On 8 February this year, I announced details of the measures being funded through my Department under the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021. In parallel to the announcement local authorities were invited to submit bids for funding schemes or projects in their functional areas, with the deadline for receipt of proposals set as 14 March 2019.
The new multi-annual programme includes Measure 4 – New Group Water Schemes. This measure supports social and economic development in rural towns and villages and their hinterlands by providing new group water schemes where public water supply schemes or individual/private wells are not the most viable options.
Mayo County Council made a number of bids under Measure 4 including for a proposal for Letterbrick Group Water Scheme. The estimated cost of the proposed 24 house scheme was €469,000 or €19,542 per house.
An Expert Panel was put in place to support the Department in its bids evaluation process. In addition to providing an expert perspective, the Panel brought independence, openness and transparency to the bids evaluation process which was done on a national prioritised basis. The Panel’s membership included Departmental, stakeholder and independent representations.
The Panel made recommendations to my Department on the suitability of schemes and projects for funding based on objective criteria, which were set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. In particular, the Framework sets out that grants of up to 85% of cost are available for new group water schemes subject to a maximum grant of €7,650 per house - this means that the effective financially viable cost limit per house for a scheme is €9,000. A supplemental grant can be considered in exceptional cases subject to the recommendation of the Panel and Departmental approval.
The Panel, in considering the bid for the proposed Letterbrick scheme, concluded that at €19,542 per house it was not financially viable when viewed against the criteria in the Framework. In the circumstances the Panel did not recommend a supplementary grant.
The Panel recommends that the local authority engages with the promoters to consider alternative lower cost solutions (e.g. private wells for which, subject to terms and conditions, a separate grant is available).
In considering the recommendations of the Expert Panel I accepted these in full when announcing the approvals and allocations under the multi-annual rural water programme on 15 October 2019.
The current approved allocations are for the 2019-2021 funding cycle of the programme. It is envisaged that the next cycle of the programme will commence in 2022 when bids will again be sought. The Letterbrick scheme will be eligible to make an application to the Council again in 2022 if so required by the scheme.