PEOPLE living in East Lothian are being left in the dark after more than 500 faulty street lights went unfixed over winter because of staff shortages and budget cuts.
Complaints about lights are logged on an interactive map on East Lothian Council’s website which shows some were reported as not working as far back as October last year with the fault still classed as “unverified”.
A senior officer at East Lothian Council confirmed the backlog as he responded to a complaint about lights being left unfixed outside a school.
He said that budget cuts had “run down our establishment” and the council was unable to recruit enough electricians because it could not compete with private sector salaries.
In an e-mail, the senior lighting officer said: “The council currently has a backlog of some 500 lighting faults. We are also suffering from a shortage of staff to address the issue.
“Budget cuts have run down the establishment and further recruitment has proved unsuccessful with electricians outwith local government enjoying much higher levels of remuneration than we can offer.”
However Councillor Norman Hampshire, the council administration’s spokesperson for the environment, insisted the number of faults equates to “less than three per cent” of the 18, 657 lights the local authority operates in the county.
And he said more than half the lights in East Lothian have been converted to LED which require far less maintenance.
Mr Hampshire said: “In the meantime, we are continuing to inspect reported faults as quickly as possible and where a fault is a matter for ScottishPower we are making sure this is dealt with as soon as possible.
“Where repairs are our responsibility, we have used electrical contractors to assist with repairing lighting faults and we plan to use this resource again when the need arises.”
Mr Hampshire added that some lights in new housing developments remained the responsibility of developers until they were transferred to the council.
The senior officer was responding to a complaint about lights being left unfixed outside Dunbar Primary School’s John Muir campus.
He confirmed the council had used contractors in the past but said “the high costs involved mean any long term engagement is unsustainable.”
Mr Hampshire added: “In relation to recruitment, East Lothian Council is experiencing the same challenges as other local authorities are as a result of UK growth and we are seeking to mitigate this impact.”
Last month, The Evening News revealed almost 3,000 street lights across the Capital were unlit.
Figures revealed that ta total of 2,850 lights were classed as faulty.