Following the practice in previous years I propose to take Votes 8 and 9 together.
Vote 8 bears the salaries and expenses of the administrative, executive and technical staffs of the Office of Works, which is the office responsible for the administration of Vote 9.
Vote 9 provides the necessary funds for the purchase of sites and buildings for State purposes, for the erection, maintenance and furnishing of Government offices and other State-owned premises, 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 other activities.
Vote 8.—The net estimate for Vote 8 is £13,550 more than the estimate for 1951-52. This is occasioned by increases of £61,220, mainly on salaries and wages, £41,570 of which may be accounted for by increases in salary which were granted last year and provided for in the Vote for Increases in Remuneration. Savings of £2,100 on travelling and incidental expenses and an increase of £3,700 in estimated Appropriations-in-Aid reduce the increase to a net figure of £13,550.
Sub-head A—Salaries, Wages and Allowances—accounts almost entirely for the increases in gross expenditure. Allowing for the provision mentioned in the Vote for Increases in Rumeration, the additional sum required under this head is £18,650. Specific provision is made for 15 additional heads of staff, and there are contingency provisions for other staff amounting to £16,350, the greater part of which is in respect of the engineering branch. The additional provisions for that branch cover staff for valuation and costing work, for administration of the central engineering workshop, for the marine and general division and the mechanical division, for the Feale drainage scheme and for arterial drainage surveys with a view to an increased rate of progress on this service. The secretary's branch and accountant's branch are also being strengthened for the additional work consequent on the increased engineering and other activities. The salaries amounting to £21,000 and travelling expenses of engineering staff, number 41, and of some executive staff, engaged on surveys and works concerned with land rehabilitation, which the Commissioners of Public Works are carrying out as agents of the Minister for Agriculture, are recoverable from the Vote for Agriculture.
The increase of £700 under sub-head D—Telegrams and Telephones—is due to additional facilities for the augmented staff employed on drainage and survey work.
As against these increases, there is a reduction of £2,100 under sub-heads B—Travelling Expenses—and C—Incidental Expenses—mainly based on experience.
Under sub-head E—Appropriations-in-Aid—net additional receipts of £3,700 are anticipated from fees in connection with local loans; agency services, including those rendered in connection with works whose cost is borne on the Telephone Capital Account, and recoupments of salaries and travelling expenses of engineering staff engaged on drainage and land rehabilitation.
Vote 9.—The Estimate for Public Works and Buildings shows a net decrease of £181,460, accounted for by a reduction of £187,170 in estimated gross expenditure which is offset to the extent of £5,710 by decreased Appropriations-in-Aid.
The reduction in gross expenditure is due to decreases totalling £310,440 which arise principally on the provisions for new building work, machinery purchases and engineering workshop services. Against these decreases there is an estimated increased expenditure of £123,270, mainly on fuel and the maintenance of engineering plant and machinery. There is little change in the total provision for drainage construction works, and a relatively substantial additional provision is proposed for arterial drainage surveys, with a view, as I have already said, to an increased rate of progress on this service.
The provisions for the individual sub-heads show the following variations on those voted for 1951-52.
Sub-head B.—New Works, Alteration and Additions—for which the sum of £1,150,000 is provided, shows a decrease of £84,000. While a substantial programme of works was put through last year the estimated expenditure for that year was not fully realised, due to various causes, including a certain amount of unfavourable building weather and to a scarcity of materials. Of the total provision proposed for this year about half, namely, £600,000, is for the building and improvement of national schools. This figure has been arrived at on an analysis of the case failing to be dealt with in the course of the year.
Apart from the provision for national schools and that for Garda Síochána barracks, for which a sum of £96,000 has been included, sub-head B covers over 100 individual projects. From the point of view of cost, the principal items are:— Áras an Uachtaráin—improvements; Dún Laoghaire Harbour—additional customs accommodation; Grange Stud and Dairy Farm—adaptations; Johnstown Castle—adaptations; Veterinary College—improvements; Coláiste Moibhi Preparatory College—adaptations; Forestry School, Shelton Abbey— adaptations; Valentia Observatory— adaptations and additions; post office factory—rebuilding; Drogheda new post office; Broadcasting Studio and office accommodation; Baldonnel Camp —hard surface runways; Curragh Camp—renewal of electrical installation; Haulbowline Dockyard—completion of new jetty; London Embassy —completion of adaptations; Waterford new employment exchange; Dundrum Asylum—alterations and additions.
The provisions for furniture under sub-heads D (1) and D (2) are reduced by £5,000 and £9,500 respectively, due to provision having been made last year under the first-mentioned sub-head for arrears of furnishing, since considerably reduced; for exceptional requirements of some services, also largely met; and to the completion of reserve purchases for which provision was made last year under sub-head D (2).
Higher fuel prices and lighting charges, with contingency provisions for increased transport charges and for additional premises, are responsible for the substantial increase of £65,000 in the provision for sub-head F. The minor increase under sub-head G— Phoenix Park National School, is also in respect of the increased cost of fuel, while that under sub-head I—telegrams and telephones, corresponds with the increase in the telephone service charge.
It is proposed to undertake a wider programme of drainage surveys this year and the additional provision of £6,200 made under sub-head J (1) covers the cost of additional river recording equipment, and the charge to this Vote in respect of the proposed extra survey party. Arterial drainage construction work, as the provision for sub-head J (2) indicates, will be continued on virtually the same scale as last year, a reduction in net expenditure on the Brosna catchment drainage scheme being partly offset by anticipated increased expenditure on the Glyde and Dee scheme. Some of the machines engaged on the Brosna scheme will be transferred to the Feale catchment for the development of that scheme.
Under sub-head J (4)—River Fergus drainage, which bears the estimated cost of providing automatic sluices at Clarecastle in fulfilment of the statutory undertaking given in the consent forming the basis of the district of Fergus Drainage Act, 1943, additional provision is necessary due to increased cost of labour and materials and engineering difficulties encountered with flood and storm damage which have delayed progress and which will greatly increase the gross cost. The provision for expenditure in the current year compared with last year is increased by £9,000.
Of the provisions which are reduced, sub-head K (1)—Purchase of engineering plant and machinery, shows the greatest decrease, amounting to £120,000. This is approximately the amount which was provided last year for additions to, and refitting of harbour dredging plant but which was not expended. The position has not been carried forward as the desirability of replacing some of the existing fleet by more highly powered craft is now being examined and no expenditure other than the cost of design is likely in this financial year. The provision of £280,000 in the sub-head this year is mainly for equipment to supply the mechanical requirements of the drainage programme. While every effort is being made to build up the necessary range of equipment the provision has been governed to some extent by the delivery situation, particularly in regard to the larger units.
The position with regard to maintenance of engineering plant and machinery which heretofore was impeded by the lack of accommodation at the Dún Laoghaire workshop premises has been improved by the transfer of staff and plant to the new premises at Inchicore, and some of the major overhauls which are due on the plant used on the Brosna and other drainage schemes can now be undertaken. In view of this and of the expenses of drainage activities and the increased fleet of machines the provision under sub-head K (2) has been increased by £43,000. To these circumstances also may be attributed in large measure the additional recoupments for repair services which help to reduce by £77,000 the provision for sub-head K (3) —Central Engineering Workshop and Stores. This decrease is due as to £72,000 to additional recoupments mainly from repairs to equipment for Arterial Drainage and Land Rehabilitation. The decrease of £5,000 on the expenditure side is the net effect of a saving on purchases of reserve supplies as against an increase in workshop staff.
The net decrease of £5,710 in Appropriations-in-Aid, sub-head L, is mainly in respect of the receipts from hireage of plant for land rehabilitation work but also of dredgery, which will be engaged mostly on work at State harbours, and in receipts from sales of old furniture, etc.
I should, perhaps, mention for the information of the House that two slight misprints have crept into the printed Estimate Volume. In item (6) of sub-head M of Vote 8—Appropriations-in-Aid—the reference to sub-head M (11) of Vote 27 should read sub-head M (9). In sub-head J (4) of Vote 9 —River Fergus Drainage—the estimated gross expenditure in 1952-53, which is printed as £30,500, should be £30,000.