Connell seeks answers over road maintenance

Cllr Paul Connell.
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has come under fire for his recent criticism of local authorities over their maintenance of local road networks.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has come under fire for his recent criticism of local authorities over their maintenance of local road networks.

Without specifically naming the worst cuplrits, Mr Varadkar called on certain local authorities to take more responsibility for carrying out emergency repairs on roads, rather than relying on direct central government grants.

According to reports, two counties believed to be the least forthcoming in terms of using their own funds were Roscommon and Longford, leading the Fine Gael minister to increase in-house spending on local road improvements.

Reacting to those calls, Cllr Paul Connell took the opportunity presented by last week’s county council meeting to vent his own frustrations.

Hitting back at Mr Varadkar, Cllr Connell also asked why a representative from the council had recently told a local media outlet that councillors were content with present day road expenditure commitments.

“A spokesperson for Longford County Council said that its elected representatives were satisfied with the amount of money spent last year, but I want to make it very clear that I was never satisfied and I want to distance myself from that,” he said.

Turning his attention to Mr Varadkar, the Independent dual mandate councillor stormed: “Where does he (Mr Varadkar) expect the money to come from if it does not come from central government?”

Cllr Denis Glennon endorsed the concerns expressed by Cllr Connell, pointing to the fact Longford still had one of the lowest commercial rate bases in the country.

“To say that Longford can be compared to other counties is just utterly ridiculous,” he remarked.

Director of Services Jack Kilgallon likewise attempted to defend Longford County Council’s record when it came to road maintenance demands.

“In relation to the €800,000 that was put into the roadworks scheme this year it’s a substantially greater amount that the council put in ten years ago. In fact, for years when the economy was booming the council continued to increase the amount,” he said.

Instead of welcoming those assurances, Cllr Connell vowed to obtain a transcript of the interview previously recorded between a county council spokesperson and local radio station over Longford’s road spending allocations.