A resource funding reduction of 14% forced the department to consider cutting the road gritting service this winter.
Following the DfI Resource Budget 2023-23 Equality Impact Assessment Consultation the department has confirmed that winter service provision will continue at current levels with priority given to gritting main through routes linking towns and villages.
Said the Foyle MLA: “Given the perennial problems with gritting provision, which is like sourcing gold dust year on year, assurances that the service will continue this winter period is welcome.
“Despite this, it is clear that the budget pressures are severely limiting the department’s ability to respond to the demand for winter services.
“The potential consequences on road safety don’t bear thinking about.
“The department’s allocation for winter services this year is a meagre £1.2 million but it is likely that a £5.8 million overspend will be incurred.
“To put this into perspective last year saw a £6.63 million expenditure for gritting roads and it’s predicted that the cost of material salt will rise by 22% this winter.
“Increased costs on a severely restricted budget means DfI Roads will get less for their money.
“The prioritisation of blue light and main routes accounts for just 28% of the total road network, with rural areas potentially facing treacherous conditions over the winter period and a reduction in service will undoubtedly compromise road safety.
“This is by no means a reflection of the great work carried out by DfI Roads staff on a daily basis.
“They’ve been forced to meet increasing demands on a greatly diminished budget, not just in terms of winter services but this applies to pothole repairs, resurfacing works and road safety schemes.
“Increased disruption and risk of danger on our roads is a reality people are living with in Northern Ireland.
“Departments are being forced to consider unconscionable decisions, it’s past the point of trimming the fat, public services across the board have been cut to the bone.
“Receiving assurances that winter services will be delivered is more of a source of small relief than a cause for celebration, we need an Executive in place to mitigate against the risks and improve safety for road users all year round.”Tags: