Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Questions (37)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy


37. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the allocation made in 2018 under the local improvement scheme, LIS, by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51675/18]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Rural)

As a former member of Offaly County Council, I strongly welcomed the reintroduction of the LIS at the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore. The Minister and I had many conversations about how valuable the scheme is to the local authorities and the communities that benefit from it. Will he outline how much funding has been allocated to the scheme, county by county?

The Deputy lobbied hard for the scheme, which did not exist for many years. The LIS is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas. It is funded by my Department and administered through the local authorities.

As the Deputy may be aware, there was no dedicated funding for the scheme for a number of years due to constraints on public expenditure. I was conscious, however, of the underlying demand for the scheme in rural areas throughout the country, which is why I announced the provision of €10 million to local authorities for a LIS in September 2017. Based on demand and the capacity of local authorities to complete works before the end of 2017, I allocated a further €7.4 million to local authorities for LIS roads in November last year.

In February of this year, I allocated €10.8 million to local authorities across the country under the 2018 LIS scheme, given the continuing level of demand for this funding in rural communities across Ireland. I also asked the local authorities to prepare a secondary list of roads which they could complete if further funding became available for the scheme during the year. Furthermore, on 26 October, I announced a further round of almost €10 million in funding to the local authorities. The allocations on a county-by-county basis for both of these rounds of funding are available on my Department's website.

For the Deputy's information, County Offaly was allocated €290,765 under the first round of the LIS this year, and an additional €353,889 was allocated under the second round, giving a total allocation of €644,654 to advance LIS works in 2018.

It is clear there is a continuing demand for LIS funding in rural communities across Ireland, and I have secured an allocation of €10 million in my Department's Vote for 2019, which will enable me to continue to provide much needed funding for the LIS.

I am delighted to let the Minister know that Offaly County Council is wasting no time in spending the funding allocation.

Will he consider developing a specific scheme that will take into account the fact that much of the road network in Offaly is on peat, including many private roads? With the advent of climate change and given the peat roads last for only five years, rather than the 20 years one might expect, will he consider a specific scheme? It is a concern of many engineers in Offaly.

I am currently considering the LIS scheme, along with all of my schemes. I receive much criticism of the LIS scheme from certain sections of the Dublin-based media, but they will never have to worry about a LIS road or look for private funding because Dublin City Council, Dublin County Council or whatever the case may be will address the matter for them. As the Deputy knows, people in rural areas pay their taxes, such as for property, and their dues to the State, and they are entitled to have a road into their home. As a result of the Deputy's question, I will consider the matter further.

The LIS scheme works and there is high demand for it. I wish there was more money but I also would like other Departments to match some of the funding because every €10 million that I allocate for the roads is €10 million worth of roads that does not have to be allocated the following year. In fairness, some counties have done well. I recently saw reported in one of the local papers, perhaps from Westmeath, that if the town received another €2 million or €3 million, it would be able to complete all of its LIS roads.

I welcome that the Minister is reviewing the scheme. It has come to my attention that some of the non-public or private roads are used by landowners or people cutting turf but there may not be a dwelling house on the road. An older person may have passed away in the dwelling house, for example, and it is no longer used. Will the Minister take those people into account because they also need assistance?

I am reviewing, and will continue to review, the scheme, and I will examine the point the Deputy raised. When I came into office, I reduced the local contribution to 15% for five houses or more, while I reduced it to 10% for five houses or fewer. The Deputy raised an important point that causes a significant problem in many areas where there are large roads but there may be only one or two people on them. The other day there was a €4,500 local contribution, which is a substantial amount for two young families, one of which had just built a house. I will consider the matter along with the scheme.