THE CHANCE to use £32m of Government money to replace many of Harrow's ageing street lights was passed up, it is revealed.

Harrow Council was selected for the multi-million-pound loan to install around 14,000 brighter and more efficient street lights on the borough's roads.

However, when questioned by the Harrow Times, the council revealed the project had now been shelved.

Councillor Susan Hall, deputy leader of the council, said the scheme – a public finance initiative (PFI) – had been passed up because of the financial implications to the council.

She said: “The recession impacted severely on a number of ambitious schemes and the street lighting programme unfortunately fell into that category.

"While the Department for Transport recognised, and still does recognise, the merit of our proposal, it was irresponsible of us to commit to £1 million a year over 25 years - a key condition of the PFI contract - given the unprecedented financial pressures on us caused by the credit crunch.”

The Labour administration applied for the PFI contract in 2006, but it was granted after the Tories came to power.

In October 2008, Cllr Hall and Councillor Tony Ferrari, who is in charge of major contracts, held a press conference to announce the council was looking for companies to carry out the work over five years, in order to lower the cost of street lighting and reduce fear of crime.

Councillor Bill Stephenson, leader of the opposition Labour group, criticised the Tory administration for letting the opportunity go.

He said: “They have given this chance away by failing to act.

“There are a lot of roads and alleyway which already have dimmed lights, and this is inevitably going to lead to a rise in the fear of crime if the streets of Harrow are darker at night.

“It is a real missed chance that probably won't come up again.”

The council said it remained “committed to an upgrade programme for street lighting” and would go back to the Government when the economy had stabilised.

But Cllr Stephenson said the Government was unlikely to give Harrow the chance again after it did not take up the PFI offer on the table.

What do you think? Should the council have taken up the PFI contract to replace the street lights? Leave your comments below.