ONE week after streetlights were turned off across Castle Point, cabbies and residents say the decision is plunging them into the dark ages.

Taxi firms and elderly residents have lashed out seven days after Essex County Council switched off the lights in the borough between midnight and 5am.

The controversial scheme was slammed by campaigners who are desperately trying to get County Hall to reverse the cost-saving measure.

Alf Papworth, 80, of Ashdown Crescent, Hadleigh, is the co-ordinator of the local neighbourhood watch and said he fears the amount of crime will increase.

“We have had around 18 crimes in the last couple of months and this number will surely increase. 95 per cent of the residents in this estate are pensioners and this will affect them more than most. Add in the fact that we are on the hill and I cannot understand why we are not one of the areas with lights still burning.”

Bill Russell, 63, of High Road, Benfleet, said he fails to understand the scheme.

“There are so many areas in the borough that are now out-of-bounds after dark. I suffer from spinal osteoarthritis and, should I ever be out at that time or returning from somewhere, I will have to have my torch on me. I may carry it around all the time just to be safe.

“My neighbours hide behind their curtains. It isn’t much fun.”

Suhed Ahmed, owner of A & N Taxis, in Edith Road, Canvey said his drivers were against the new scheme and passengers were also venting their frustrations.

He said: “It is a very difficult time for the drivers. After midnight we are unable to see numbers on doors and it is very low visibility anyway. With it being pitch black down the side roads we are having to be more cautious and these delays are consequently running up customers bills.

“It will only get worse as the months get busier. This is our quietest month so the coming months will prove to be more problematic.”

It is believed the project will save Essex County Council more than £1million a year – £64,000 in Castle Point - with almost a third of that sum, £20,000, saved in Canvey alone.