Coleraine Ulster Unionist Councillor Richard Holmes has described the news that the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) will be carrying out two rural grass cuts this year as welcome, but still insufficient.
Lack of grass cutting by DfI came to a head in the Causeway Coast & Glens Council chamber recently when it emerged that Council were spending £55,000 per year cutting grass on behalf of DfI Roads Service. Cllr Holmes equated this to over 300 miles of roads whilst Cllr Darryl Wilson proposed that Council stop cutting the grass for DfI and call them in to Council for a Special Meeting.
Cllr Richard Holmes said:
“There has been a very cynical attempt by an incompetent Stormont administration to pass on costs to Local Government with no additional monies to compensate. This has happened with planning, with car parking and grass cutting seems to be the latest front.
“Ulster Unionist councillors have done their utmost to ensure that Causeway Coast & Glens Council works very hard to manage a budget measured in the tens of millions. Unfortunately, the Council is expected to pick up the tab for a Stormont government with a budget in excess of £12 billion pounds per year. Adding in the DUP’s billion-pound bung it really does seem that money grows on trees for some of those at Stormont. And still they can’t manage to cut the grass!
“Rural areas are suffering terribly from lack of investment in infrastructure from potholes, to broadband speeds and now grass cutting. Two grass cuts per year is wholly inadequate. The recent warm weather has boosted growth of the verges and with the best will in the world, even if they were to start now, there is no way that DfI can cut all the verges in a timely manner to maintain road safety, which is of vital importance.
“If the DUP and Sinn Fein ever get back to governing Northern Ireland - as they’re paid to do - one of the first things they need to do is address the chronic underfunding of DfI. Such a critically important department cannot be allowed to ditch routine maintenance work to save money and end up spending more dealing with emergencies. Unfortunately, crisis management is not uncommon in the DUP/Sinn Fein axis.
“The commitment by DfI to two rural cuts per year is better than last year, but leaves many rural communities trying to cope with increased danger around road crossings. This is completely unacceptable. Sadly, for many places, it is an accident waiting to happen and it is long past time that the Assembly got back to work.”