Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Questions (10, 16, 17, 22, 32, 57)

Pat Breen

Question:

10. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the community involvement scheme; if the scheme will be re-introduced this year; and when he expects funding to be made available to local authorities for same. [15043/14]

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Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

16. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will run a community involvement scheme in 2014; and when local authorities will be informed of the matter. [15119/14]

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Anthony Lawlor

Question:

17. Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will run a community involvement scheme in 2014 and when local authorities will be informed on the matter. [15045/14]

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Seán Kyne

Question:

22. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he intends on operating a community involvement scheme for 2014; the types of projects that would be eligible under the scheme; and when it is envisaged that local authorities will be notified. [15126/14]

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Pat Deering

Question:

32. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the review of the community involvement scheme will be complete; if there will be an allocation of funding for the current year; if so, when same will be announced; if he will consider a similar review of the local improvement scheme to include local contributions and voluntary labour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14992/14]

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Martin Heydon

Question:

57. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will run a community involvement scheme in 2014 in view of the useful projects completed in 2013; if so, when local authorities will be informed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15123/14]

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Oral answers (16 contributions) (Question to Transport)

This is an issue that affects many rural Deputies and I understand that a number of Deputies have tabled similar questions. The success of the community involvement scheme last year, particularly in my county, Clare, was tremendous. Many roads that would not normally be maintained were covered by the scheme, including culs-de-sac and yellow roads. I ask the Minister to continue the scheme in 2014. In 2013, some €2.3 million was allocated to the scheme, which proved a tremendous success.

I thank the Deputy.

Even the engineers in Clare County Council welcome it. I ask the Minister to continue it this year and perhaps provide additional funding to continue the good work done by local authorities.

We are running short of time and I understand the Minister is taking a number of questions together.

There are so many of them with the same question, it is clear the answer is going to be positive. The Minister is still trying to tell me he does not co-ordinate the questions.

Deputy Dooley is very cynical.

We are wasting time.

I would say the press releases have gone out already.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 16, 17, 22, 32 and 57 together.

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in this area is a statutory function of each road authority. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources, supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

My Department launched a pilot community involvement scheme, CIS, in 2013 for works on regional and local roads. The scheme was aimed at works on local roads which would usually only be considered for funding towards the end of a council’s road programme after routes with heavier traffic volumes had been dealt with. This is a voluntary scheme and is based on community contributions in the range of 20% to 50%.

I allocated more than €2.3 million to a number of local authorities in 2014 for previously committed CIS schemes. Following the recent review of the operation of the CIS in 2013, I am pleased to say the findings indicate the pilot scheme proved to be a success. Overall works with a value of almost €9 million were undertaken at a cost to the State of €6.64 million. A total of 299 schemes were completed in 2013, resulting in more than 173 km of improved roads.

Given the success of the scheme in 2013 in making available moneys go further, I can confirm that I have decided to allocate additional funding of €4.5 million to local authorities in 2014 for CIS. This extra funding, combined with the €2.3 million allocated in 2014, could see 170 km of additional road improvements. The Department will shortly contact local authorities seeking applications for funding under the 2014 scheme.

Separately, I will not be considering a similar pilot for the local improvements scheme, LIS. I have given local authorities considerable flexibility whereby they may use up to 15% of their discretionary grant, should they wish to do so, towards works on roads that have not been taken in charge. The local contribution for these schemes is 20% of the total cost of the project. In excess of €10 million is available in 2014 for the LIS should local authorities wish to allocate funds from their discretionary grant to such projects.

I thank the Minister for the funding for the scheme this year. It is very good to put in place another €4.5 million, which as he said, will cover 170 km of road. It is very welcome and good news for rural Ireland. I thank the Minister again.

Is it the intention of the Minister to have the community involvement scheme as a permanent feature of the roads programme? This would give the local authorities a great opportunity to plan ahead for a two year or three year programme. When I was on Offaly County Council, the community involvement road works scheme, as it was known, was one on which we were able to plan ahead because we knew it was coming in for each roads allocation. I very much welcome this allocation of almost €7 million, which will be very much welcomed by the local authorities.

Like my colleagues, I welcome this funding. When does the Minister expect to allocate the money to the various counties? Will he write to the counties that have a poor record in taking up this scheme? I particularly refer to my county of Kildare, where last year only two schemes were taken on board. I urge them to be more proactive on an issue such as this.

I welcome the scheme. How will the money be distributed? Will it be according to the number of schemes per county or so much per county? While I welcome the money that has been allocated, I am disappointed with the Minister's answer in regard to the LIS. In the past, all the roads schemes were considered as one. Some schemes were taken in charge by the council and others were not, and there is also the question of private roads versus public roads given it is very difficult to distinguish between one and the other. Will the Minister reconsider the LIS based on the same principles as the CIS?

I welcome the Minister's response on the additional €4.5 million. It is one of the better schemes. Having lodged applications and gone out to landowners in regard to taking in bad bends and bad corners, I know some good work has been done in my county of Galway, especially in my area. It goes down very well with the public and is also very positive in terms of improving road safety. Will the dedication of land still be allowed under that scheme or will it be required that hard cash is given over for these improvements?

I thank the Minister for his positive response. Following on from Deputy Lawlor, it is correct that Kildare County Council only had two applications last year, which was a source of great frustration for us. The point to make is that both were fully utilised and the sum of approximately €40,000 was money well spent on both projects. The extension of the CIS and the extra injection of funds is something we will be better placed to take up in the coming year. I agree it is very important the Minister would write to the local authorities as soon as possible to make them aware of this. The success of last year's project and the positive results in the review mean this makes a lot of sense if one lives on one of these roads. People have shown an appetite to make a small contribution towards fixing up a road that would otherwise not get done. It is a practical solution and one I very much welcome.

I will certainly consider putting it on a permanent footing. It was always intended to be a two year pilot. We will be coming to the end of the two years shortly and we will put it on a permanent footing so long as things continue to work well this year.

I do not have all the details of the scheme but contact will be made with the local authorities in the next few weeks with all the details, and I will ask that this be copied to Deputies. We will certainly put pressure on or encourage councils to apply. As was pointed out by the Deputies from Kildare, only two schemes were funded in Kildare as against 19 in Meath, for example, and while there was one in Waterford, there were 29 in Cavan. There is certainly more scope for applications from different counties.

I acknowledge the role of the Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, in this regard. While the funding comes from the roads budget, which is under my control, the initial initiative for this scheme came from him last May. I want to put that on the record.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.