TransportNI has withdrawn funding for grass cutting in town centres, leaving the new ABC super-council with a £38,000 headache.
Only nine days after taking over, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council will be left with the shortfall after the decision.
It will now have to find the money or grass cutting will suffer.
A letter from TransportNI, which went before a meeting of the new council’s environmental services committee meeting in Armagh last night (Wednesday), blamed “significant budgetary pressures” for the decision.
Transport NI, formerly DRD Roads Service, has traditionally paid councils across Northern Ireland a fee for the cutting of grass along roadside verges within town and village limits.
This funding was historically based upon a very basic Roads Service standard, aimed at ensuring that sight lines were kept unobstructed and, to this end, a one metre roadside cut was required to be maintained on road verges.
In the interests of visual amenity around towns and villages, the former Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon councils had routinely undertaken a much higher standard of grass verge maintenance than the basic specification.
The remuneration received from Roads Service in the past, therefore, would only have represented a proportion of the total expenditure incurred by in carrying out this role.
The value of this contract across Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon is £38,000 – Craigavon £7,000, Armagh £11,500 and Banbridge £19,500.
The income had been provided for in the 2015/16 estimates but the move by TransportNI will leave a £38,000 shortfall.
TransportNI, in its letter to council, said pressures meant it had been forced to review its operations with a view to “reducing the level of service which it provides”.
It adds: “Unfortunately one of the functions where budget cuts need to be made is urban grass cutting.
“Given the current financial position I regret to inform you that TransportNI will not be able to fund your council for grass cutting during 2015/15.
“I appreciate that this reduction in service is likely to be unwelcome, but TransportNI cannot spend money it does not have.”
The letter says that the decision will be reviewed “should the financial position improve”.
It has now been proposed that the issues around maintenance by the new council of Transport NI-owned grass verges, inside town and village limits, be brought before committee in the near future for further consideration.
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