The decision taken by the Taoiseach while Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport was forced upon him by financial circumstances. I have no doubt that he did not wish to make the decision he did. The Deputy is aware that the LIS is back in existence.
The maintenance of roads not taken in charge by local authorities is the responsibility of the relevant landowners. However, section 81 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides the statutory basis for the LIS. Under the scheme, funding can be provided to local authorities by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for the construction and improvement of non-public roads, that is, roads not taken in charge by local authorities, which meet the very specific criteria set out in the Act. A contribution from the beneficiaries is required in all cases. Section 81 states that assistance by a road authority under the LIS is conditional on a financial contribution by the relevant parties. It further provides that after consultation with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and with the consent of the Minister for Finance, another Minister may make a grant to a road authority in respect of non-public roads in accordance with a scheme made by that Minister. As such, State assistance may be provided under the statutory LIS, and up to 2012 my Department provided ring-fenced funding for the scheme. However, due to the major cutbacks in roads funding arising from the financial crisis, it was necessary for the Department to stop providing dedicated funding for the LIS in 2012.
Although there was no separate allocation for the LIS from 2013 to 2017, local authorities could use a proportion of their discretionary grant for the LIS. The allowable proportion of discretionary grant was 7% in 2013. It was increased to 15% from 2014 onwards. This approach was taken because it was considered that councils were best placed to decide whether to concentrate the limited grant funding available on public roads or operate an LIS for non-public roads.
In September 2017, my colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, reintroduced dedicated funding for the LIS. He continues to fund the scheme. In light of the significant funding being put into LIS by that Department and the pressing need to direct resources into maintaining and renewing public roads, it was decided that the option of allocating a proportion of the discretionary grant to LIS would no longer apply from 2018. I am open to discussing the matter with the Minister, Deputy Ring.