Switching off Northern Ireland street lights to plug budget gap 'costs £1.4m'

A complete switch-off of Northern Ireland's street lights - in order to make budget savings - would cost around £1.4million.

Details have been revealed in a Department for Infrastructure document analysing what would be involved in the move and how it would impact on the public.

The department says external contractors and street lighting staff would be required to switch off and isolate electricity supplies, a process that would take six weeks.

It says the policy could save around £4.5m if implemented from 1 January 2024 for the rest of the financial year, to 31 March, based on current energy prices.

With the cost of implementing the switch-off paid, the saving would be £3.1m.

The department also notes that energy prices are expected to come down, making it "not possible to accurately forecast savings".

It adds that there would be a further £1.4m cost to switch the lights back on at a later date.

Budgets for Stormont departments for 2023-24 are being set by the secretary of state in the absence of Executive ministers.

The Department for Infrastructure says its resource budget of £523m falls short of its requirement of £691m, "leaving it in an extremely difficult financial position".

The document, published on Friday, also outlines some other considerations around the policy of switching off street lighting.

It says: "The implementation of the street lighting switch off, will have a significant impact on the night-time environment, particularly in urban areas.

"It is likely to lead to considerable opposition and complaints from elected representatives and members of the public.

"It will also lead to an increase in the fear of crime, which may deter people from travelling or socialising after dark, with a knock-on impact on commercial businesses.

"Road safety will be compromised, particularly for pedestrians and with increased risk at complicated junctions."

The department also says a complete switch-off of all street lights is the only option which will allow it to significantly reduce its energy payments during the current year.

"Any other mitigating options, such as part-night switch off are not feasible due to the requirement to negotiate new energy tariffs," it says.

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