Belfast Telegraph

Cuts 'put roadworks jobs at risk'

Around 850 road worker jobs are set to be axed if the Government presses ahead with planned cuts to maintenance funding, industry representatives have claimed.

The body representing road surfacing contractors has demanded crisis talks with Stormont's Regional Development minister Danny Kennedy in a bid to avert losses. The Quarry Products Association (QPANI) has criticised the decision to reduce funding for road maintenance from £115 million to £47.5 million a year from April.

QPANI said in terms of work for the road contracting industry this will see a drop in value of work from £87 million to £20 million. This work includes mainly resurfacing, surface dressing and patching of potholes.

Gordon Best, regional director of QPANI, said: "A drop in work of such magnitude will see a significant loss of skilled jobs, possibly between 800 and 900, in the resurfacing sector and on companies who are already facing tough times. This is based on industry estimates that a £1 million spend on structural maintenance sustains 13 jobs within the industry".

Mr Best said the Stormont Executive as a whole had to explain the decision if maintaining roads was a priority of the power-sharing administration.

While the Executive has committed around £500 million to major new road building schemes and upgrades across the region in the next four years, QPANI accused it of ignoring the existing road network.

"QPANI welcomed the recent capital investment announcement but the Executive has left a gaping hole in the funding for what is the largest and most important asset the public sector manages, our existing roads network," said Mr Best.

"All the progress that has been made in the last year of record funding will be lost if current expected funding levels for the next two years are not increased. We are going back to a policy of the sticking plaster approach and something akin to building a new conservatory while the roof of the house is leaking."

A spokesman for the Department for Regional Development said: "The minister has met with the Quarry Producers Association on a number of occasions and is prepared to meet them specifically to discuss this issue."

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