COUNTY Hall could be dragged through the courts over its controversial decision to turn off street lights in Basildon.

Basildon Council is speaking to its lawyers and has threatened it could launch legal action against Essex County Council if the switch-off causes a crime increase.

Bosses have said the decision is putting residents at risk.

They have a meeting with County Hall later this month to discuss keeping the lights on in six areas which have so far escaped the switch-off, to give the council time to gather evidence that it would lead to increased crime.

County Hall began switching off street lights across the borough between midnight and 5am on Sunday, February 23.

John Dornan, Basildon councillor responsible for the environment, said he would be watching crime figures with an eagle eye for any spikes which could be a result of the switch-off.

He said: “I have not ruled out further legal advice or action against Essex County Council if we see an increase in accidents.

“If there is a spike and it is not taking notice, and we have proof people are rolling into A&E, or people are getting mugged, we will go back to Essex County Council.

“If I consider the county council’s actions to be negligent I will look at our legal team to see what we can do to put the lights backon.

“This is the sort of thing we do in a Third World country – not in Essex.”

It has already been claimed police failed to track a suspected car thief on Friday because he ran off into the darkness.

The police’s helicopter, a dog unit and officers on the ground failed to find the man who crashed a white van in Sandon Road, Basildon.

Neighbours claimed the midnight manhunt failed because officer couldn’t see where the suspect had gone.

David Abrahall, Tory councillor for Pitsea South East, also backed the notion of legal action by Basildon Council.

He said: “I’m calling on Rodney Bass to resign.

“I’m ashamed to say I’m in the same party as him.

“We should be taking legal advice, because we have been taken back to the Blitz by someone who is living in the Thirties.”

Mr Abrahall added he had complained about two alleyways in his ward – in Pitsea Mount and Mountfields, both close to Pitsea station – but had heard nothing from County Hall.

Basildon Council previously took legal advice about claims the county council hadn’t carried out a proper consultation over the switchoff.

However, it wasn’t taken any further when County Hall agreed to a meeting to hear about local concerns.

A county council spokesman said: “We will work closely with Essex Police if they provide representation regarding an area they believe should be exempt from the part-night lighting scheme.”

THE man who decided to switch off Basildon’s street lights has been challenged to have a night out on one of the town’s estates.

Rodney Bass, county councillor responsible for highways, has been invited to walk around Basildon between midnight and 5am – the time when his partnight lighting scheme is in full swing.

Basildon Council managed to win a reprieve from the switch off for the Five Links, Felmores, Langdon Hills, Chalvedon, Pitsea 1/2/3 and Craylands estates.

However, others have been kept in the dark, including the Vange ¾ and Lee Chapel estates.

John Dornan, Basildon councillor responsible for the environment, said: “Rodney Bass needs to meet me at 1, 2 or 3am on one of the estates and see what it’s like.

“We are not going to roll over. We said from day one Basildon was a unique example.

“Basildon is open 24 hours a day.

“We have people who get up and are out of the door by 4.15am to catch the first train to Fenchurch Street and they are frightened because they are walking in the dark.

“That is not acceptable.”