Government rejects call for action on MPA Road

A MOTION calling for greater action on resurfacing the MPA R-oad was thrown out of Legislative Assembly yesterday.

Assembly Members voted four against and three in favour of the motion put to the house by MLA Michael Poole.

MLA Phyl Rendell seconded the motion and MLA Ian Hansen added his support. MLAs Mike Summers, Jan Cheek, Gavin Short and Barry Elsby did not support the motion.

The debate was as a result of the petition organised by local businessman Dave Eynon which contained some 600 signatures from people predominantly on the electoral role, asking that significantly greater priority be given to this project in the budget discussions that will commence in the new year.

With the views of the other six  MLAs aired (MLA Roger Edwards was not present) MLA Michael Poole said that the inevitable and expected scare-mongering had been voiced which if believed, would result in the “lights going off and the ferry sinking tomorrow.” 

That other priority projects should be dropped in favour of the road had not been suggested and it was purely a matter of prioritisation and compromise on budget principles as he and MLA Rendell had outlined, he said.

“I think it is genuinely possible for us to still achieve our key priorities of which the MPA road is clearly one, whilst not vastly changing public services or forgoing other key capital projects.”

MLA Poole said he would be more than happy to present his proposal on how that could be achieved in the capital budget within the next week or two, “so members could see his personal thinking on the issue.”

The role of MLAs was to set a vision he said, adding that he saw the concerns expressed for the safety of road users as a, “bit of an avoidance of the issue.”

If it was such a concern he was keen for those members to bring forward proposals on greater safety and possibly a bill looking at limiting speed and other contributing factors to road accidents.

“I suggest it is not such a big issue as it has been made out to be this morning,” he said.

None of the MLAs disputed the fact that everyone would like to see the MPA road properly surfaced, however they had concerns about affordability and there was not a will to use reserve funds on a capital project.

MLA Poole said the findings of an economic analysis for surfacing the road, prepared by the Policy Unit for the last budget, was that even without oil development occurring there would be a net economic benefit to performing the work. 

He said he had studied the capital budget in recent days and thought it was affordable to surface 5 km per annum rather than the current 2km budgeted at £1.5 million per annum. 

“We would have the road capped within a decade,” he said adding that it was a reasonable compromise, “and would not put undue financial pressure on the government.”

MLA Summers said he was not prepared to borrow or use reserves. He said he agreed with MLA Poole that it was about quality of life, “but what might need to be sacrificed to achieve that quality of life might be beyond that anticipated by those who signed the petition.”

He added: “I for one won’t be sacrificing either the SAAS freight service or the ferry, nor accepting a change between the ratio of operating expenditure and reserves for what is in effect a quality of life project.”
MLA Ian Hansen supported the motion saying that he had interpreted it as not committing to anything other than more discussion, but stressed the “horrendous wear and tear” on vehicles. He said this was particular to businesses such as hauliers and tourism and that the costs were then passed on to the user.