Hollywood actor Colin McFarlane has claimed Lincolnshire County Council buried its head in the sand after controversially switching off tens of thousands of street lights at night.
The Batman and Torchwood star took to Twitter in response to statements from executive county councillor Richard Davies that social media had spread “fake politics” over the changes to street lighting in the county.
Over half of Lincolnshire’s 68,000 street lights were reverted to a ‘part-night’ lighting system from 2016, saving the council £1.7 million.
This means that they are switched off between midnight (and as early as 10pm in some areas) until dawn.
Three quarters of 5,000 respondents to a Lincolnshire County Council survey in late 2017 were negative or extremely negative about the authority’s controversial changes to street lights in the county.
However, Councillor Davies, who is charge of highways at Lincolnshire County Council, said that he was happy with how the switch-off had been implemented, and claimed that some social media users had made comments about street lights which were “demonstrably not true”.
His comments provoked a backlash on Twitter, with Mr McFarlane, who used to live in Lincoln (his parents still live in the city), joining in the debate.
He said: “Illuminating chat on Twitter with the police tonight. When one understands the changing face of crime and where their under-resourced priorities must lie, it is clearly impossible for the council to say there has been no increase in crime because of a lack of street lighting.”
Lincoln resident Chris Baldam responded to the actor’s tweet, adding: “Primary aim of government, national and local is to protect its citizens… it’s so dark at night without street lights you can’t see the potholes in the road.
“I don’t know about increased crime, but how many people have been injured walking, cycling or driving at night?”
This was a point which was enthusiastically endorsed by the actor, who said: “Tell me about it! Another excellent point the council conveniently ignore as they stick their head in the sand on this issue and refuse to listen to residents’ genuine concerns.”
On a separate thread, he added: “The councillor’s patronising attitude on this issue is both ignorant and insulting, showing no respect to the people of Lincolnshire’s genuine concerns on this issue. The people of Lincoln deserve far better than this. Councillor Davies’ comments are rude and shocking.”
Councillor Lucinda Preston, who represents the Carholme ward for Labour on City of Lincoln Council, was equally unimpressed by Councillor Davies’ comments.
She said: “Every time I speak to residents someone talks to me, unprompted, about their concerns about streetlights. Trump-style politics from Tories.
“Mr Davies’ comments about students are patronising. Many students have told me about their worries walking home from work or a night out.”
Her Labour colleague in City Hall, Councillor Rosanne Kirk said: “There is absolutely nothing ‘fake’ about Lincoln and Lincolnshire residents’ concerns about the street lights. The people of Lincoln and Lincolnshire’s concerns should be acknowledged and not dismissed as ‘fake’.”
On the subject of students, Councillor Davies said in the interview on Friday: “I think the idea that students in particular are scared of the dark is really patronising. I think the idea that every corner of their walk home needs to be lit is untrue.
“The reality is we have to deal in facts and the facts say that crime and anti-social behaviour hasn’t gone up as a result of the street lighting changes.”
Councillor Davies has not responded on Twitter to the comments above.