I propose to take Questions Nos. 506 to 508, inclusive, together.
The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is a statutory function of each local authority under the Roads Act 1993, as amended, with works funded by Local Authorities’ own resources supplemented by State road grants, where applicable. The initial selection and prioritisation of works is a matter for each local authority.
There were major cutbacks in funding for the road network in general during the recession. Project Ireland 2040 provides for a gradual increase in grant assistance for regional and local roads and there has been a significant increase in Exchequer funding particularly in the last two years - the €483 million allocated this year represents an increase of nearly 50% compared to 2017. However, the amount available is not sufficient to achieve “steady state” levels of investment.
Within the budget available to my Department, grant funding is allocated on the basis of grant programmes and not on the basis of the category of road. My Department does not, therefore, have the details sought by the Deputy regarding the resurfacing of Class 3 roads since 2016. The allocation of funding across specific roads or across categories is a matter for each local authority, having regard to the funding available to it from local and central sources as well as its particular priorities.
The main Regional and Local Road Grant programmes are focussed on specific policy objectives i.e. surface sealing to protect the road surface from water damage, road strengthening based on pavement condition rating to lengthen the life of roads and a Discretionary Grant Scheme which allows for a specified range of activities including winter maintenance. These 3 grant programmes account for most of the grant funding and are allocated taking into account the length of the road network and traffic factors in a particular local authority area. Apart from a requirement that 15% of the road strengthening grant is spent on regional roads, the allocation of funding to different categories of road is entirely a matter for decision by each local authority.
My Department does facilitate community participation in the repair of local roads. The statutory underpinning for local community involvement in road works was put in place in the Roads Act, 1993, as amended. Section 13(6) of the Act provides that a person, or group of persons, may with the consent of the road authority carry out maintenance and improvement works on a local road.
Road authorities had the option for many years of using part of their grant allocation for community involvement schemes if they wished to do so. A pilot Community Involvement Scheme with ring-fenced funding operated for two years in 2013 and 2014 and was well received. The recession did impact on the repair of less trafficked local roads as these roads tend to be considered towards the end of road authorities’ roadworks programmes. I re-introduced ring-fenced finding for CIS in 2018 with a view to allowing these local roads to be repaired sooner than might otherwise be the case and there has been a good uptake of the scheme. The Scheme is purely voluntary and does not take away from the statutory responsibilities of each road authority.
There is a common misconception that annual motor tax is in some way related to funding for roads. While historically the Local Government Fund did receive the proceeds of motor tax, as part of a source of funding for local authorities across their programmes (not just roads), this is no longer the case. Motor Tax receipts are now received directly by the Exchequer and form part of general taxation. there is therefore no relationship between the amount of tax due from owners of vehicles in a given location and the amount of local spending on roads in that location.