Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Ceisteanna (59)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

59. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for investment in vital recreational infrastructure for local communities such as swimming pools, community centres and other sporting facilities; the extent to which budgetary allocations are sufficient to cater for demand for such facilities in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29519/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Transport)

I ask the Minister of State the extent to which he is satisfied he has the sufficient resources available to meet the requirements of the various sporting, recreational and community groups throughout the country involved in providing facilities for their members.

The sports capital programme is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. Under the 2017 round of the programme, €62 million was allocated to 1,837 sporting projects and my officials continue to assist these grantees in completing their projects and draw down their grants.

Sanction was received last year from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to open a new round of the programme with allocations of up to €40 million. This new round opened for applications on Friday, 7 September and the application period closed on Friday, 19 October 2018. By that deadline, a record 2,337 applications were submitted seeking a total of €162 million in funding.

A total of 186 of these applications were for projects deemed invalid under the 2017 round of the programme but corrected documents were subsequently submitted. These applications were assessed first and approximately €7 million in allocations to 170 projects were announced on 17 January.

A total of 619 equipment-only applications were assessed next and 466 allocations with a value of €9.8 million were announced in May.

Work is now under way on assessing the remaining applications for capital works.

For the first time, applicants who submitted incorrect documentation under this round are being given the opportunity to correct their application during the assessment period. While there will be no undue delay in completing the assessment process, in view of the opportunity to correct documentation, the record number of applications received and the detailed information contained in each application, I expect that it may be the end of the third quarter of this year before the full set of allocations under this current round of the programme are announced.

As soon as allocations have been made, my Department will carry out a review of all aspects of the 2018 round of the programme to include any possible improvements for the future. This review will include consideration of the timing and scale of the next round but I fully expect that the sports capital programme will again be open for new applications before the end of this year.

The funding available this year and currently earmarked for subsequent years is sufficient to meet all existing commitments and allow for a new round of the programme to be opened.

Does the Minister of State remain satisfied that sufficient funds remain constantly available to him to meet the requirements as already set out by the various applicants who have made submissions in the relevant period and whether there is likely to be a shortfall or a surplus?

I know the Deputy has an interest in swimming pools, particularly in his constituency. The local authority swimming pool programme, LASPP, was operated by our Department and that provides grants to local authorities towards the capital costs of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of existing pools. To date 51 pools have been completed and four swimming pool projects remain in the current LASPP. The priority this year is on advancing these projects and sufficient resources are available to cover these commitments. The budget allocation for 2019 is €4.1 million. Along with €2.8 million carried forward from 2018, this funding will be sufficient for that area.

In respect of the large-scale sport infrastructure fund, LSSIF, there is €100 million available. We hope to allocate that funding towards the end of this year. It is oversubscribed but not to the extent that the local and regional sports capital programmes are typically oversubscribed. There will be some disappointment in that regard but not as much as the Deputy may have anticipated at local level.

At local level, we had to make a call on the equipment-only grants. We had to cut off the lowest scoring applications because we could not spread the funding too thinly. I expect something similar will happen with the local sports capital programme unlike the 2017 programme when we effectively doubled the budget. As we will not be able to do that this time, there will be some disappointment but it will be done in order of merit in order that the lowest-scoring applicants will be the ones least likely to receive funding. We want to reward those who score highly through the system, which covers a vast range of criteria.

Would it be possible to give favourable consideration to local community groups that want to join together to make an application for funding from other organisations, as well as from the Department? Would that be viewed as being constructive and acceptable in those circumstances, which would give good value for money to the community and to the Department?

The Deputy’s suggestion is apt. Within the programme, we are trying to encourage shared facilities and usage. The scoring system for the 2018 programme, which is being assessed and which has been assessed for invalid applications and the equipment-only ones, takes into account clubs and organisations which share facilities. Where there is a licence agreement in place between partners, that application will score additional funding. Other criteria are taken into account when allocating a score to a particular proposal, for example, the socio-economic situation. The Pobal deprivation index is used for that. We also take into account the level of matched funding that is being made available by the partners in projects. We also consider previous allocations to clubs. We do not keep giving huge sums to the same people every time and several other factors are taken into account. In respect of deprivation and disadvantage, the requirements for higher levels of matched funding are lower where the community is scoring in the deprivation area through the Pobal deprivation index. There are several other factors to try to make it as fair as possible and as weighted as possible in favour of communities that are disadvantaged under the Pobal deprivation index.