Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 20 Mar 1968

Vol. 64 No. 12

Death of Minister. - Local Government (Roads and Drainage) Bill, 1968: Committee and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

Reference is made in the section to non-maintained roads and they are defined as roads other than those which are the responsibility of the council of a county, the corporation of a county or other borough or the council of an urban district. I stand open to correction when I say that I understand that land within a county borough was not eligible for a rural improvement scheme. Does that prohibition still exist under this Bill?

The county council can do work outside their area if they wish.

That is not the point. Contributions may not be received from landowners outside a county council area under the rural improvement scheme. Can a promoter now, secure in the knowledge——

He can. If the Senator looks at section 2 (1) he will see that it says "wholly or partly within their county." Under that section the council may make or carry out an agreement for the construction of a road or the reconstruction or improvement of the whole or any part of a non-maintained road situate wholly or partly within their county. Some part of it must be within their county.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

There is the question of the use by the public. Can we assume, because of the reply the Minister gave on Second Reading, that all roads which will be done under the Bill will be eligible for taking over by the councils?

That is a matter for the councils to decide. They must decide whether the roads are of public utility. It is really a question of the standards they decide to apply.

Councils' interpretation of the 1953 Act will be more rigid than that of the public and I can see circumstances in which roads will qualify for attention under this Bill but may be rejected subsequently because of the more rigid interpretation by councils.

I do not think it would be justifiable for me to change the definition of a public road by putting in "used by the public". I do not think that would be welcomed by local authorities who would prefer to make up their own minds, taking into account the rates position and the total mileage of roads they will take over.

The councils will take over most of those schemes provided they are of the required standard. Surely it would be false economy to carry out schemes that will not be maintained afterwards.

If a local authority feel a road is of sufficient public utility and that they can undertake the maintenance of that road, they can make that decision. I do not think I should make it for them.

Is there not a danger there might be restrictions imposed on local authorities as to the number of roads they can take over?

The decision is for the councils but there will always be restrictions on the amount available from the Road Fund.

Particularly when the Fund is being raided.

Of course, the Senator knows more about that than I do.

It is being done permanently now.

It has been raided only once—by a Coalition Government.

Once, and for a specific reason.

It has never been raided by this Government but this Government have the habit, when they decide to provide benefits under the Budget, of raising the money to make that possible.

For referenda, for example.

Two years ago the Government gave substantial benefits to social welfare classes and also provided substantially increased subsidies for the agricultural community. In order to do that they had to make arrangements to collect the money from the only source from which it can be collected, the public in general. One of the methods to achieve that purpose was to increase road tax and that was a legitimate way to raise money. It was money that was never in the Road Fund. It was one of the ways in which the Government arranged to have diverted an increasing proportion of the increasing prosperity of the country for the benefit of the community as a whole. It had nothing whatever to do with the Road Fund.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

In the course of his Second Reading reply the Minister stated that councils may now take it that the amount of money which has been indicated to them as the allocations for the year are only instalments. What I am concerned about is the application of that to section 3 because councils will have to employ additional staff to cope with arrears of work which they have not been able to perform during the past three years. We all know of the communications, the replies, that were sent to the promoters of schemes. We all know that work was suspended for a two-year period, that applications would not be received. Consequently, there was a fall-off, even on new applications. However, the work was not undertaken in respect of those lodged, those that were accepted. That backlog has to be met. In our county, 80 of those lodged are in arrears. Each would average £250. That would be ignoring any additional applications for the current year. This 10 per cent would leave £1,750 for the payment of staff. The Minister is better equipped than anybody in this House —even before he entered politics—to assess how far £1,750 would go in payment of an engineer's salary to cover the county council work and in payment of clerical staff to cope with this new work.

If the Minister wants the co-operation of the county councils, that co-operation will be forthcoming. I want to know, before we have our next council meeting, if we are in a position to say to our manager: "You may take it that the moneys are merely for the purpose of getting the scheme going and that we can proceed with the employment of the staff to carry out the backlog of the work which is 80 schemes in arrears." It is necessary to get down to that backlog first.

As I said, as soon as the Estimates are published, the total amount that will be available will be known. The provisional sums notified are based on a total allocation of £350,000. Each council will be notified as early as possible of the actual grant which will be available to them for 1968/69. I think they cannot really decide until then how they will organise themselves to utilise this money and whether they will require to employ additional staff for that purpose. I shall let them know as soon as I possibly can.

I would impress on the Minister the necessity of supplying that information to every county council with the utmost despatch. The scheme will start from 1st April, 1968, which is now almost upon us. The people vitally interested will expect to go into action immediately 1st April arrives to clear off the backlog and to commence work on fresh applications. It is of the utmost importance that the county councils be advised as soon as possible so that they may recruit the staff to implement the scheme.

Surely the purpose of this measure is to get away from the system under which special staff are employed to do too little work——

That is right.

The point of this is that the existing staff, by getting an extra amount—a percentage for the work they do—will be asked to carry out the work without the necessity for all the extra travelling expenses.

I am hoping that will be possible in most cases. I think councils generally should approach it in that way and should try to keep administration expenses as low as possible.

I agree completely. Senator Flanagan feels engineering staffs have not been fully employed in their occupations.

I always found people willing to earn more money if they got the opportunity—even among the engineers.

No doubt the Senator is familiar with the area of County Cork?

I am familiar with County Mayo, which is the third largest.

I speak for the largest.

It is not the largest in the world.

There is more work of this type in Mayo although it may not be as big in area as Cork.

There is still a formidable amount of work being done in Cork. We should be thankful if we could get as much done this year as the Rural Improvements Schemes Office did in the years gone by.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 5, 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.
The Seanad adjourned at 7.40 p.m.sine die.