Eric Pickles has defended switching off street lights at night, saying it allows people to see the stars.

The Communities Secretary's words have been criticised by the leader of Wirral Council, who blasted Mr Pickles as "a hypocrite."

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Pickles said he “loves” street lights being switched off at night because it saves money and helps him sleep.

He said: “In a time when we are on the cusp with regards to our electricity supply, we can’t have lights burning all night on the off chance someone wants to get out and do aerobics at 3am.

“I love it because I am economy-minded. It’s saving a phenomenal amount of money, it’s decreased crime because burglars love ambient lighting, it’s nice to see the night sky and, as someone who lives in a main street that has had its lights cut off, I can get a good night’s sleep.”

Two thirds of councils are now dimming or switching off street lights at night due to financial pressures.

Wirral Council is among them - and their decision came under fire from Prime Minister David Cameron who told the Globe in January: "it should not be necessary to increase council tax or turn off the street lights."

Council chief Phil Davies said: "There's clearly total confusion at the top of the Government over this.

"No one wants to turn off street lights, in an ideal world we would not be doing it.

"But we've had to, as it saves a lot of money - and we've come in for criticism not just from local Tories but for the Prime Minister as well.

"Now we have their Secretary of State for Communities saying he 'loves' it and it's an excellent idea.

"It's sheer hypocrisy."

A recent survey of local authorities suggested that 750,000 lights in 81 council areas have either been turned off or set to a lower brightness during the night or early morning.

In some rural areas up to two-thirds of all lighting has been switched off or dimmed