In 2011, the Conservative council decided to only fix faulty street lights, a regime known as ‘Burn to Extinction’. This was instead of carrying out full routine repairs known as ‘Bulk Clean and Change.’ At first, the scheme made a saving of £500,000 in 2011/2012, but this benefit reduced to £142,800 for 2012/2013. In 2013/2014, there was a net increase in the cost of streetlight repairs to £153,235.
According to the report from the council’s director of Highways, returning to routine maintenance would save £1.5 million in the long-term. However, it would cost £400,000 in the first year and £200,000 in the second.
The report also shows that the ‘Burn to Extinction’ plan was beginning to become very expensive for the council as the process involved repeatedly returning to the same streets to repair different lamps at random. The scheme was also creating a backlog of repairs as the number of streetlight faults increased by 22% between 2011/2012 and 2012/2013. The author goes on to suggest that the previous Bulk-Clean-and-Change regime had been more effective in reducing the number of lamp failures and repairs because they could be picked up and dealt with during routine maintenance.
The local authority, which is currently Labour-run, will meet later this week to discuss the issue.
Transport and Highways Conservative lead, Richard Jackson, said to BBC News:
I think there’s a problem in the way [the scheme] has been implemented. It was quite a sensible policy in the first place…but it looks as if it has been badly managed.
Transport Labour lead, Kevin Greaves, also told the BBC:
Routine maintenance should never be avoided as it will cost a lot, lot more money in the long-run. If you don’t maintain your car, you’ll save money in the first and second year, but come the third and fourth years, it is guaranteed to cost you money.