Fear injury claims will rocket as DRD cuts hit its budget for repairing roads
Exclusive: The cost of claims taken by the public against DRD is up, with £2.22m paid out in 2014/2015
There are fears of a "sharp rise" in personal injury claims against the Department for Regional Development amid the ongoing Stormont budget crisis, as the latest figures show payouts are growing.
The cost of claims taken by the public against DRD is up, with £2.22m paid out in 2014/2015.
That is a £300,000-plus increase in the space of two years - up from just over £2m in the previous year, and £1.89m in 2012/13.
The information was revealed following an Assembly question to Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy.
The most common types of injuries include bone fractures, soft tissue injuries, cuts, sprains and bruises.
And there are concerns roads throughout the province may fall into such a state due to cuts that the safety of the public could be endangered, resulting in a glut of fresh claims, DUP MLA Sydney Anderson told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Although this is a notable rise in the amount of money the department has paid out, this is not the most concerning development," he said.
"The Executive's current financial pressures have been well documented. However, confirmation has been given that this year's resurfacing allocation will start at just £3.5m, which is very worrying.
"I am fearful that roads across Northern Ireland may fall into such a state of disrepair that public safety could be compromised.
"As a result of this there is every possibility that we may see a sharp rise in the level of personal injury compensation claims being made against DRD."
He accused the department of acting "in a very risky way" towards ensuring roads were maintained "at an adequate standard".
"No one wants to see a flood of compensation claims coming about because such a development would induce significant legal costs and would put a significant strain on families and individuals who are going through court proceedings," he said.
In response, Mr Kennedy said that "reduced maintenance" down to a "£60m resource budget pressure" had also the "potential to impact on public safety and increase public liability claims and hence costs".
"I have had no option other than to cut routine maintenance activities and introduce a skeleton service until the outcome of the next monitoring rounds are known," he said.
"I will be making a strong bid for resource funding in the next monitoring rounds to return routine maintenance services to normal levels.
"As well as impacts on service levels for activities such as pothole repairs, grass cutting, gully cleaning and street lighting repairs, there are underlying economic implications."
DRD is in the midst of stark cuts amid Stormont's current financial crisis.
Just last month Mr Kennedy admitted the repair of potholes, grass cutting and street lighting were at only "skeleton" levels throughout the province.
His department has already ended contracts with a number of firms.
This has led to job losses and at least one contractor being forced to shut up shop completely.
The cost of public liability personal injury claims to the Department for Regional Development has risen to £2.22m in the last financial year (2014/15). That's up from £2.08m in the previous year. Responding to fears that number could rise due to continued budget cuts, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said "reduced maintenance has also the potential to impact on public safety and increase public liability claims and hence costs".