Leeds street lighting costs double after deal

David Howe said he has had to install blackout blinds at his home

The cost of providing street lighting in Leeds has more than doubled since a commercial operator took over the job, a BBC investigation has found.

Under a 25-year Private Finance Initiative contract, which started in 2006, a consortium provided £100m to replace most of Leeds's street lamps.

Five years ago the city's lighting system cost £5.8m per year to run. Last year that figure was £14.4m.

Now some people are criticising the new lights as too bright and too expensive.

The consortium would not comment and Leeds City Council would not discuss the figures because of commercial confidentiality.

The deal also included an exclusive maintenance contract.

'Energy cost rise'

Figures obtained by the Politics Show for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire show that in the last year it ran the lighting system itself the city council spent £5.8m.

Five years into the deal with the consortium, which is led by Scottish and Southern Energy and the Royal Bank of Scotland, the council's annual charge has risen to £14.4m.

A sum of £10.1m is described as being for "other costs".

The bulk of that sum is thought to be repayment of the capital cost of the 80,000 lights which have been replaced.

Labour Councillor John Illingworth has been campaigning against the PFI since before it was signed.

"It's costing two-and-a-half times as much now as it was a few years ago. The lamps fitted are only half the efficiency and they need replacing twice as often," he said.

"The papers for the contract are not published. You go to the council website, look at the Executive Board minutes and you'll find that most of the report is actually exempt so nobody can see it, not even other councillors."

In a statement Leeds City Council said: "The reason for the increase is the rapid rise in energy costs and the cost of investing in new street lighting.

"This has involved replacing over 80,000 columns deemed life-expired."

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