PLANS to reduce street lighting across Worcestershire have been shelved until next year – after council chiefs found it would cost a staggering £3.4 million.

The huge cost means the county council, which wants to cut £90 million from spending, will only look seriously at it in 2013 at the earliest.

At the moment, taxpayers fork out £2 million a year in energy costs for 52,000 street lights across Worcestershire.

Bosses believe they can slash several hundred thousand off the bill by a range of measures including turning some off at night, dimming others and using energy-efficient lights.

An in-house report reveals however that if the council wants to reduce bills by £600,000 a year it needs to invest a one-off sum of £3.4 million first.

That would pay for switching off half the lights in estates from midnight to 6am, dimming 80 per cent of lamps between 7.30am-6pm on traffic routes, and converting 8,000 to lower-wattage bulbs.

Councillor John Smith, cabinet member for highways and the environment, said: “It would be crazy to try and save around half-a-million a year by spending millions first.

“We are hoping that this time next year, as technology moves on, we may be in a better position to look at it again. It needs to be cheaper if we’re going to implement it.”

Installing the 8,000 low-wattage lights alone would cost more than £2 million.

Other costs include bills from an electricity supplier for removing services to certain lighting columns, which would result in dimming, as well as paying for lights to be temporarily switched off.

West Mercia Energy, a public sector purchasing body, is responsible for energy in Worcestershire.