Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Questions (410)

Brendan Smith


410. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will reintroduce specific funding for the local improvement scheme in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53825/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As we outlined to the Deputy last month, the maintenance of roads not taken in charge by local authorities is the responsibility of the relevant landowners. 

However Section 81 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides the statutory basis for the Local Improvements Scheme (LIS).  Under that Scheme, funding can be provided by the Minister for Transport to local authorities for the construction and improvement of non-public roads (that is roads not taken in charge by local authorities) which meet the very specific criteria set out in the Act:  

 A contribution from the beneficiaries is required in all cases. Section 81 (4)(a) of the Local Government Act, 2001 states that assistance by a road authority under the LIS is conditional on a financial contribution by the relevant parties. 

Section 81 of the 2001 Local Government Act also provides that, after consultation with the Minister for Transport and with the consent of the Minister for Finance, another Minister may make a grant to a road authority in relation to non-public roads in accordance with a Scheme made by that other Minister. 

Therefore State assistance can be provided under the statutory Local Improvement Scheme and up to 2012 my Department did provide ring-fenced funding for this scheme. However, due to the major cutbacks in roads funding arising from the financial crisis, it was necessary for the Department to stop  providing dedicated funding for LIS in 2012 and there was no funding for LIS in that year.

After that from 2013 to 2017, while there was no separate allocation for the Local Improvement Scheme, local authorities could use a proportion of their Discretionary grant for the Local Improvement Scheme if they chose to do so. The allowable proportion of Discretionary Grant was 7% in 2013 and this was increased to 15% from 2014 onwards.  The reason this approach was taken was that it was considered that Councils were best placed to decide whether to concentrate the limited grant funding available on public roads or to operate a local improvement scheme  for non-public roads.

In September 2017, my colleague the Minister for Rural & Community Development reintroduced dedicated funding for the Local Improvement Scheme and is continuing to fund the Scheme. In light of the significant funding being put into LIS by that Department and the pressing need to direct resources into maintaining and renewing public roads, it was decided that the option of allocating a proportion of the Discretionary grant to LIS would no longer apply from 2018. 

While I am open to discussing the position in relation to LIS with Minister Ring, should he wish to do so,  I am loath to divert funding from public roads to non-public roads when funding for public roads is still below the level needed to achieve "steady state" and significant funding is being made available by Minister Ring for the LIS - close to €50 million since 2017.