PROPOSALS to turn off thousands of street lights and introduce on-street car parking charges in two towns were dropped yesterday by Lancashire County Council’s ruling cabinet.

The changes were announced by the authority’s Conservative leader Cllr Geoff Driver and promptly branded a ‘double U-turn’ by his Labour opposite number Cllr Azhar Ali.

Both proposals were part of a package of measures designed to save £77million by 2022 approved by the county’s cabinet last year.

The package included turning off 18,000 of the authority’s 100,000 residential street lights in the middle of the night.

County highways boss Cllr Keith Iddon said after it was discovered that the lights could not be turned off in banks without new technology, the cost of implementing the proposal cancelled out any savings.

The savings package also proposed installing 53 more pay-and-display machines to raise cash in town centres with Whalley, Clitheroe, Colne, Nelson, Longridge, Burnley, Padiham and Great Harwood on the list of possible locations.

The scheme provoked strong opposition led by Pendle Rural’s Cllr David Whipp, leader of the county Liberal Democrat group.

The announcement that Nelson and Colne would be exempt from any new charges was welcomed by Pendle Borough’s Conservative leader Cllr Paul White, who had met Cllr Driver on the issue.

He said: “This is a big win for businesses and residents in Pendle and I’m pleased that the county council leadership has taken on board the potential issues these charges could have caused to our high streets.”

Nelson East’s Cllr Ali said: “I welcome dropping the crazy idea of switching off street lighting on public safety grounds. Dropping on-street parking charges in Nelson and Colne is also welcome but it should be dropped in other towns in the county affected.

“This double U-turn is an example of both people power and of the chaos this Tory administration is in.”

Burnley Council leader Cllr Mark Townsend said: “It is disgraceful if deals are being done to favour Tory areas. I have contacted Cllr Driver for assurances that Burnley and Padiham can expect the same.”

Former Ribble Valley Council leader Cllr Ken Hind said: “I am astonished they are dropping the on-street parking proposal in one part of the county but not others. If it’s good enough for Nelson and Colne, they should do the same in Longridge, Clitheroe and Whalley.”

Hyndburn Council leader Cllr Miles Parkinson said: “Turning off street lights was always a daft idea, especially as it could not be done technically. If Nelson and Colne are not to get on-street car parking charges, Great Harwood should not be victimised with them either.”

Cllr Driver denied the changes were ‘U-turns’. He said there had never been a definitive list of towns proposed for parking charges.