asked the Minister for Finance if he will make the maintenance of rivers that were done under the arterial drainage scheme a national charge rather than a local authority charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Maintenance of Rivers.
Future policy in relation to arterial drainage maintenance will be decided in the context of the review of arterial drainage which is under consideration prior to submission to the Government.
Maintenance of arterial drainage is a great burden on local authorities and I request the Minister to announce an early decision on this matter and to make these charges national instead of local as soon as possible.
Under section 37 of the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act the Office of Public Works are obliged to maintain major drainage works, and the same section obliges the commissioners to recover the costs from the appropriate councils. Demands are issued to councils each year on the estimated possible cost the following year. As I have told the Deputy, we are awaiting the outcome of the review being carried out.
Is the Minister aware that during the past number of years there has been only a minimal increase in grants to local authorities in lieu of rates, but the Office of Public Works are sending out substantially increased demands which local authorities do not have the finance to meet? Local authorities have been building up arrears and therefore I suggest that the OPW should examine their system of assessment of works to be carried out.
I am well aware of the difficulties of local authorities in relation to this and other statutory charges, particularly since the advent of the rates relief grants. Any change would mean an amendment to existing drainage legislation and that will be decided in the context of the review currently under consideration by the Minister.