They are seen on almost every street all over the UK, and most of us probably do not think anything of them, but street lights help to illuminate footpaths and roads for us during late-night wanderings.
There are over eight million street lights in the UK as of 2016, costing over £410 million in total. Keeping our country lit could end up being a costly feat for taxpayers and which local authority areas are spending the most on street lights and are the UK’s brightest places?
According to new research by Smart Lighting Industries, Cambridgeshire ranks 5th in the top 10 brightest areas, spending £10,669,000 on running street lights, equal to £16 per person.
The research analysed government and ONS data to discover which UK authorities have the most street lights and just how much this is costing local authorities.
Surprisingly, the Midlands spent the most on street lighting in 2019-2020, with Birmingham alone spending £23,557,000 to keep the city illuminated, working out at £21 spent for each inhabitant to cover the running costs.
Leeds came second, spending £20,099,000 or £25 per head, while Surrey came third costing £14 per person at £16,298,000 expenditure.
Cambridgeshire’s spending per head works out as relatively high too, with the likes of Essex, Lancashire, Hertfordshire and Devon only cost £5 a head, while neighbouring Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire only cost £6 per person and Norfolk £8 each.
Some of these authorities have entered into cost-saving ‘part-lighting’ schemes where non-essential street lights are turned off completely or only switched on until midnight.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said its figure accounts for all expenditure associated with running the street lighting service in the county. They said this may give a comparatively higher figure than rural neighbours, with a similar asset profile, “if they have just declared street lighting running expenses”.
The spokesman said Cambridgeshire’s 25-year street lighting Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract includes payments for all maintenance and the repayment of the costs of replacing and upgrading all the County Council’s original street lighting.
“The County Council receives an annual government reimbursement towards the PFI contract payments that offsets a significant proportion of the expenditure, this figure is not included in the ONS data. The results therefore may not be comparable with Local Authorities with more traditional forms of contract, for example maintenance only rather than PFI contracts.
“It is not transparent how other local authorities report their figures in the ONS data. Equally there is no quantitate data on the number of assets they are responsible for.”
They added: “Cambridgeshire County Council is always looking at ways to drive efficiencies whilst ensuring effective service delivery.”