressure on council tax. Now the parish is saving 70% of its energy bills with lower maintenace, cutting its carbon footprint and playing its part in tckling the climate crisiis.
West Felton PC also used Neighbourhood money to expand the number of lights in Queens Head. The last (pictured below) has been solar powered to avoid the extra cost of supplying a mains connection. This has largely been unsatisfactory. Intially the light’s battery went flat far too quickly. Adjustments fixed the duration. However, the PIR sensors don’t face up and down the road. Instead pointing downwards. So passing traffic doesn’t trigger the light until the vehicle is underneath or even past the column. West Felton PC will reconsider a main connection option next Tuesday at their March meeting.