What’s wrong with Wirral Council Street Lighting?

twitter cornwell close lighting

Here’s a story from the Liverpool Echo, by Sam Dean, dated 17th January 2016:

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/wirral-kids-in-danger-because-10748168

I posted the following comment on this story, which was accepted, but curiously was later taken down by persons unknown at The Echo:

And here’s a follow-up story dated just a week later:

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/wirral-council-tells-residents-not-10790959

These street lights have been out since the start of November.  I find this stuff interesting and quite alarming as I’m an ex-street lighting design engineer at Wirral Council.  I know how the place is supposed to work, and I was there when it did work.  I also recognise shameful bollocks masquerading as ‘reassurance’ when it’s ladled out from a large bucket over an unsuspecting public.

And that’s what’s been happening here. Despite 3 months of desperate pleas from local people across social media, through councillors and directly to the council, the lights have been out since November, i.e. all winter.  We accept these faults will take longer if they need to call in the electricity company to restore a live feed, but THREE MONTHS and counting?

What a lot of people know is that Wirral Council services and job roles have been decimated, for which the council leader enjoys blaming the government.  But what he can’t blame Osborne or Cameron for is how these cuts are implemented locally.

And what the public don’t realise is that the Street Lighting Section at Wirral Council has had a very blunt axe taken to it.

Some time in 2013/14, the position of “Group Leader, Street Lighting” became a victim of the cuts.  The person filling the role was a fully-qualifed and specialised street lighting professional of many years’ standing.  I know this because he was my manager when I worked there.  Anyway, he made it over the finishing line and retired, but his post ended there and then.

In order to pinch a few pennies, an assistant engineer was slotted into the job on a smaller salary.  I was told off the record that he was a ‘jumped up electrician’.  Now, the problem with this is: there is no substitute for the experience that was lost when the Group Leader, Street Lighting left the council. But neither the departmental Director nor his fellow councillor with departmental responsibilities sought out a qualified replacement.

So the public were shortchanged. Things were likely to go downhill very quickly …and down they went.

Here’s a few lines from a much longer report to council written by the former Group Leader, Street Lighting on the vexed subject of switching street lights off to save money, something Wirral Council did without proper consultation a couple of years back, under the then CEO Graham “Mistakes” Burgess:

“Switching off lights was not considered to be an appropriate
course of action for a predominately urban borough. There would
also be the risk of litigation in the event of an accident at a
site where the lights had been switched off.”

When the controversial subject of switching them off came up, this advice was ignored and not put before councillors, so there was no proper scrutiny undertaken before switching off 1,000 streetlights across Wirral.

If these choice words had been put before proper scrutiny, it’s unlikely we’d have been plunged into darkness. Failing in their duty made a curious kind of sense to those senior officers and councillors who were seeking to abuse their power and hoodwink the public.

One of the problems was 69 streetlights were switched off on the Dock Link North, the road where PC Dave Phillips was killed on 5th October 2015, during the hours of darkness. I don’t know for sure that these lights had been deliberately switched off on this date, but they were off according to information on the council’s website on the very same day:

I also emailed CEO Eric Robinson on 5th October 2015 to express some concern in what turned out to be a futile request for better information:

email to eric robinson re dock link north street lighting

There was never any response to this email.  The link to the information on the council website no longer works, so we the public can no longer get at it.

I’m a prominent Twitter user, but can’t personally contact the councillor responsible for the shambles because he’s put himself beyond reach………….

blocked by stuart whittingham

…….but let’s finish on a happy note from 2013.  This was a time when the council DID see the need for a fully-qualified individual running the Street Lighting section……………

Massive thank you for fixing lights wirral council cornwell

About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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3 Responses to What’s wrong with Wirral Council Street Lighting?

  1. Bobby47 says:

    So Cardin, the Chief Executive has chosen to ignore you again! Clearly, given the way this fella constructs a thought, an ’emerging thought’, his reaction would probably have been, ‘Cardin can get stuffed. Never! I’ll never have an emerging thought that compels me to answer him.’
    Mind, he’s probably praying nightly to his God that you’ll stop bothering him which of course you won’t.
    If I were in his shoes, I’d grasp the stinging nettle, have an emerging thought that directed me to display a little courage, strike up an uneasy but very polite relationship and answer your correspondence.
    Mind, what you and I would do and what he’d do are of course very different things. Take care lad. My very warmest regards to you and yours. Rob.

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  2. Wirral In It Together says:

    Cheers Bob. I’ve taken this issue to my local councillors, who are passing it on to the Council Leader tonight. So, watch this space. There may be an update on the way soon.

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  3. spacemoth65 says:

    I first became aware of the appalling street light problem on the Wirral when I moved back here to Wallasey from Stockport (where I’d lived for 27 years). It was May 2016 when I first started to make enquiries to Streetscene about the many lights that were out on main and side roads in Wallasey (I am a cyclist and also work all different hours of the day so half the time I am cycling at night). Little did I know what I was letting myself in for when I first spoke with their senior lighting officer Shaun Brady back then. He reassured me that the faults with the ‘state of the art’ LED lights – many of which were faulty – were due to problems with the CMS control systems – (very very dubious, I thought – so much for ‘state of the art’ then, I said!).
    Back then only a handful of the broken lights I mentioned and logged with him were to be ultimately repaired. What soon followed was a wait extending to months, then years, as one by one more and more faulty lights were logged (both LEDs and older sodium ones) as well as many columns which were simply broken and headless. Wallasey and Birkenhead are full of them. This went on for another year, then two – with very little done to rectify these faults despite them saying there were pockets of funding for phases 1, 2 and 3 of the repair programme (in 2017-2018). tellingly none of the ones I logged with them were ever repaired, with just three or four paltry exceptions. So thos has now dragged on for THREE years and the backlog of broken lights has risen from a few dozen to over 480 – and STILL no repairs to the ones I have repeatedly logged with them are in prospect any time time soon, and yet ONCE AGAIN they are saying that funding to replace all the lights in the Wirral to LED by 2021 is ‘on course’/ Where is this work happening? It’s March 2019 now – THREE YEARS since I moved back here and if there is one difference I ca give you between Stockport Council and Wirral, it is this: for all their faults, Stockport council ‘s policy on repairing street lights is a six to eight week turnaround from fault being logged to it being repaired. They even email the resident to tell them the progress and when they expect the work to be completed. Wirral Council simply doesn’t care about communicating, they just have no clue whatsoever……and so the fiasco continues to this day. Is Wirral officially the worst council, in the UK, for neglecting its street lights? I would wager yes – in fact, one in every 15 of them is broken with the glass bottom casing missing from the lamp heads – you only need to take a comprehensive tour of all the side streets in Wallasey and I guarantee you that every other road will have one or even two or more lights (usually sodium ones) broken in this way. Some still work whilst others of course don’t. The excuse of lack of funding and budget cuts will not wash because we know what they spend our council tax millions on ……

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