Cambridge must club together to stop the lights going out

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There are very few moments in Cambridge politics – whether it be student, council, or parliamentary politics – when the stars seem to align. Thankfully, the issue of the council’s decision to switch of streetlights in several key areas of Cambridge is one of these. It can often be difficult to consider the effects of plans announced months in advance, but it is crucial that the switch-off planned for April 2016 is thoroughly and forcefully opposed.

As ever in such cases, the crucial balance is between the facts and the feelings. There is a worrying trend on all sides for one or the other to be taken as absolute. It is such that there are some who say that the statistics do not support the argument that crime is increased in darkened streets, and that opposition to the money- saving measure is based on complete nonsense and factually indefensible. Meanwhile, advocates in of keeping the lights on argue that what is most important is that people feel safe walking home at night, and that there are no areas (certainly not areas as significant as those due to be affected by the proposed changes) in which citizens do not feel safe.

The key is the balance. Of course, we must listen to the facts. This city is proud to boast one of the most academically rigorous universities in the world, and we should not shy away from the corresponding intellectual duty. We have to take seriously the reality of life in a local area under austerity. Local councils have taken huge hits in the Conservative and coalition governments’ attempts to ‘balance the books’ at almost all costs. We must accept that many of the services we have come to expect from our local councils are no longer sustainable at their current levels of largesse.

At the same time, Cambridge is a hotbed of activism, radical thinking, and new politics. It is a city in which students from both universities, and from local sixth-form colleges, are forming action groups, writing radical zines, and challenging the status quo at every time. As such, we must take on board their arguments, and consider that those arguments in the past that have seemed most radical are those that have become most commonplace in decades to come.

In this instance, what is perhaps most alarming is that protection from sexual assault on the way home by decent lighting is considered radical.

It is not radical to demand that the state – and, in its local iteration, the council – follows through on its core duty to keep its citizens safe. We must demand better service and greater care from those elected to represent us, and we must be clear in our desire to work together to protect those most at risk from these changes.

On such a crucial issue, a newspaper like The Cambridge Student must support wholeheartedly the petition launched by our colleagues at The Tab, and college JCRs – whether affiliated or otherwise – must be willing to be taken under the campaigning wing of CUSU.

With an active desire to work together, and the intellectual capacity to see the balance between rigorous attention
to facts and the moral urgency of how people feel, we can take this misguided and ill-considered plan head-on, and win. 




News: 'City blackout condemned as unsafe'

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