Laois County Council’s top official has labelled the cost of street and other public lighting as a burden.
In a sign that cuts to public lighting could be imminent, the County Manager, Peter Carey, said the lights were an area of concern for the council as the costs of running them was €800,000 to €900,000 per year.
“This is a huge burden,” said the manager who will soon have to sign off on the council’s 2012 budget when more spending cuts are expected.
While the council gave planning permission for many new housing estates in the boom it now appears to be having difficulty facing the cost of its actions. Mr Carey said that everytime the council take an estate in charge it adds €5,000 to €6,000 to the running costs. He wants to negotiate lower prices.
“We are engaging with other companies to come up with a more cost effective way to provide the lights,” he said.
In a sign that the lights could be switched off or moved, the County Manager said some areas were over lit, such as the old national primary routes.
One such extra cost is the switch-over from orange lights to improve crime detection and prevention. Cathaoirleach, Cllr John Bonham told councillors that the council had a programme for upgrading the public lights.
“They are changing them to white lights because the CCTV won’t pick up the orange lights,” he said.
Cllr Bonham said the new lights would also be lower wattage and would pay for themselves in two years.
Cllr Tom Mulhall, who had asked the council to provide funding for public lighting in next year’s budget, said he was aware how tight the council’s budget was.
He complimented the council on their maintenance programme and said there was never a difficulty with lights being repaired.
But he said he would like to see priority given to some areas.
“Close to my own village there is a staggered crossroads which services regional roads and there is no lighting at all at the junction,” he said.
Cllr Mulhall said lights should be provided for dangerous bridges and elderly people living alone.
“There are areas and road where there are no lights at all. I would like to see some funds at the discretion of the councillors or area managers,” he said.
Cllr James Daly claimed that there was an ‘urban/rural’ divide when it came to the distribution of lights.
“We used to have three lights each, we should look at bringing that back as some rural parts across the county could do with them. When we had it, we didn’t waste it,” he said.