Ballycastle's designer signs cost taxpayer £63,000
Ballycastle doesn’t have a public swimming pool or a cinema.
It doesn’t have a fully functioning hospital or a full-time police station.
There isn’t even a Tesco store in the town.
But the seaside resort does now have new designer signs to welcome visitors on to the north coast.
The corten steel signs which set taxpayers back £63,000 have been erected at three locations on the edge of the town and are aimed at providing a “positive welcome” for tourists.
But critics have accused the Department for Social Development of wasting money at a time of economic hardship.
Social Development Minister Alex Attwood, whose department contributed £57,000 towards the project, said: “These welcome signs are wonderful pieces of art reflecting stories past and present for the enjoyment of everyone entering the town. I wish the Ballycastle Town Partnership and Moyle District Council every success as they continue to take forward the initiatives in the Ballycastle Town Strategy.”
When asked if the money could have been better spent elsewhere Mr Attwood’s department said: “The cost of the three gateway signs totalled £63,000, with DSD contributing £57,000. This included all design work, consultation, manufacturing and installation.
“Funding of this nature is provided by way of grants to district councils. When taking decisions on whether to fund any project, the department carefully considers whether the grant is actually needed to allow the project to proceed. In this case, our assessment was that Moyle District Council did not have the resources available to cover the full costs and the decision to provide the grant was made on that basis.
“The funding for the gateways project came from DSD's regeneration budget for the last financial year (2009/10).”
Stormont departments have been told to implement efficiency savings of 3%.
Alex Easton, a member of Stormont’s Development Committee, expressed shock at the expense of the Ballycastle welcome signs.
“I am a bit surprised because local councils usually provide gateway signs themselves — I know we do that in North Down.
“I am a bit shocked at a time of economic downturn and hardship that this amount of money has been wasted. We could quite easily have provided signs that cost a couple of thousand pounds.”
And Seamus Blaney, an Independent councillor with Moyle District Council, which contributed £6,000 for the scheme, said the money could have been put into something more constructive.
“I think they are lovely. It is a nice sign but I think the money probably could have been spent elsewhere,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“But compared to what they have spent on RPA, £63,000 is only a drop in the ocean.”