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Spending squeeze blamed for N Ireland road cuts

NEWS

NORTHERN Ireland minister Shaun Woodward has blamed a Treasury spending squeeze for cutbacks in road maintenance in the province.

The Quarry Products Association met Mr Woodward to lobby for more cash last week after plans to spend £780 million in structural maintenance spending on the network by 2012 were slashed.

Draft budgets show a private sector spend of just £25 million in 2006-07 and £40 million in 2007-08.

QPA regional director Gordon Best said: 'It was a betterthan-expected meeting and he was honest.

'He acknowledged that there had been cuts but said the Treasury was putting a real squeeze on public spending and he was competing against health and education.' Mr Woodward said he would try to ensure that roads maintenance was given a high priority in cash talks for the 2006 budget rounds.

The QPA will take up the issue again with the Northern Irish Road Services next week.

The organisation has also enlisted the support of SDLP regional development spokeswoman Margaret Ritchie, who is seeking a meeting with finance minister Lord Rooker.