Fears over dwindling maintenance budget

Mark H Durkan.
Mark H Durkan.

SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan has described the revelation that the North Ireland roads maintenance budget is about to run out is “hugely concerning”.

Mr Durkan has now called on political parties to forge agreement to restore power-sharing in order to deal with this and a raft of other budgetary challenges facing people here.

He was speaking after the Department for Infrastructure confirmed that only pothole, repairs, resurfacing and street lighting that poses a risk to public safety will be fixed beyond October unless additional funding is secured.

Mr Durkan said: “I am hugely concerned to learn that this critical funding for our roads is at risk.

“Week in and week out my constituency office is inundated with local concerns regarding road maintenance. Our roads maintenance is already under pressure having already experienced disinvestment. But this will now be compounded by no maintenance activity for five months.

“This work is vital, it is not something we can ignore. It is matter of public safety.”

He added: “More and more we are hearing of the strain on public services while there is no Executive in place. It’s simply not good enough.

“With reports today including concerns that a lack of funding could lead to hundreds of job losses, alarm bells should be ringing for political leaders to step up.

“None of the issues are insurmountable. A deal can be done to restore power-sharing, if the political will exists.

“As budget holes deepen and our public services, roads, health and education, are put under further pressure, the dangerous reality is that people here are left to pay the price for a political failure.”

A DfI spokesman meanwhile said: “Structural maintenance work includes resurfacing, surface dressing, pothole repairs/patching and drainage schemes. A significant programme of work has been delivered early in the year, to maximise both the amount of work which can be carried out in better weather and the enhanced longevity of works if carried out in better weather.

“The budget for resurfacing and surface dressing work has now been fully allocated and continuing this work beyond October will require additional resources becoming available. Structural maintenance activities including pothole repairs/patching along with street lighting repair and grass cutting will continue to be carried out to meet all essential public safety requirements.

“Departmental officials have been liaising closely with industry bodies to keep them apprised of the budgetary outlook and is acutely aware of the impact on the sector.

“The Department remains in contact with colleagues in the Department for Finance in an effort to improve the funding position, however there are many competing priorities in the Roads, Water and Transport sector and the current budgetary position means funding is limited and difficult decisions have to be made.”

The 17/18 structural maintenance budget is £43 million.

In 2016/17 the structural maintenance outturn was £88m and in 2015/16 was £54m.