Leading article

Roads minister must make safety a priority

A wide range of public services have been affected by budget cuts with particular attention being applied to the Department of Regional Development (DRD).

It is this department which is responsible for road maintenance so people take notice when their street is plunged into darkness because there is no money to repair lighting, or drivers are unable to see oncoming traffic because there is no money to cut grass verges.

Minister Danny Kennedy has to deal with the budget he is handed and we can be sure he would like to be in a position to carry out all necessary maintenance work.

But the clear message coming from his department is that cash is tight and key areas have to be prioritised.

That is a fair enough position but questions will then be asked over spending which does not appear to be absolutely essential.

For instance, £400,000 has been spent this year on upgrading the A29 between Dungannon and Cookstown at its junction with the Desertcreat Road.

Desertcreat, of course, was to be the site of the £130 million police training college, a plan now gathering dust despite millions being spent on preparatory work.

Had the college gone ahead then a widening of the junction would have made sense but in the absence of this facility it is difficult to see that it was completely necessary, particularly as funds are so short in the department.

In fact, we are told there is no money available to repair a gaping hole in the wall of a bridge outside Coalisland, leading to local people warning there could be dangerous consequences.

Taxpayers expect priority to be given to work which keeps the public safe.

The minister has plenty on his plate, not least the fiasco over bus lane penalty notices.

However, repairing holes in bridges and cutting grass verges would seem to many people to be a sensible and essential use of scarce resources.

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