Cork County Manager Martin Riordan has warned that his overtime budget has been cut by 50% and this has resulted in cutting the grit that would normally be put on the roads in icy conditions.
This is a frightening reminder of the country’s financial plight.
The road maintenance budget for secondary and rural roads in Co Cork, which has the most extensive road network in the country, has been cut from €60 million to €40m this year, and it is expected to be cut even further next year. Mr Riordan is predicting that the roads will deteriorate seriously in the next year to 18 months.
The council is blaming the Government and trying to bully it into putting up more money, while the Government is essentially blaming the council. The two sides are playing a reckless game of pass the parcel.
This reflects no credit on either side. In reality the public is being held to ransom so that the council can make a point.
It is an outrage to witness such irresponsible behaviour with something as critical as road safety, especially at this time of year when so many people are using the roads. There have already been a number of fatal accidents that have been attributed to ice on the roads. In other countries, where freezing weather is the norm at this time of year, cars frequently have studded tyres that provide grip in icy conditions.
Most people in this country are not used to such conditions. Even when there is ice on the roads, the council could usually be expected to grit or salt the roads to provide traction, especially on bends.
Some people may have made the mistake of thinking that the treacherous conditions due to lack of gritting were the result of workmen being on holidays, but it seems that it is actually a money-saving measure.
What possibly could be more important than saving lives and limbs? Such crazy economising is not going to save money in the long run because people are going to be killed and maimed and society will ultimately have to bear the cost, whether it is in the form of higher insurance premiums or welfare costs.
Everyone will have to pay and everyone should be making their feelings known. It may not matter how careful individual drivers are, everybody is in mortal danger from somebody else’s mistakes.
If the council officials do not have the initiative or the foresight to act at such a critical time, then surely those responsible should make way. The coming weekend will be one of the busiest on the roads and it will set a dreadful precedent for the year if the population is to be put at risk because officials lack the competence to take necessary action to protect people.
The whole thing is a scandal that needs to be highlighted because virtually every family in the country is being endangered. Budgets have to be cut so let’s get the priorities right.
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