EDEN District Council has agreed a £1million plan to ensure that rural footpaths remain safe at night.

A ten-year scheme to improve lighting has been agreed after more than 12 months’ deliberation.

In 2011, Electricity North West’s announced it would remove footway lights from electricity poles after a BT linesman was electrocuted while repairing telephone equipment on a pole.

The company said it was trying to avoid potential financial liabilities.

The authority’s environment portfolio holder Mike Tonkin said: “We will be allocating £100,000 for capital works on footway lighting in 2014/2015.”

Coun Tonkin said the council’s investment would be in addition to any money provided by Electricity North West.

He said it was not a statutory requirement for district councils to provide footway lights and rural councils did not receive any Government grant for them.

In Eden, there are 1,582 lights, 681 of which are on telegraph poles.

Coun Tonkin said: “Finding a long-term solution to rural footway lighting provision was never going to be easy. The solution the council has agreed is sustainable and affordable, especially given the current financial climate.”

The decision comes as the authority voted to raise council tax by 1.99 per cent, in line with inflation, and invest £500,000 in economic development.

Despite a reduction of £450,000 in the revenue support from the government, the council said it was committed to providing affordable housing and creating employment opportunities for young people while councillors’ allowances remained frozen.

Resources portfolio holder Kevin Beaty said: "These are extremely challenging times financially for local government but once again we have agreed a budget without any reductions to our services for residents.

“This will help us to meet the key challenges facing the council and maintain services that our residents value, such as weekly refuse collections, public toilets and the popular Eden Community Fund.”