Police commissioner pledges to bid for new money to keep women safer but county council not prepared to turn streetlights back on

Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner intends to bid for new government funding to make the county’s streets safer for women
Lincolnshire County Council is unlikely to be turning street lights on later with the additional funding being offered nationally to protect women. EMN-210317-143201001Lincolnshire County Council is unlikely to be turning street lights on later with the additional funding being offered nationally to protect women. EMN-210317-143201001
Lincolnshire County Council is unlikely to be turning street lights on later with the additional funding being offered nationally to protect women. EMN-210317-143201001

New measures aimed at improving safety for women and girls in England are to be introduced, the Government has announced.

These will include additional funding for better street lighting and CCTV, as well as the expansion of a scheme which would see undercover police patrolling bars and clubs at night.

A meeting of the government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce took place on Monday, after which Downing Street said it would be taking “immediate steps” to give “further reassurance” to women and girls in the wake of Sarah Everard’s death.

Nag's Head Passage, Sleaford. An area of concern. EMN-210317-144942001Nag's Head Passage, Sleaford. An area of concern. EMN-210317-144942001
Nag's Head Passage, Sleaford. An area of concern. EMN-210317-144942001

The five immediate steps which have been promised by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson are a doubling of funding of the Safer Streets fund to £45m, with more money for better lighting and CCTV, as well as expanding pilots of a “Project Vigilant” scheme, with undercover police patrolling bars and clubs at night.

There would also be £11m for more sexual violence advisers to support victims through the criminal justice process

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones said he was keen to secure some of the finances to improve the istuation in the county.

He said: “I will always do everything possible, working in partnership with organisations across the county to secure extra resources and money available to keep our communities safe.

“As soon as the criteria for the latest round of funding is unveiled we will be tireless, as always, in seeking and creating projects that can secure funding and continue the work we are doing to make our streets safe for everyone.”

He added: “My office has been successful in bringing in £14 million of additional funding to prevent and tackle crime since I took office. Much of it specifically to address serious crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls. I have already secured funding for CCTV from the first round of Safer Streets funding – with another three bids from the second fund pending.

Lincolnshire County Council has also been put in the spotlight after its previous decision to switch part-night street lighting in some areas, turning lights off at midnight or even 10.30pm to save money, insisting, with police that there had been no evidence of any upsurge in crime as a result of the extra darkness, despite people complaining they feeling unsafe walking home at night in pitch dark, sometimes from doing shifts at work, or from nights out with friends.

The Safer Streets Fund itself is something that was initially only open to PCCs, and only recently opened to local authorities, who would need PCC backing for any application.

The Safer Streets funding first round was restrictive and only applied to areas of high deprivation and had to meet lots of criteria. The second round still has quite tight criteria, apparently and only funds new lighting and CCTV schemes in parks and alleyways, rather than for existing infrastructure and would not mean the switch-on of large numbers of current streetlights.

Karen Cassar, assistant director for highways at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “I can completely understand why some residents, especially women, might feel concerned for their own safety after Sarah Everard’s tragic disappearance in London.

“I know many women – from Lincolnshire and around the country – who don’t feel safe alone after dark, even where there are streetlights, and also long before midnight which is when some in Lincolnshire are turned off. Unfortunately, the issue of women’s safety is about much more than streetlights.

“In 2018, two years after we made the switch to part-night lighting for some of our lights, the police confirmed they’d found no impact on night-time crime levels as a result of the change. They said then, and have said since, that if they ever did have any concerns, they’d let us know and of course we’d work with them to see how streetlighting could help.

“We also have a system in place for parish, town or district councils to apply to convert any streetlights back to all night lighting for a one-off payment, if they think it’s appropriate. To date, only four lights have been converted this way.”

The county council insists any decision to change the current part-night lighting schedule would be for the new council (after the local elections).

One Sleaford resident commented on the news about the funding that concerns for women’s safety was one of the “very reasons that were put to Lincolnshire County Council when they decided to turn off all lights.”

Another woman said Nags Head Passage in Sleaford was a key candidate for better lighting, although a request for CCTV in the area had to recently be turned down due to lack of district council funds.

She said: “Doubt we’ll see any of the extra funding in this council district and we’ll be left behind as usual. I’ve been followed along here on a couple of occasions in the past and it was not a pleasant experience.”

Another woman agreed, suggesting the river banks were another place to focus more attention.

Sleaford Police have said officers have increased patrols in the area around the railway station, including Nags Head Passage, and have been speaking with the community to fully understand the experience of local residents.