Belfast Telegraph

Stormont cutbacks risk safety and 50 jobs, says Belfast family engineering firm

Work has effectively ended across many of Maurice Flynn and Sons' (MFS) government contracts

By John Mulgrew

A family-run engineering firm being forced to slash 50 jobs as a result of the Stormont budget stalemate has warned of serious health and safety issues caused by cuts to roads services.

Dunmurry-based Maurice Flynn and Sons (MFS) handles a number of government contracts, and counts the departments for regional development, education and health among its clients.

But work has effectively ended across many of its contracts - including gully cleaning and grass cutting - says Mark Spence, business development director.

He told the Belfast Telegraph Stormont "must act" to agree a budget, and warned of a "risk of accidents" as key maintenance is put on ice.

"The business employs around 240 staff and delivers exclusively for the public sector," he said.

"It's potentially 50 jobs at the moment. We are advising staff, if they have opportunities elsewhere, to look out for them."

The company has already been forced to lay off 11 staff as the result of a freeze in gully cleaning by the Department for Regional Development. It's hoping the latest job losses can be dealt with through voluntary redundancy.

MFS also deals with maintenance and improvements across the bulk of Northern Ireland's schools. That's something which has also been significantly cut back.

"Some (contracts) have been frozen and some have had zero work. We have had ongoing discussions with DRD - we've had no work. We've already laid off 11 people," said Mr Spence.

He said it was "impossible" working in the backdrop of "uncertainty" and a budget must be agreed soon.

"Our view is we understand that there are 10% cuts going, but we are trying to work with uncertainty. If there was a budget, then there would be a green light for us, which is at least something. We need some agreement on the Hill - we are working in extreme circumstances," he said.

And he's concerned a lack of maintenance in key areas could lead to a "risk of accidents".

"MFS looks after most of the schools in Northern Ireland for things like improvements. At the moment we are just dealing with emergency and immediate repairs," he added.

"While it may not be visible yet, getting to the winter time, things like the roads will become an issue.

"We had contracts such as gully cleaning. In absence of that, there is a risk of accidents with flooding, as well as grass cutting. It's a can of worms and a genuine concern."

The award-winning firm is currently headed by Aidan Flynn - himself a winner of the IoD Young Director of the Year.

MFS is one of many firms hit as a result of cuts and the Executive's failure to agree a final budget for Northern Ireland.

A spokesman for the Department for Regional Development said Minister Danny Kennedy "has already stated that the DRD budget does not provide for sufficient service provision in areas such as repair of potholes and traffic lights, and other measures such as gully emptying and grass cutting at junctions".

Belfast Telegraph