We must take this a step further. We have been told the Local Government Management Services Board has no role in the matter. The last paragraph of the correspondence of 15 August concerns me. Deputy Michael Fitzpatrick has raised this issue on several occasions. We need to bring in the Accounting Officer from the Department to account for and make a statement on this issue.
The committee was informed on the previous occasion, 23 July last, that no limit exists on the funding a local authority can spend on arbitration. I want to know, once and for all, whether such a limit exists. Local authorities throughout the country are starved of cash for various projects such as sewerage, water and local improvement schemes, county road grants and housing. This year there is a shortfall in the housing allocations to several local authorities. Sewerage schemes have been delayed, especially in the smaller towns and villages.
I want to know who sanctions the money spent by councils on arbitration because it is an issue that is never discussed by councillors. This is an issue that should concern us as public representatives. It is one that concerns many councillors who have raised it with me from time to time. I want to know which Department sanctions this money because there seems to be a bottomless pit of funding available for arbitration cases. We sought the information at the previous meeting and were told that in the case of housing, conciliation talks are taking place with 16 local authorities, and that is not the end of the problem.
There should be some criteria to gain access to this funding for arbitration. Is the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, with which we are dealing today, given advance notice of any money required by a county council for arbitration? We should know also who carries out the risk assessment in all cases. We should know as well the basis on which, and the period during which, money is paid to a local authority when it takes a case to arbitration. We all are very much aware of the shortfall in funding to local authorities.
It is a matter that needs to be addressed. I propose we invite the Accounting Officer of the Department to our next meeting and have a special meeting to deal with this issue. It is a problem, not only in Kildare but in 16 or 17 other local authorities, and it needs to be addressed. When cutbacks are occurring across the board, services should not suffer at the expense of funding being squandered on arbitration and conciliation.