Belfast Telegraph

Budget cuts threat to gritting

Winter gritting in Northern Ireland could stop under painful measures proposed to meet budget cuts.

Street lights may be disconnected and Roads Service could withdraw from the repair of rural roads, according to a consultation paper published by the Department for Regional Development (DRD).

Minister Danny Kennedy outlined measures which he said he had no choice but to make in order to meet the proposed budget reductions decided by the Executive.

"As the Executive draft stands, the public will feel the pain of the service reductions on essential frontline roads, water and public transport services."

The Ulster Unionist has already warned that some street lights will not be repaired as part of the belt tightening. The latest proposals are contained in his 2015/16 Draft Budget.

The consultation paper said: "In summary, the impact of the reductions is such that consideration will have to be given to disconnecting street lights, withdrawing from the repair of rural roads, and stopping all winter service.

"Core services which business and citizens take for granted will have to be withdrawn.

"While mitigating measures may include income generation options including increases in parking and fare income, these would not be sufficient to avoid significant service reductions."

Potential above inflation rises in public transport fares, the complete withdrawal of town bus services in some areas, reductions in sewer unblocking and failure to meet environmental standards are among potential consequences outlined in the report.

The DRD has to save £65.5 million in day to day running costs and £72 million on capital costs on infrastructure.

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