Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member, has blamed “the atrocious legacy of Sinn Fein in the Regional Development Department as the cause of the inevitable hike in parking charges across the Province”.
Assemblyman Swann is North Antrim UUP Chairman and Party Chief Whip. His statement came after his party colleague and the current DRD Minister Danny Kennedy unveiled a series of stiff parking increases across towns in Northern Ireland, including Ballymena and Ballycastle.
Mr Swann said: “My colleague had no other choice but to introduce the new charges given the legacy our party inherited from Sinn Fein’s time at Regional Development.
The North Antrim UUP MLA added: “Our Minister recently confirmed that the Department for Regional Development needs to find £30 million over the current budget period to deliver its frontline services.
“This is because of the atrocious legacy left to us by republicans when they ran the ministry.
“I am fully supportive of local businesses in North Antrim and know full well the financial difficulties which they are presently going through, however the Regional Development Department itself is not immune to the present financial situation and is itself operating within a constrained financial position.
“I cannot understate the depth of this legacy issue from Sinn Fein’s time at DRD. Minister Kennedy has ensured that there is free off-street or on-street car parking in all towns across Northern Ireland. The off-street car parks continue to offer a free alternative to charged parking.
“Given the reduced DRD budget situation, I know that Minister Kennedy would be happy to hear alternative suggestions, including from other political parties and elected representatives, and has indeed requested this from members of the Regional Development Committee at Stormont.
“Additional funds must be found or made available from the Executive to avoid further annual increases in car parking charges over the lifetime of the budget,” said Assemblyman Swann.