Footpaths across Keswick and surrounding villages could be plunged into darkness next April unless town and parish councils agree to take over the energy costs of lighting.
Allerdale Borough Council is responsible for the maintenance and costs of footway lighting, but is now considering handing over the responsibility of the electricity costs to parish councils.
Borrowdale Parish Council has learned its annual bill could reach more than £1,100 a year, which is equivalent to an increase of £6 a year on each household’s council tax.
The council’s vice-chairwoman, Freda Chapman, said lighting on roads is the responsibility of Cumbria County Council and is not affected.
She added: “I don’t think villagers are aware of this and it is also not clear cut whether they would want the lights for safety or would prefer the area to be unlit as part of a dark skies initiative.”
Costs to maintain footway lighting in the parish of Keswick could be between £2,500 and £3,000 a year.
Town clerk Lynda Walker said a working group of town councillors had been set up to look at the issue, but they needed to know the location of lights before they could go ahead and discuss the issue with residents.
She said: “We have asked Allerdale for the information, which we will need before we begin to set up our budget later this year. The costs would need to be met from the town council precept, which could mean an increase in council tax unless we could find cuts elsewhere.”
Rachael Kelly, clerk to Above Derwent Parish Council, said no decision had been made on the future costs of footway lighting.
“The parish council is trying to clarify which lights will be included, and crosschecking that the list provided by the borough council is correct,” she said.
Allerdale council has confirmed there is a proposal for town and parish councils to be asked to pick up the energy cost of lights within their parish from April, 2021.
A spokesman said: “Discussions with town and parish councils regarding associated energy costs for the lights are ongoing and we will work with those authorities to implement the proposal as smoothly as possible.”