Almost 3,000 street lights have gone dark across the Capital as the city council starts a programme to install new LED bulbs to illuminate Edinburgh.
The city council’s backlog of street light repairs has been branded “unacceptable” after figures revealed that the average time for repairs is now 48 days – with a total of 2,850 lights currently classed as faulty.
Almost 800 of the lights have been faulty for more than six months, and 500 of those have had repair work outstanding for more than a year. Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said she had “reasonable confidence” in the council’s street light maintenance programme.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang, who requested the information from officials, believes the figures sheds light on the backlog of repair work required.
He said: “When it comes to this SNP and Labour coalition, it is clear the lights are on and nobody’s home.
“It is simply unacceptable for the council to take an average of seven weeks to get broken street lights repaired. It is all the more concerning that so many streets are being left without proper lighting during these darker winter months.
“The transport convener said she has only reasonable confidence in her own repairs programme. It is an extraordinary admission and shows yet again how her administration simply cannot get the basics right.”
The city council is rolling out a ward-by-ward replacement of street lights with new LED bulbs, which could save up to £54m for the authority over 20 years in energy costs. The council is spending £24.5m to upgrade all the city’s street lights – replacing inefficient lanterns with modern, energy efficient and environmentally friendly bulbs.
Cllr Macinnes said the backlog was partly down to problems with the council’s workforce.
She said: “We are moving to a brand new system – we have a three-year roll-out of LED street-lighting to enable us to put in a centralised management system.
“Clearly that’s a programme that will take some time to roll out across the city and in the meantime we are left with the existing system.”
She added: “We are aware of issues in the system. We have problems with trying to find recruitment of suitable electricians in this area. It’s a problem we are trying to deal with as best we can.
“There are sometimes moments I wish it to be a little better but hence the reason for the major structural change in the LED street lighting programme. I think it’s something people in Edinburgh can look forward to – it’s going to improve things considerably and take away once of those nuisance aspects of people’s lives.”
Conservative transport spokesman, Cllr Nick Cook, called for the authority to improve the situation for residents.
He said: “The council’s failure to competently maintain our street lighting network is literally keeping council tax payers in the dark.
“Particularly in these dark winter months, dark, poorly lit streets could facilitate an unwelcome rise in crime, including muggings and assaults.”
Labour Cllr Scott Arthur believes the lack of working street lights deters residents from using footpaths.
He said: “The street lighting team are doing a fantastic job clearing the backlog, but they simply don’t have the resources to get the job done as quickly as we would all like.
“The squeeze on this team, street cleansing and gritting means that many people in Edinburgh simply don’t feel safe using our footpaths in the evening.”
David Bol , Local Democracy Reporting Service