I thank the Deputy for the opportunity to address this issue. The House will be aware that the issue of the maintenance and upkeep of regional and local roads was the subject of oral questions earlier today and I dealt with many of the issues and circumstances surrounding this issue then.
As with any debate on the matter of the roads network, be they regional, local or national, the House will be familiar with the qualifying preamble. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is a matter in the first instance for the NRA. Its budget for improvement and maintenance works on national roads is €318 million for 2013. The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities own resources, which are supplemented by State road grants paid by my Department. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.
I announced the 2013 regional and local road grant allocations on 25 January this year. A total of €348 million is being provided under the regional and local roads investment programme this year and, from that allocation, Cork County Council is being provided with more than €39.7 million.
The level of grants allocated to individual local authorities is determined having regard to a number of factors. These include the total funds available in a particular year, eligibility criteria for the different road grant schemes, road pavement conditions, length of road network, the need to prioritise projects and competing demands from other local authorities. In determining the annual grant allocations, the overall objective remains to supplement the resources provided by each local authority in a fair and appropriate manner.
Ireland has a uniquely extensive road network. There are approximately 98,000 kilometres of road in the network which represents two and a half times the EU average in terms of kilometres per head of population. The maintenance and improvement of this extensive network of roads places a substantial financial burden on local authorities and on the Exchequer.
The devolution of control of regional and local roads is very important. With the vast network of roads serving very disparate needs from small farmers to large multinationals, a one size fits all based regional and local roads maintenance regime would not be appropriate in my view. I believe that the decisions should be made locally by local public representatives.
Given the current financial position, the main focus has to be on the maintenance and repair of roads and this will remain the position in the coming years. There have been very large reductions in roads expenditure during the past number of years and there will be further reductions in the future. In 2007 the grants from my Department stood at €363 million and that fell to €232 million this year.
It is also important to reiterate that the role of Exchequer grants for regional and local roads is to supplement councils like Cork County Council in their spending. The contribution made by Cork County Council, which is the road authority for the area, has fallen in recent years in both real and percentage terms. In 2007, Cork County Council provided €30 million in own resources for expenditure on regional and local roads, representing 34% of the total amount spent on roads in the county in 2007. This own resources expenditure has dropped to €9.4 million or 18% of the total expenditure with the State providing €43.7 million in 2012. This contribution of 18% does not compare favourably with other large counties. Kerry, for example, provides 30% and Meath provides 34%.
I appreciate that many local authorities are in a position where they are trying to implement savings. However, I think that for some local authorities to complain about reductions in Government grants or to seek additional funding is missing the point when they, at the same time, have reduced their own contributions by a greater proportion. I appreciate that the Deputy has not called for additional funding in this regard.
The reality is that the available funds do not match the amount of work that is required. My Department and local authorities are working closely together to develop new, more efficient ways of delivering the best outputs with the funding available to them. Given the likely squeeze on Exchequer funding, this concentration on efficiency is essential to ensure that we achieve the best outturns for the limited money available.
I wish to mention two further points. Among the things being done is "map road", which is an IT based system, where all the roads and all the road works that are done all over the country are essentially mapped online and that will allow us to use this system much more efficiently in the years ahead.