I propose to take Questions Nos. 267 and 268 together.
My Department keeps the funding approval processes for housing projects under continuous review. While all publicly funded construction projects must comply with the Government’s Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF), the objectives of which are to ensure cost certainty, value for money and financial accountability, my Department has streamlined the nine stages of review in the Framework, to just four for social housing construction projects.
My Department engages continuously with local authorities, including through the City and County Management Association (CCMA), on the various work processes associated with the delivery of housing projects, in line with Rebuilding Ireland commitments. A review carried out jointly between my Department and the CCMA identified more precise target timelines for developing new social housing construction projects, including an overall target of 59 weeks from an initial proposal being brought forward, to placing the construction contract and starting on site. This timeline compares favourably with private sector construction projects.
The bulk of this time is assigned to the completion of essential local authority work in project design, developing costings and specifications, undertaking planning through the Part 8 process and the procurement of contractors; the time allotted to my Department for funding approvals is a small portion of the overall time involved. In addition, projects are advanced in such a way as to allow other work to continue during the approval stages.
My Department’s engagement with the CCMA and with individual local authorities has also seen improvements around single-stage project approvals for smaller scale projects and in relation to rapid build projects. Communications on construction proposals have also been enhanced through quarterly technical meetings, which are held between individual local authorities and my Department. Constructive input has been received from local authorities in identifying and implementing these process improvements and in working with my Department through the quarterly meetings, and in other fora, to review progress in respect of social housing projects and to clear any blockages as swiftly as possible.
These arrangements demonstrate the Government's commitment to the accelerated delivery of new housing. My Department has no interest in unnecessarily prolonging the time involved in these approvals, other than to ensure compliance with Government-wide rules for capital project oversight. We will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that projects are progressed efficiently, while also delivering high quality design and good value for money, in sustainable communities.