Lights out warning over budget cuts

Lights out warning over budget cuts

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy has said cuts to his department's budget could have serious implications for services such as street lighting, roads maintenance and water services.

Following last week's Executive agreement on the June Monitoring Round, the minister said the Department for Regional Development, which looks after roads and street lighting, faces a deficit in funding.He told UTV: "That's £15m which is 4.4% in real terms and that will impact services this department would normally be expected to do."That will be emptying and clearing gullies, fixing road defects, such as potholes, grass cutting and street lighting."There will be consequences, not just to transport, but to Translink and to NI Water and people will notice a change in frontline services."This has the potential to result in tens of thousands of street lights being out across Northern Ireland over the winter period.Transport Minister Danny KennedyThere are around 275,000 street lights in Northern Ireland and last year 80,000 faults were reported. The cuts mean only a small proportion are likely to be attended to by DRD.The UUP minister continued: "By law I have to balance the books."There is no grandstanding here, I don't have the necessary resources to carry out the duties of my department and that is as a result of the decision taken at the Executive last week."Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, however, accused the minister of exaggerating.He said: "Danny Kennedy - like lots of other ministers - will now have to deal with these reductions within their departments."I'd rather they didn't have to plan for cuts but the unfortunate reality is that they do."While Danny has made clear how he intends to deal with the reductions it is also worth noting that his budget has actually increased after the June Monitoring Round."I don't underestimate the pressures all ministers face but conjuring up the image of every street light being out or the country becoming a wilderness because of uncut grass is an exaggeration in the extreme."The DUP minister blamed a failure to agree welfare reform on the cuts which he said would have to continue because of Westminster-imposed penalties.

© UTV

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