COUNCIL bosses in Worcestershire say switching off thousands of street lights won't lead to more crimes or car crashes - despite worrying data emerging from elsewhere.

A plan to switch off two out of every three lights across the county from midnight to 6am kicked off last month, with Redditch the first area affected by it.

Within 18 months the council is aiming to switch off more than 17,000, saying it will cost taxpayers £500,000 in running costs.

The launch comes just weeks after new research showed a 39 per cent rise in deaths and 27 per cent hike in serious injuries in areas where lights were switched off in other parts of the UK in 2011/12.

A report in The Times in April showed how data from police forces in areas where councils have turned lights off show 25 more deaths and 225 more serious injuries than the previous year.

During a meeting of the economy, environment and communities scrutiny panel, chairman Ken Pollock came along clutching a copy of the newspaper cutting to say he wanted "assurances" over Worcestershire.

He said: "The article doesn't say where these extra incidents occurred, but can you give us some reassurance we won't see an increase here?"

Nick Yarwood, highways partnership and contracts manager, said: "The period of time we are talking about is midnight to 5am or 6am - at that time traffic volumes are very, very low.

"We know other highway authorities have done similar things to us and it's made no difference at all - that's the experience elsewhere."

He also told the panel he is confident the council can save £500,000 a year from it.

Workers are currently ripping out street lights and replacing some with special 'timed' dimmers that go out automatically at night.

The first batch of 1,800 have been bought and the project has started in Redditch, where Mr Yarwood said next to nobody has even noticed.

"Even 12 months ago what we are doing now wouldn't have been affordable but technology has advanced at a relentless pace," he said.

Droitwich, which has already ran a pilot and Worcester are next in line for the switch-offs.

Councillor John Smith, the cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: "We are not turning off any lights on junctions, and that is where most accidents happen.

"So I don't think you can associate those figures with what this council is doing."

Councillor Liz Tucker, who represents Pershore, said: "We manage without street lights and nobody gets robbed or murdered in their beds.

"I think a lot of this is people's fear of change."