WORCESTERSHIRE County Council reduced its spending on street lighting by hundreds of thousands of pounds over five years, figures reveal. 

Councils across England have faced huge financial challenges in the wake of years of central funding cuts, with many forced to review their budgets for local services – including street lights – to save money.

But the killing of Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home from a friend's house in London earlier this month, has prompted a wave of concern about women's safety on the streets.

The government said it is taking a series of 'immediate steps' to improve security, including a doubling of the Safer Streets fund – which provides neighbourhood measures such as better lighting and CCTV – to £45 million.

A Worcestershire County Council spokesperson said: “Worcestershire County Council has invested further in street lighting in recent years and we can confirm that £2.5 million has been allocated to continue our improvements on street lighting including LED and concrete column replacement."

Ministry of housing, communities and local government data shows Worcestershire County Council spent around £4.4 million on street lights in the area in 2019-20.

That was down from 2014-15, when the council spent around £4.7 million, after the figure was adjusted for inflation – a real-terms cut of 6 per cent over five years.

Across England, street light spending fell by 15 per cent in real terms over the same period. 

Worcestershire county councillor Richard Udall said: "We certainly need to reverse the cuts in street lighting, many have been turned off in Worcestershire after midnight. I believe we need more lights in sensitive areas to protect people and to offer reassurance.

"Many of Worcestershire’s streetlights are being slowly transferred to a low energy type which will allow them to stay switched on all night and at a reduced cost, this transition needs to be speeded up and we need to turn back on the lights which were switched off.

"We also have many old and outdated street lights which often fail and are not repaired quickly enough; we need a replacement programme which would improve the lighting and prevent failure.

"Street lights offer protection and give some safety, but I also think we need to look carefully at other options, evidence suggests changing the colour of street lights can help to reduce crime and prevent suicides, I would like to see a pilot exercise in Worcester where blue street lights are used, as it has been suggested they can cut crime by as much as 50 percent and are less damaging on wildlife."

Cabinet member for Highways, Councillor Alan Amos, declined to comment.