Serious concerns have been raised over the potential safety hazards of street lights within the Cookstown area if they go unrepaired.
SDLP Mid Ulster Councillor, Tony Quinn, has warned that the Roads Minister’s decision to stop funding the repair of street lights will make roads more dangerous for local residents and motorists.
The warning came after Roads Service told the SDLP councillor that they were not carrying out any street light repairs in Cookstown due to budget constraints.
Cllr Quinn said, “A pensioner who lives in Cookstown had approached me about a street light outside his home which was not working.
“On contacting Roads Service seeking a repair within the usual 5 working days, they informed me that, as of 7th August, they were not carrying out any street light repairs due to budget constraints.
“The SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has asked the Roads Minister to clarify his position on this cut in services. Is he really going to just let the street lights go out across the north?
“We all understand that budgets are tight – all departments are being asked to make savings. The failure within OFMDFM to agree a way forward on welfare reform has also increased the strain on the available resources.
“But there are real issues about safety on our streets if the Minister continues with this approach.
“In the autumn and winter months working street lighting is essential to ensure the safety of local residents, children travelling to and from school and motorists. Dark streets in our towns are an invitation to criminals to increase their antisocial activity. In other forums where I have engaged with older people, high on their agenda is the fear of crime, and street lights not working only adds to this fear.
“The Minister’s decision to cut this most visible service is a high-risk political gamble with the safety of our citizens.
“He must reconsider his approach and, if necessary, find the savings elsewhere in his budget.”
Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy said: “Following the recent announcement on June monitoring my Department is facing a significant budget shortfall.
“Our in-house contractor will endeavour to keep the road network in as safe a condition as possible, however, they will not be able to provide the service the public would expect in normal circumstances.
“I have also had to take the difficult decision to stop funding external contractors for the repair of street lights that fail, unless they pose an electrical hazard to members of the public. This has the potential to result in tens of thousands of street lights being out across Northern Ireland over the winter period. “These have been tough decisions to take but at this time are an attempt to try and protect areas such as winter service where withdrawal of our work could have an even greater impact on the Northern Ireland economy and the public.”