Question Time: Regional Development Tuesday 16 June 2015

Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy, discussed the details of his Department’s bid in the June monitoring round during today’s Question Time. Mr Kennedy explained that the £60m of cuts imposed on his Department in the 2015-16 Budget create a significant amount of pressure. To help counter the effects he has made 8 non-ring-fenced bids totalling £39.8m and 13 capital bids totalling £141.1m in the June monitoring round. These bids have been placed for services such as street lighting, community transport, the shortfall in NI Water funding, the Translink efficiency programme, and include a bid of over £100m to meet the shortfall in the current structural maintenance budget.
The Minister is concerned about the current financial situation and whether there will even be any money available in June monitoring warning, “We are already providing services at financial risk, and we can see the skeleton service that is available. We are in a dire financial situation, and it is time for parties around the Executive table and parties in the Assembly to face political and financial reality”.

Stewart Dickson conveyed concern over capital projects such as the redevelopment of the York Street Interchange (in Belfast), given the current budgetary strain. Mr Kennedy assured the Member that, despite the cuts, the Department would still be taking forward a substantial capital programme. This includes development work on the York Street interchange which is progressing well. This project should alleviate the bottleneck currently affecting the M1/Westlink, M2 and M3. The public inquiry process is underway and funds have been set aside (including the receipt of EU funding towards design development). The Minister did warn however that any further cuts to the Department budget would mean that capital commitments would need to be reviewed, including the York Street interchange.

Mr Kennedy also answered questions on the Coleraine to Londonderry track renewal project, the control of noxious weeds and the environmental obligations of NI Water. During topical questions the Minister also answered questions on improvement plans for Finaghy bridge, Copeland and North Woodburn reservoirs and the current grass-cutting policy.

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