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Minister warns winter road gritting may be curtailed due to budget cuts

The gritting of roads – or lack of it – during winter months is always a major cause for concern, particularly around south Armagh, where many roads are simply impassable after the slightest frost.

Constant calls are made by local councillors to extend the programme to include additional roads on the gritting schedule.

But now Roads Minister Danny Kennedy has confirmed that he may in fact have to curtail the level of gritting which, if it happens, will lead to further treacherous conditions and, many fear, will put lives at risk.

Following this week’s cuts to budgets at Stormont, the Minister says it will present real “financial challenges” to his own Department for Regional Development.

All departments, except Health and Education, have had their monies cut by 2.1% and this will be followed by a further 2.3% come October.

Mr Kennedy said: “I am particularly concerned about the reduction in my budget as this will have a severe impact on the delivery of frontline services to the public.

“This will include services such as street lighting repairs, road maintenance, grass cutting, gully cleaning and maintenance of traffic signs and road markings.

“Naturally this will have a detrimental impact on external contractors who provide these services across Northern Ireland.

“The financial situation I am facing is unprecedented and at this stage I cannot rule out the need to curtail winter services later this year.”

The Minister did, however, welcome additional funding of £12million which has been set aside for structural maintenance of roads and funding for the development of the Belfast Transport Hub, but said there was “still a significant shortfall in my budget”.

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