ESSEX streets will remain in darkness at night for the forseeable future because LED lights are “too expensive”.

An Essex County Council scrutiny committee, comprising councillors from different political backgrounds, was set up to discuss the controversial cost-cutting scheme which sees many lights switched off from midnight until 5am.

The group concluded that while LED lighting was too expensive at the moment, it will call on highways boss Rodney Bass to monitor the bulbs to see if they can be used in future.

According to council officers, installing LED bulbs on 50 lamps would cost £32,442 – but the report concludes this would cost more than the Tory authority’s switch-off programme, which stands at £23,045 per light.

The council spent £6million on installing sensors on lights so it can switch them off after midnight.

Earlier this year, Southend Council rubber-stamped plans to spend £2.65million on replacing all streetlights in the borough with LED lamps, rather than switching off.

Byron Taylor, leader of Basildon Labour group, which opposed the switch-off, said: “We believe LED is a serious possibility based on the experience of Southend Council.

“Essex County Council could have also looked at turning off 50 per cent of streetlights, as this policy has been an unmitigated disaster.

“Basildon Labour is committed to turning the lights back on.”

Basildon’s streetlights went out in February, while Rochford and Castle Point’s were dimmed in January.

Overall, County Hall claims the project will save £1million a year.

Residents criticised the consultation process, as people were told to go through their local council, instead of straight to County Hall when giving feedback on the plans.

The scrutiny group has recommended the process becomes clearer if residents want to argue to have particular lamps turned back on. Mr Bass will respond to the review in the Autumn.

A County Hall spokesman said: “We have looked into the possibility of using LED lighting; however, this would not be economically viable for a county of our size at present. LED lighting is a new technology and the long-term performance is not yet known in practice.”