Adjournment Matters. - Allocation of National Lottery Funds.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I welcome the Minister of State to the House.

I thank you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, for giving me the opportunity to raise this matter and I welcome the Minister to the House. The last time I raised a matter on the Adjournment he was here also. We cannot give the same praise to Deputy Browne's senior Minister as we have given to the Minister for Finance. Other senior Ministers do not give the same attention but perhaps the Minister for the Environment is out of the country.

I am raising the issue of allocation of national lottery funds towards the recreation and amenities grant scheme. The Minister will be aware of the comments made by the media and politicians in both these Houses since 1986 when the lottery was established. It was set up by the then Fine Gael-Labour Government. It was said at the time health would receive about 10 per cent of the funds and sport would rceive 45 to 50 per cent.

The Fianna Fáil Party opposed the Bill when it was introduced. They were in Opposition and they opposed all proposls. They said 75 per cent of the funds should go to sport. Today 9 per cent of funding goes to sport. Anyone who saw the "Tuesday File" programme this week would see how disgraceful politicians were in making promises when no commitment was given to sport.

The Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat Government elected in 1989 changed the system. An allocation of funds would be made available through a block grant to local authorities to distribute among the applications they received. That became law in the eyes of the public and local authorities but the then Government and Minister never implemented the proposed policy. No grant was allocated in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Therefore, since the Government decided on a new way to allocate funds and since Ministers stopped giving lottery money to preferred projects in their constituencies, not one penny has been given to local authorities. It is regrettable that in some cases quite substantial funds were allocated in full for projects that were never completed. Money was given to white elephant projects.

In my county 156 applications have been made over two years by various organisations. These would be rightfully eligible for funding. I want the Minister to say if funds will be allocated this year and how much will be given. Alternatively, did the partnership Government decide earlier this year that £39 million would be available for health and the rest of the money would be used for current Government spending? Small allocations have been made towards some projects. One of the members of the party then in Government, Senator Dardis, would agree with me that, following a long debate in the Dáil, there was a commitment that allocations, regardless of their size, would be made to local authorities. County Meath has 156 applications for funding. If that figure was multiplied by 26 and cities were also taken into consideration, there would be approximately 5,000 applications for funding.

I do not believe it is proper or fair that national politicians, like myself and the other Members of the Seanad and Dáil, should be asked continually by these groups when these funds will be made available. They have sent in application forms but no money has been received. It is time to put up or shut up. People should be told what is happening in 1993.

Was this matter discussed in the Programme for a Partnership Government? Did the Ministers and the people who negotiated that programme decide that all the national lottery funds were being given to health? Fine Gael's policy is to spend £30 million of national lottery funds in the health service. I have no objection to that. Now the two parties in Government are implementing the Fine Gael policy in this area. They are wearing our clothes again. That is the situation as far as national lottery funds are concerned.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment is aware of these facts. Perhaps he could tell me if the 5,000 applications have any hope of receiving funds in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 or during the duration of this Government? If not, it is time the Government decided whether funds will or will not be available. We cannot continue in this way. Many of these groups have plans and projects and it is unfair to keep them waiting. They are visiting politicians' clinics to see what can be done. Perhaps the Minister of State could tell us if funds will be made available in the future and what decision was made in the Programme for a Partnership Government.

Wexford): I thank Senator Farrelly for raising this issue and I appreciate his interest in this matter. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to explain the Department of the Environment's role in the distribution of national lottery funds this year.

Funding has been provided in my Department's Vote for 1993 from the national lottery surplus for the payment of grants which were allocated under the 1990 and 1991 amenities/recreational facilities grants schemes; the payment of grants for the provision and renovation of swimming pools; the payment of grants in respect of the local authority library service; and the payment of grants for the provision of communal facilities in voluntary housing projects. I will now deal with each of these services in turn.

In relation to the amenities/ recreational facilities grants schemes, the House will be aware that the objective of these schemes was to assist the provision of projects of an amenity, recreational, leisure or environmental improvement nature other than projects of a commercial nature. A sum of £1.671 million has been provided in my Department's Vote for 1993 to cover the payment of outstanding grants allocated under the 1990 and 1991 schemes. There has been no new grant scheme since 1991. Accordingly, the question of allocating grants to local authorities in 1993 does not arise.

Furthermore, I wish to make it clear that all of the money provided under the 1990 and 1991 schemes has been fully committed. In effect, these schemes are now finished and it only remains for the grants that were allocated to be paid. The lists of the projects which were allocated grants under the 1991 and earlier schemes are in the Oireachtas Library.

My Department pays grants towards the cost of the provision and refurbishment of swimming pools. A sum of £1.183 million is available for this purpose in 1993. Grants may be up to 80 per cent of the approved costs of new pools and 100 per cent of the approved costs of refurbishment works to existing facilities. Grants of up to 80 per cent of the cost of approved additional facilities are available, where these are being provided as part of a new pool or the refurbishment of an existing pool. Grants are paid on the basis of claims submitted by local authorities for costs incurred on approved projects. The funds available for the swimming pool programme in 1993 are fully committed.

This year a total of £1.85 million from the proceeds of th national lottery surplus is being provided to assist the development and improvement of the library service. Of the total, £1.2 million is being provided for approved library development projects carried out by local authorities. Such projects include the construction or refurbishment of buildings for library use, the fitting, equipping and stocking of new libraries, the installation of automated systems in libraries and the provision of library venicles. Grants are for the most part paid at the rate of 100 per cent of approved cost but library authorities are required to meet a proportion of certain elements. For example, we only pay 50 per cent of the cost of bookstock and equipment. As in the case of swimming pools, grants are paid on the basis of claims submitted by local authorities for costs incurred on approved projects. This year's allocation will be fully taken up by projects which have already been approved.

The remaining amount, £650,000, is being provided to subsidise library authorities in respect of loan charges and leasing charges incurred by them for library purposes. While the loan charges element is declining due to changes in local authority funding arrangements in 1988, the leasing charges element is being maintained and may become more significant.

A sum of £500,000 has also been provided from national lottery funds this year to grant-aid the installation of communal facilities in new or existing housing projects managed by approved voluntary non-profit bodies. Grants of up to 90 per cent of the approved cost of the works or a total equivalent to £2,000 for each unit of living accommodation, whichever is the lesser, may be paid in respect of the provision of communal facilities in eligible housing projects. The grants apply to works commenced on or after 14 February 1991. Housing authorities are responsible for determining whether individual proposals comply with the qualifying conditions and for the submission of applications to my Department. The grants are paid to the housing authorities who advance them to the approved bodies. I can inform the House that the 1993 allocation for this programme has been fully committed to a total of 12 different projects.

I agree with Senator Farrelly's comments that it is time we got some funds in the Department of the Environment for the projects mentioned. There are significant numbers of projects throughout the country and many groups are still waiting in hope that funds may be available.

The Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, has been made aware of the interest expressed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats, Labour and all the other Deputies who have made contact with him to see if he will make funds available in 1994. The preparation of the Estimates for 1994 will begin in September 1993. I understand the Minister will take them back to the Cabinet to see if funds can be made available for the projects the Senator has outlined and other projects around the country. I agree with the Senator that the time has come to let the public know whether funds will be available. I will keep the Senator informed of developments from September onwards.