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The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development has established a streetlight hotline, which will enable members of the public to report defective streetlights in their communities.

Portfolio Minister, Noel Arscott, made the announcement on Tuesday, June 11, in his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate.

The hotline number is 1-888-991-4617 and it becomes operational on July 1. Members of the public are being asked to call the toll-free number, during business hours, Monday to Friday, to make their reports.

Minister Arscott said the move is part of measures by the Government to reduce spending on the streetlights.

He informed that more than $3 billion was spent on the service last year and in the first month of this fiscal year (April 2013), the Government incurred charges of some $247 million or 41 cents per kilowatt hour (KWH), reflecting an escalation of over 105 per cent since January 2009.

“That is an unsustainable and untenable situation,” Mr. Arscott said. “Given the changes to fuel rates for this fiscal year, this will escalate beyond $3.4 billion if prudence is not exercised in the management of this service provision,” he stated.

Already, an island wide street light audit is advanced and is scheduled to be completed in November. The parishes of Clarendon, Kingston, St. Andrew, Manchester and Hanover, have already being audited.

Minster Arscott said the audit, which is being undertaken by the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) in partnership with the local authorities, is to ensure that the authorities “know what they are paying for”.

He informed that the Ministry has “engaged the Office of Utilities Regulation and will be making sure that come the next tariff review, taxpayers will no longer pay for streetlights whether or not they are working, but will only pay for functional streetlights.”

Additionally, he said that a request has been made to the Jamaica Bureau of Standards for the establishment of a standards committee that will be responsible for implementing specific criteria for streetlights.

He informed that the findings of a an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce, consisting of representatives from the Ministries of Local Government and Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, “indicate that we could take action that could save the country over 40 per cent of existing costs, or more than $1 billion per year…and we are going for it.”

Mr. Arscott said the country will be advised at a later date on the specific steps that will be taken in this regard.

Contact: Athaliah Reynolds-Baker