As a result of the political impasse at Stormont and the Executives failure to agree the redistribution of Government funding as part of the June monitoring round the Roads Maintenance Industry faces unprecedented threats as funding comes to an end in just a couple of weeks.
That’s the warning following a meeting between QPANI Members and the Chairman of the Assembly Regional Development Committee, Trevor Clarke MLA; a decision has now been taken to recall the RD Committee on Thursday 27th August at 14.00 to discuss the current funding crisis and immediate threat to skilled jobs and the industries future capacity to deliver a quality service.
Gordon Best, Regional Director of the Quarry Products Association, who represent all of the roads maintenance companies carrying out contracts for DRD said the outlook was the most serious that he can remember.
“Unfortunately for many years now the process by which the maintenance of our roads network is funded has been totally dependent on how much money other Government Departments cannot spend. That money is then redistributed about three times per year in what is called the monitoring rounds. In the past we have always had an overlap during which there has been enough funds to ensure continuity of work for contractors.
“Since the start of the year as a result of funding reductions employment levels within the sector have dropped from 950 to 466 at the start of August and if funding is not secured immediately this could drop further to an almost an unrecoverable number of 189.
“These facts graphically illustrate the serious funding issues we face as a result of the June monitoring round not being agreed yet. Furthermore the immediate impact on health and safety on our roads and the implications for the state of our roads, particularly the rural roads, and the higher costs of road reconstruction will be serious. The possible scenario of having no work at all in three weeks’ time will impact on the industries capacity to deliver again when and if funding levels return to what is required.
“We are already witnessing a significant skills migration from Northern Ireland. The fall in workload discourages young people from seeking a career in our industry due to its stop / start nature of funding. Hauliers, who we are dependent upon for moving our products from A to B are leaving the industry as a result of the uncertainty of a steady income. Companies involved in Road Maintenance have invested millions in plant and machinery, training and qualifying their workforce and in quality systems to ensure they deliver a quality service and product for the NI Executive and our local communities.
“The Industry, and indeed our economy, would call on our Executive to agree on the redistribution of funds from the June monitoring round as a matter of urgency so that highly skilled jobs are protected and the future integrity of our roads network is safeguarded.”