QPANI issues warning to every MLA

Highlighting the latest QPANI publication -’60 Days to Save Our Roads Network’ – the letter to MLAs states, “While we fully recognise and appreciate the current financial pressures the Executive faces, we believe it is essential and proper for us to inform you that current levels of structural maintenance funding will have serious consequences for jobs, for our economy and for safety on our roads.

“As the Executive prepares its 2016/17 Budget, the case must be made for reducing the dependence on the in-year monitoring rounds – which, as you know this year, completely failed to function – that has been used to fund the maintenance of the largest and most valuable asset the public sector manages, our £32 billion existing roads network.”

The QPANI has criticised the apparent reliance on monitoring rounds to award funding for the roads network and states its concerns that, in the November monitoring round, “only £5million has been released for structural maintenance resurfacing and £5million for resource spend to cover patching, white lining, grass cutting and gulley emptying”.

It also points out that, at £20million, the 2015-16 financial year will turn out to be “the worst year ever for levels of structural maintenance resurfacing spending”. According to the QPANI, the normal average is £70million.

The QPANI publication asks MLAs to consider a series of important points on regarding the £133million Structural Maintenance Funding Plan for 2015/16, including how:

  • A £97million underspend will cost the economy £122.2million.
  • A total of 650 jobs have been lost due to the underspend. The QPANI highlighted how every £1million spent on resurfacing of roads sustains 13 highly skilled jobs.
  • A recent CBI survey showed that 94% of businesses view the condition of our roads infrastructure as most important in making investment decisions.
  • Investment in capital funded resurfacing reduces the need for resource spending, the part of the local budget that is under most pressure.
  • It is accepted that the condition of Northern Ireland’s roads is of vital importance to the economic and social well-being of the country, particularly as most manufacturing businesses are export focused and require connectivity to ports and airports.
  • As identified in the 2010 Snaith Report ‘planned maintenance of a proper magnitude is able to maintain a road network in a steady condition more cheaply than using reactive techniques or ultimately reconstruction’. The report highlighted that when there is a decline in the condition of the roads system and therefore an increasing rate of reactive patching this creates increased public liability claims and, most importantly, an increasing level of backlog maintenance. In this 2010 report the level of backlog maintenance was estimated at £726million and since then it has increased to almost £1billion.

The report concludes, “Continued lack of funding for proper roads maintenance will only make this terrible situation worse and if proper funding is not made available NOW this will indeed lead to an even worsening, vicious downwards spiral of even more money in the medium to long term being spent on poor value, reactive maintenance and increasing public liability claims.”