[WATCH] 'Government looking at new model for road maintenance financing' - PM

Prime minister Joseph Muscat said that the quality of roads was particularly worrying and that a more transparent process was needed for tackling their maintenance

Muscat meets mayors in Cabinet meeting in Birkirkara

Prime minister Joseph Muscat said that a new model for the financing of road maintenance was being explored, as the current one was leaving local councils out of pocket and unable to carry out other projects.

Muscat was speaking at a Cabinet meeting, the 101st cabinet meeting in the current legislature, held at the Birkirkara civic centre.

"The previous PPP project in road maintenace has been effective, but it has left local councils footing the bill for a number of years," Muscat said, adding that many localities had to use their budgets for these payments rather than to tackle other more pressing issues.

"Projects Malta and Transport Malta are currently going through discussions to find a new model on how to carry out road maintenance."

Muscat explained that the new model would contrast with previous systems that placed pressure on Transport Malta to address dire situations, although they were not under its remit.

"We look forward to finding a new, more sustainable model. Local councils cannot continue to resort to pestering the government to make road repairs," he said, adding that the new model would introduce more sustainability and transparency in the process.

The mayor of Birkirkara, Joanne Debono Grech, said that the council was working diligently to maintain promises for the locality despite the financial difficulties, working with various organizations within the locality to carry out certain projects.

Debono Grech bemoaned the fact that the road maintenace was urgently required but that the council couldn't afford the work and the government's assistance was needed.

Sliema mayor Anthony Chircop, Lija mayor Magda Magri Naudi and San Gwann mayor Etienne Bonello Dupuis also spoke about issues with roads in their localities, saying that arterial roads should not be the responsibilty of local councils, given that they were used by many as a transitory road.

"We suggest partnership to ensure that the roads are not just the responsibility of the local council," Chircop said.

Gzira mayor Roberto Christiano even spoke in favour of the idea of shifting a percentage of existing road taxes to local councils, for the express purpose of maintaining roads.

Attard mayor Stefan Cordina added that very often damages obtained on dangerous roads were later claimed by the individuals and that local councils couldn’t afford to face these claims.

Mayors also spoke about the ever growing issue of parking, with some speaking of the need of further paid or timed parking, but Muscat said that the issue needed to be addressed in a more holistic sense; looking at aspects like connectivity and public transport, both existing and suggested new methods. He added that he was personally not in favour of the idea of creating paid parking areas and promised that the government was looking at all possible solutions.

Msida Mayor Margaret Baldacchino Cefai also pointed at the burgeoning issue of waste management given the fact that the locality hosted many students during the day due to institutions like Junior College and University, which also meant a number of Gozitans and foreigners renting property in the area.

Among the other issues touched upon were the needs for sports facilities or complexes in areas like Msida among others as well as the need to give local councils more liberty in employing executive secretaries and the possibility of making running a local council full time employment to better address the needs of the locality.