STAFFORDSHIRE County Council is to invite four consortia to pitch for a £135 million privately-financed street lighting deal.
A council source said: 'We have gone down the Private Finance Initiative route as the only way of getting this work done. There is a national crisis in lighting maintenance because of lack of funds.
'Many structures up and down the country have reached the end of their design lives and are in a potentially dangerous state.'
The council is only the second local authority to opt for PFI contracting for streetlight replacement and maintenance.
Brent Borough Council in north-west London was the first, awarding a £45 million million contract last year to PFI Lighting - a consortium of lighting contractor David Webster and its banker, Societe Generale.
A number of other local authorities are now also looking to let their lighting contracts under the PFI. Interested councils include Leicestershire, Walsall, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent and the London borough of Lambeth.
A source close to the project said the Staffordshire line-up 'was likely to include David Webster again'. Paperwork should be sent to the four short-listed groups within the next two weeks.
The 25-year concession will cover a total of 94,000 pieces of equipment throughout Staffordshire. Five years of the deal will be earmarked for replacing lighting columns erected in the '60s and '70s. Many are understood to be in critical condition, with problems caused by steel rusting below ground and spalling concrete.
The remainder of the work covers maintenance and replacement of streetlights, road signs and electrical equipment.
Work is expected to get under way by April 2001.