Councillors were united in their condemnation of the state of the borough’s roads during the local authority’s monthly meeting in March.
At the meeting of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Alderman Glenn Barr raised the issue, saying the number of potholes was “absolutely shocking”.
“The amount of cars breaking their wheels and suspensions due to the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) not being able to fill potholes is unreal,” he said.
“And when they do manage to fill them, they are using cheap stuff that after two days is cracked again.”
DUP group leader Alderman Mark Baxter said he had “never seen the roads in as bad a condition” and told the chamber it should invite DfI’s southern division manager, Mark McPeake, to explain why the roads are in such a bad state.
“I am giving the NI Direct claim link out for people who get their vehicles damaged on a daily basis now,” he said.
“I don’t know what is going on at that department, the staff are very good, you report the potholes and they say ‘we will do what we can’ and they talk about budgetary constraints but the budgets are the same as they are every year.
“When there was no government for three years here the potholes weren’t as bad. It is a nonsense to blame it on not having ministers. The permanent secretary has it within his gift to dish out budgets to get these roads fixed.
“There are thousands of pounds being wasted by Roads Service and I think we should invite them to come and explain to ratepayers why the roads are in such bad shape.
“I dare say it is a lot cheaper to fix the potholes than it is to fix alloy rims and springs on the front of people’s cars. It is a downright disgrace and everybody here, as an elected representative, has probably never had as many complaints.”
His party colleague, Councillor Ian Wilson described rural roads as a “moonscape” and urged Roads Service to get its “act together”.
Council’s deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Tim McClelland seconded Alderman Baxter’s proposal before Sinn Fein group leader, Councillor Liam Mackle said the roads were just as bad in Lurgan and told the chamber the Conservative Party was to blame.
“There is not a road you drive down that isn’t crumbling or falling apart,” he said.
“I do remember when DfI were last here where they did say that in 2013, their maintenance budget was £40 million. It is currently £14 million and that is the reality of Conservative government in the UK. It ends up with public services decimated.”
Councillor Kyle Savage asked if DfI had not already been invited to address council in person and questioned the effectiveness of asking them to appear yet again.
Chief Executive Roger Wilson confirmed that in the last correspondence from DfI the department’s permanent secretary Julie Harrison said “I do not feel a meeting would be beneficial at this stage”.
To this, Councillor Savage wryly noted “so we are asking for a letter to be sent again to get the same response back then, basically” before SDLP councillor Declan McAlinden reminded the chamber that more than £240,000 was spent by DfI on claims from motorists last year.
“At the last meeting we had with DfI, I asked for the figures in relation to claims,” said Councillor McAlinden.
“Last year, it paid out £245,097 on 340 claims. It is absolutely ridiculous. Recently at home, there were two funerals and the main road was that bad we couldn’t carry the coffins down the main road.
“It is an absolute disgrace.”
With the Lord Mayor, Councillor Paul Greenfield bringing the debate to a close, Alderman Stephen Moutray noted that motorists can be left waiting for months for their compensation claims to be paid.
“The points that have been raised are all very valid but it is also worth remembering that for people lodging claims for damage that has been done to their vehicles it is a minimum of four months before they will be compensated,” he said.
“In an economic downturn, there are a lot of people who can hardly run a car for four months never mind waiting for four months to be compensated.”
Newsletter: It would appear Lurgan has gone to pot!