I thank the Deputy for the question. The review of the public spending code, carried out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, was considered by the Government yesterday. The code is the central framework for the control and governance of all public expenditure activities, including social housing construction projects, where our responsibility is to ensure value for money in the essential work we undertake to provide housing for our citizens.
The €2 million eligibility threshold for the single-stage process for social housing projects was reviewed as part of the recent review of the code. This has had regard to the level of public funding involved and that raising the €2 million threshold would remove significant oversight from the Department over a substantial element of the social housing build programme, leading potentially to an increased risk of cost overruns or time delays or both. Taking account of these issues, as well as the importance of delivering quality and sustainable housing, no change to the €2 million threshold level is proposed in the revised code.
To date, the uptake of the single-stage process has been modest, at best. Of around 660 capital-funded social housing projects since 2016, approximately 280 are within the €2 million threshold. Of these, only approximately 45 are using the single-stage arrangement.
The reality is that the time involved in approving projects is only a small element in the process of bringing social housing projects from initial conception all the way through to construction. This is borne out by the fact that the single-stage process has the potential to save, at most, six to eight weeks off the pre-construction target programme of 59 weeks. Most of the time within that 59-week period is required to allow local authorities to complete their work on design, planning, procurement and engagement with contractors.
The social housing approval arrangements have already been streamlined by concentrating the nine review stages of the code into just four. The Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that the streamlined processes are operated efficiently, with a view to moving projects through both the single-stage and four-stage approval processes as expeditiously as possible. This is evident in the fact that it has been possible, in some cases, to complete the 59-week four-stage process in as little as 44 weeks.