07 Aug 2022

'Money is being squandered' - local councillor claims equipment being hired from Belfast while the same machines are 'lying idle' at a yard in Derry

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There have been claims that public money is being squandered after it emerged that equipment used for draining gullies is being hired from Belfast despite the fact that the same are permanently based in Derry. Gully emptiers or ‘gully suckers’, as they’re commonly known, are used to unblock gullies, drains and sewers. The independent unionist councillor Maurice Devenney believes that gully suckers stationed at Road Service headquarters at the Waterside in Derry (pictured above) have been ‘lying idle’ in the yard while a substantial amount of money is spent hiring additional tanks from Belfast. In a statement sent to the Derry News yesterday, the Department for Infrastructure (DFI), who have responsibility for the Roads Service, said that it was not prepared to reveal the costs associated with hiring gully tanks as it is ‘commercially sensitive’ information. Speaking to the Derry News yesterday, Alderman Devenney commented: “Following the storms in 2017 there were two gully suckers hired in which lay in the yard idle, they never moved. “I’ve been told that it could be costing tens of thousands of pounds per month for those machines. “And I’ve been told funding is geared towards hiring in equipment rather than using your own and that’s the wrong way to be looking at things. “For them to say it is ‘commercially sensitive’ isn’t good enough, I find it difficult to believe that they can’t provide a figure. “At the end of the day when you’re running a business you have to be able to get your costs right.” He added: “Is there evidence to prove these two gully cleaners based in Derry have been in use?” “It’s public money, they have to be accountable and should let us know how the money has been spent. “We’re in a very difficult financial climate and they should be open and transparent with all their costs.” The quick and effective drainage of surface water contributes significantly to the safety of a road. Winter Alderman Devenney said that he had been requesting the Department for Infrastructure deal with blocked gullies on the Victoria Road for months and it is only in recent weeks that any action was taken. However, efforts made failed to unblock the gullies and there appears to be greater issues caused by tree roots. “Work was carried out on gullies on the Victoria Road, the problem is now that they’ve been marked with yellow lines which tells me they’re totally blocked altogether and need additional work carried out on them,” Alderman Devenney added. “It’s now coming into the heart of winter time and while it might’ve alleviated some of the problem there are still major problems there along that road. “It’s a busy arterial road and the last thing we want to see is an injury or fatality because gullies are not correctly cleaned.” ‘Commercially sensitive’ The Department for Infrastructure would not disclose the cost of hiring gully emptiers and said that investigations were underway in relation to blocked gullies on the Victoria Road. A Departmental spokesperson said: “There are two gully emptiers available in Derry and both are available to cover flooding emergencies if needed. “In the months following the August 2017 floods additional resources, including gully emptiers, were deployed to support the Department’s efforts and were used to clear numerous culverts and pipes that had become blocked as a result of the flooding, as well as cleaning gullies.” She added: “The costs associated with hiring the additional gully emptiers is commercially sensitive. “During the recent gully cleaning operation on the Victoria Road it was not possible to get the three gullies in question running. “We expect this is to be as a result of the ingress of roots. Investigations are underway and we hope to complete the cleaning in the near future.”

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