Following the practice in previous years, I propose to take Votes 9 and 10 together. Vote 9 bears the salaries and expenses of the administrative, executive and technical staffs of the Office of Public Works, which is the office responsible for the administration of Vote 10. Vote 10 provides the necessary funds for the purchase of sites and buildings for State purposes, for the erection, maintenance and furnishing of the Government offices and other State-owned premises throughout the country, for arterial drainage and other engineering works, for the erection and improvement of national schools, for the erection of major military buildings, for the maintenance of State-owned parks and State harbours and for a number of minor activities.
The gross expenditure under Vote 9 is estimated at £3,894 more than in the years 1947-48, but an increase of £5,754 in receipts under the Appropriations-in-Aid sub-head is anticipated, making the net Vote £1,860 less than in 1947-48. The Estimate for Public Works and Buildings shows an increase of £270,380 on the Vote for 1947-48. The main increases are in the sums required for new works, maintenance, fuel and light and drainage and for the purchase and maintenance of engineering plant and machinery.
Expenditure last year on sub-head E —new works, alterations and additions —was £295,000. The programme for the current year envisaged by the previous Government and provided for in this Estimate would call for an expenditure of £525,000, but it is hoped to secure substantial economies under this head by deferring or indefinitely postponing such of the items included in the Estimate as should, in the opinion of the present Government, be abandoned or deferred until the need for economy becomes less urgent.
Essential expenditure, under the maintenance sub-head, in recent years has exceeded the provisions, due to the high costs of material and labour, and it is necessary to increase the provision for 1948-49 to £300,000.
As regards fuel and light, reserve fuel stocks are virtually exhausted and requirements for 1948-49 will have to be met for the most part by purchases. The Estimate for the sub-head has been prepared on the basis that coal will be used in the central heating installations in Dublin requiring hard fuel, and that turf will be used generally for open fires and for the heating of provincial establishments.
The provision for arterial drainage works amounts to £40,000. This is the estimated net expenditure within the year on the Brosna catchment drainage scheme, the total estimated cost of which is £1,080,000. The works on this scheme, as Deputies will be aware, commenced on the 31st May, 1948. The rate of progress with these works will depend largely on the availability of labour and of the necessary engineering plant and machinery; but I can assure the House that no effort will be spared to secure that the work will proceed with the utmost possible despatch. The K. sub-heads cover the purchase and maintenance of plant and machinery required for arterial drainage, dredging operations and other engineering works. The amounts provided are necessary if the plant and machinery are to be brought up to and maintained at the level essential for the most economical and efficient discharge of their duties by the commissioners.
There is also a Supplementary Estimate on Vote 9, the purpose of which is to pay the fees and travelling expenses of the assessors who were appointed to conduct a competition for designs of a national theatre which the late Government had proposed to build in Dublin at State expense. This project, amongst others, came under the consideration of the present Government, who have decided, in view of its very considerable cost, which has been estimated to be in the region of £750,000, that the project should be deferred. It is necessary, in the circumstances, to pay the assessors the fees due to them for the services which they have rendered.