Street lights turned off as Italian town fails to pay bills

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 14:27 EDT
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Monreale Italy via Flickr Commons
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Street lights have been turned off in a Sicilian town after local authorities failed to pay a million-euro bill for power supplies, Italian news websites reported on Tuesday.

Local residents of Monreale near Palermo — a popular tourist destination because of its famous Norman cathedral — have been forced to use flashlights in the evenings and some are warning of the risk of a spike in crime.

A local transport company also on Tuesday requested the seizure of property worth 600,000 euros ($786,000) belonging to the Monreale commune to honour another debt.

“The situation is becoming more and more dramatic by the day,” Massimiliano Lo Biondo, a local councillor from the centre-left Democratic Party which is in opposition to the town’s centre-right government, was quoted as saying.

“Residents do not feel safe and shopkeepers are paying the consequences of a reduction in public services,” he said, adding that the town would be forced to implement more cuts after being put on the power firm’s non-payers list.

Many local governments in Italy are beginning to feel the pinch after years of reckless spending and amid a round of austerity budget cuts enforced by Prime Minister Mario Monti in a bid to rein in the public finances.

(Photo of Monreale, Italy, by Michal Osmenda via Flickr Commons)

Agence France-Presse
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