In recent years the funding available for various road schemes has been significantly reduced. Last year the local road improvement scheme was suspended. Under this scheme, families on privately owned roads that had fallen into disrepair could come together to fund 15% of the cost of bringing the road up to standard. The funding would then be supplemented by 85% funding from the relevant local authority which could, following the completion of the works, take the road in charge.
Similarly, under the local community road improvement scheme, local authorities would provide 75% matching funding, through central government funding, provided a local community could provide 25% of the funding required for works to a road. This scheme allowed communities to come together and created a meitheal type environment in which local people worked together to raise funding for a road scheme. This funding would then be matched by the local authority in a spirit of partnership. Community involvement in road infrastructure is positive as it gives communities ownership of roads and often results in the development of community sports facilities, community centres, facilities for older people and so forth. Moreover, the local road schemes have resulted in a high level of partnership between communities and local authorities.
I understand local authorities have been contacted by the Department seeking expressions of interest in road schemes based on a funding ratio of 50:50. In other words, the local authority would provide 50% funding for a scheme and this would be matched by a 50% contribution from a local community. While I understand the Department is stretched in the current economic climate and must try to find novel ways to fund roads, local communities have been ravaged and will struggle to find such funding for roads projects. With thousands of people emigrating and hundreds of thousands of people on unemployment benefit, the contribution of local communities has been effectively doubled. Where a community can come up with 25% of the cost of funding a project, it should trigger a community involvement road project.
I hope the Minister of State has positive news, even if it is that the scheme will be introduced as a pilot project or that such road projects may not be proceed without central government or departmental approval. It is unrealistic to expect community groups to come up with 50% of the cost of a project. I look forward to the Minister of State's reply.