Ealing Council’s cost cutting ‘putting women at risk’

Images above: Cllr Gary Busuttil, Cllr Gary Malcolm, Cllr Andrew Steed

Chiswick’s Lib Dem councillors have carried out a survey about the effect of dim street lighting around Southfield ward. Following a brutal attack on the woman on Acton Green and the publicity surrounding the attack on Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, they decided to ask men and women how they felt about their safety in the streets and around the common.

Of 227 people who completed the survey, women said they felt 10% less safe than men did. 40% of women reported being threatened or intimidated whilst 26% of men reported threats or intimidation.

The councillors now want LB Ealing to reverse the decision they made in 2016 to dim 18,000 street lights across the borough as a cost cutting measure. The lights are dimmed to 75% power after 10. 00 pm and 50% after midnight.

‘Women deserve to feel safe walking home at night in their own community’ say the three councillors, Gary Malcom, Gary Busuttil and Andrew Steed. They will be submitting thier report to Ealing Council and the police.

Here are their comments in full:

The Southfield Liberal Democrats conducted a survey after the recent attempted murder of a women on Acton Green Common, days before the horrific murder of Sarah Everett. As the three Southfield councillors are male, we felt an urgent need to listen to the voices of women about their views on safety in our community.

Over 200 residents completed the survey. We compared the viewpoints of male and female respondents to determine if different genders had differing experiences. And the results were to us, a shock – as some of the (sometimes harrowing) experiences documented have clearly been unique to women.

One question showed that 40% of women reported being threatened or intimidated compared to the 26% of men reported threats or intimidation. This links with another question which uncovered that women feel 10% less safe than men do. The discrepancy is astonishing. Many women reported that they feel the need to take a longer, but less direct route at night due to their previous experiences.

As men, we sometimes take the safety and security for granted, yet the women’s unfair experiences are an everyday reflection of similar stories from women across the country since the tragic murder of Sarah Everett. They often had to be more alert and cautious, just to feel safe walking home at night.

One side effect of traffic schemes, such as LTNs (and Fishers Lane), is that the lack of lighting and traffic from cars made women feel less safe at night. One female resident said: “LTN’s and restricted vehicle access under Fisher’s Lane bridge make me feel uneasy when walking in that area.”

Image above: photograph Jon Perry

Both men and women feel the lack of any police presence in Southfield. On a scale of 0 to 10 on the issue (0 = Never to 10 = Very often), women and men gave score averages of only 2.1.

Some of the observed reductions in police presence comes from the fact that the Conservatives have made cuts to police budgets meaning that our local police team is only half what it was in terms of officers.

We have also asked residents to suggest solutions on how to make them feel safer in the neighbourhood.

Most respondents wanted to see a better police presence (such as more visible patrolling), and increased lighting. Other significant issues also mentioned were reopening of Chiswick Police station to help enhance the local police presence.

These issues have been the heart of our local Liberal Democrat campaigns.

About fifteen years ago, Liberal Democrat Southfield Councillors successfully convinced Ealing Council to upgrade half of the streetlights in Southfield (approximately 50 streets). The feedback after that was that as the streets got brighter in the evenings, people felt safer.

But shockingly in 2016, the Labour-run Ealing Council dimmed 18,000 streetlights – to 75% of its original brightness after 10pm, and to 50% after midnight – across the borough as part of its “cost-cutting measures” without any consultation.

It is certainly unacceptable for any administration to put lives at risk with “cost cutting measures” as an excuse!

The main recommendations of the report include:

  • Ealing Council to reverse the changes it made in 2016 to the 18,000 streetlights, where it dimmed lights to 75% after 10 pm and half power after midnight, without consulting residents.
  • That the local police Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) look to patrol in the areas where women more commonly suffered from threatening or intimidation – on the street or local parks and where men were more likely to be threatened or intimidated – at or outside transport interchanges.

As a man, it is humbling to listen to the responses in the survey, and let us understand women’s lived experiences, and their fears that are not normally felt by someone like myself.

Women deserve to feel safe walking home at night in their own community, and Liberal Democrats will make sure their voices are heard.

Liberal Democrats will submit this report to Ealing Council and the police.

We have now set up a petition to campaign for the Council to reverse its decision to dim the lights. If you would like to sign, please visit the petition site:

https://www.ealinglibdems.org.uk/light_up_ealing_so_it_is_safer

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick joins in doorstep vigil for Sarah Everard

See also: Man charged with attempted murder after attack on woman on Acton Green Common

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