QPANI calls for crisis talks
29 March 2012 - 17:20
Association demands urgent talks with Minister to save loss of hundreds of road surfacing jobs
THE Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland (QPANI) has demanded crisis talks with the Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy in a bid to reverse the imminent loss of some 850 jobs.
In line with the Executive budget, funding for structural maintenance was to be reduced to £52 million for the financial year 2012/13. However, the fears of industry in relation to this cut had been alleviated over the past six months with information from well placed sources within the DRD indicating that the reduction in budget from the record levels achieved in 2011/12 would not be anywhere as severe as predicted.
However, in a recent answer to an Assembly question, the Minister confirmed that funding for road maintenance in the next financial year, beginning in April 2012, would be slashed from a high of £115 million to a low of £47.5 million. In terms of work for the road contracting industry, this will see a drop in the value of work from £87 million to £20 million. This work includes mainly resurfacing, surface dressing and the patching of potholes.
Gordon Best, regional director of QPANI, said: ‘A drop in work of such magnitude (more than 75%) will see a significant loss of skilled jobs, possibly between 800 and 900, in the resurfacing sector and on companies who are already facing tough times. This is based on industry estimates that £1million spent on structural maintenance sustains 13 jobs within the industry.’
The Association is now asking questions of the wider Executive as to how such a drop in expenditure can be justified given the clear view of the Assembly and many Executive Ministers that funding to maintain Northern Ireland’s roads network should be a key priority.
Mr Best added: ‘QPANI welcomed the recent capital investment announcement but the Executive has left a gaping hole in the funding for what is the largest and most important asset the public sector manages, our existing roads network. All the progress that has been made in the last year of record funding will be lost if current expected funding levels for the next two years are not increased.
‘In terms of policy, we are going back to a sticking-plaster approach and something akin to building a new conservatory while the roof of the house is leaking.’
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