SF blamed for shortfall in road-repairing budget

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A shortfall in the budget for repairing Northern Ireland’s roads is “yet another consequence” of the Stormont stalemate caused by Sinn Fein’s “ridiculous red lines”, an Ulster Unionist MLA has claimed.

The Department for Infrastructure has warned that the £43m earmarked for maintenance work in the 2016/17 financial year is almost spent.

While pothole repairs, street lighting repairs and grass cutting will still be carried out “to meet all essential public safety requirements”, the department said the budget for resurfacing and surface dressing work has now been fully allocated.

It added that continuing this work after October “will require additional resources becoming available”.

Re-allocation of public funds is normally done by Stormont ministers in monitoring rounds.

But the Province has been without a functioning Executive since the power-sharing institutions collapsed in January, leaving civil servants to manage spending without a formal budget.

East Antrim UUP MLA John Stewart laid the blame squarely at the feet of Sinn Fein, stating that the party’s “intransigence” over its demands for an Irish language act is preventing funds being re-allocated.

He added: “In previous years we had local ministers who were able to make a case at the Executive table for extra funds in year to keep the system at least ticking over. “

Sinn Fein MLA Cathal Boylan said branded Mr Stewart’s comments “laughable”.

He added: “The real threat to our public services continues to be the Tory austerity cuts, backed by the UUP and now supported by the DUP”.