John Stewart, the Ulster Unionist Party’s Infrastructure spokesperson, has welcomed the allocation to the roads maintenance budget, announced by the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Infrastructure.
John Stewart MLA said:
“The Ulster Unionist Party has long recognised that a much greater priority needs to be given to the roads maintenance budget for Northern Ireland. Indeed, we were the only party to make this case in our Assembly manifesto. The fact that our warnings have been ignored over recent years has led to the situation in which we currently find ourselves.
“As an East Antrim representative, I can say with confidence that a large proportion of my constituency casework is related to complaints about the service provided by the Department for Infrastructure, and in particular, roads. Put bluntly, the current state of repair of our roads network is nothing short of a disgrace, and has reached the stage where it is endangering public safety.
“In my response to the Budgetary Outlook paper published just prior to the New Year, I made the point that the estimated required investment of at least £150M for the next three years in roads maintenance, needed to be implemented.
“With the announcement of the allocations being made by the Permanent Secretary of the Department - in the continuing lamentable absence of a local Minister - it at least looks like someone was listening.
“In the short term at least, the news is encouraging in that the roads maintenance opening baseline budget for 2018/19 is being increased to £75M with £15M being allocated to a specific roads recovery fund to help mitigate the damage caused by the severe winter weather and the legacy of underinvestment under the DUP/ Sinn Fein Executive in previous years.
“Guarantees that the winter service, street lighting repairs and two grass cuts will be budgeted for in this incoming year are also to be welcomed. I would however caution that this cannot just be a one-year fix. An effective roads maintenance regime needs sustained investment and it requires a policy driven by an accountable Minister and a functioning Assembly at Stormont. That things have been allowed to get so bad stands as yet another indictment of the failure of the DUP and Sinn Fein in government.”