Westminster Council street lights: Council forced to pay ‘small ransom’ after lighting contractor dispute

PUBLISHED: 10:45 21 March 2019

One of the rogue traffic lights in St John's Wood Terrace. Picture: Sam Volpe

One of the rogue traffic lights in St John's Wood Terrace. Picture: Sam Volpe


Westminster Council has stumped up a small fee to end a dispute with a sub-contractor that meant 8,000 street lights were left on 24/7 last week – including in St John’s Wood and Maida Vale.

Another rogue street light, snapped at 2pm in Little Venice last week. Picture: Sinora PhillipsAnother rogue street light, snapped at 2pm in Little Venice last week. Picture: Sinora Phillips

This came despite the council earlier saying it wouldn’t be held to ransom.

Lights on Circus Road and St John’s Wood Terrace were among those most notably affected.

The town hall only regained control of the street lights on Friday evening after reaching a deal – including a payment – with administrators running Harvard Technology Limited (HTL), which manages the lights. No one would tell us what the original dispute was about.

HTL had locked Westminster out of the system managing the lights, and this meant they were left permanently running.

The lights being left on with nobody at home hasn’t left the town hall out of pocket, but councillors were concerned about the wasted energy.

Cllr Tim Mitchell confirmed the lights had been operating 24 hours a day, following HTL going into administration in December.

Before reaching a deal, Cllr Mitchell said it was ”extremely disappointing” that the administrators had chosen to lock the council out of the system and said the council wouldn’t be “held to ransom”.

But on Friday he said the council had paid a “small” amount – which he would not disclose, citing “commercial sensitivities” – to end the stand-off.

He added: “From an environmental point of view we felt that it was important to get this resolved quickly and we are happy we’ve been able to do so.”

Haz Memet, an estate agent who works at Dexters in St Ann’s Terrace said staff there had not really noticed the light outside the shop door was permanently illuminated.

She said: “It’s just a bit weird – hard to believe they’ve let it happen.”

Another resident, Sinora Phillips, spotted the lights on in Little Venice. She said: “I was surprised the lights were on in the day time, and wondered if this was a good use of my council tax.”

A spokesperson for Grant Thornton UK LLP, which employs the joint administrators currently running HTL, said: “We have been working with Westminster Council and other authorities following the insolvency of HTL. They understand the service has now been restored in Westminster and street lights will be operating as normal from Friday evening.”

The council’s Labour opposition called on the town hall to “urgently explain” how this had happened, how much had been paid, and why the dispute only came to light three months after HTL went into administration.

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