Flood Relief Schemes
15. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if additional funding will be provided in 2020 to local authorities for flood relief schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16814/20]
I take this opportunity to wish the Minister and the Ministers of State well in their important work.
As we all know, in recent years there have been increased incidences of flooding causing major problems for households and landowners. Unfortunately, the two counties I represent, Cavan and Monaghan, have been adversely impacted on many occasions. The minor works programme, which provides some funding for local authorities to carry out remedial works is of great benefit and I would like to see the programme expanded. I put it to the Minister of State that very little of my county, Cavan, is included under the provisions of the Arterial Drainage Act 1945. It shows that we have more incidences of flooding on single, smaller streams and rivers. I would like to see, if at all possible, additional funding provided for the minor works programme.
I thank Deputy Brendan Smith for his kind wishes. In my previous role in the Department, the Deputy routinely asked similar questions to the one he has asked today. I look forward to working with him.
I am advised that local flooding issues are a matter, in the first instance, for each local authority to investigate and address. In this case, it would be the Cavan and Monaghan county councils. All local authorities may carry out flood mitigation works, using either their own resources, or by applying for funding under the OPW minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection scheme.
Under this scheme, applications are considered for projects that are estimated to cost not more than €750,000 in each case. Funding of up to 90% of the cost is available for approved projects. Applications are assessed by the OPW having regard to the specific economic, social and environmental criteria of the scheme, including a cost benefit ratio and having regard to the availability of funding for flood risk management. Full details of this scheme are available on http://www.gov.ie/opw.
This scheme is a demand-led scheme and is based on the applications received from local authorities, based on the authorities’ assessment of the individual projects within their areas. The OPW works in close collaboration with all local authorities and offers any advice required to assist in the determination of these projects.
The allocation of funding for the minor works scheme is included in the overall allocation for flood risk management investment included under Vote 13 -Office of Public Works, in the Estimates for Public Services for 2020.
I thank the Minister of State for his response. Cavan County Council has identified 11 sites that require urgent attention. If the Minister of State could ensure that the applications are approved, the overall cost to the OPW would be less than €300,000. Up to 60 households would benefit from such improvement or remedial works. Some people have to leave their homes at stages during the winter and others do not have access to their homes or farms. Up to 60 households are directly affected and if the remedial works were undertaken these people would have their lives transformed, literally, in going about their daily business, especially in winter time. The Minister of State will agree that spending less than €300,000 of public expenditure to benefit up to 60 families would be a good return and it would try to ensure that these people have some normality during the winter months.
I do not disagree with most of what the Deputy said. I am sure he will appreciate that I cannot make commitments on the floor of the Dáil with regard to the spending of OPW money. From my time as a county councillor, as a backbencher and as a Minister of State in two Departments up to now, I am aware that the engagement between local authorities and the OPW at a local level is crucial in advancing cases, including such cases as those referred to by the Deputy, as well as others.
The Deputy referred to a particular area of Cavan being particularly susceptible to flooding and that a lot of the county is not included under the provisions of the Arterial Drainage Act. It was for that reason – and I know the Deputy will appreciate it – that the scheme he referenced is of such importance. In order to advance these and other cases that the Deputy might have in respect of Cavan and Monaghan, the most important thing is that engagement takes place between the local engineering staff of the councils and the OPW. If there are particular issues that the Deputy wants to bring to my attention, I will follow up on them with the OPW directly on his behalf.
Cavan County Council and its officials have an excellent relationship with the officials of the Office of Public Works, OPW. I have attended meetings, along with other public representatives, between the council and the OPW and have seen that good co-operation. I would like to ensure the applications are progressed as quickly as possible. We have a larger scale project which would benefit Cavan town and its surrounds. It would come under the CFRAM, catchment flood risk assessment and management, programme.
Over the next two years, I hope the Minister of State will ensure additional funding is provided to that particular scheme because of the benefits it could bring to many households. As I said earlier, it could change the lifestyle of those affected in the areas in question. Some older people actually leave their homes during the months when the areas are susceptible to flooding. We have to ensure that people are not discommoded to that extent as much as is possible. That type of small-scale financial investment can mean so much to many families and communities.
I agree with Deputy Brendan Smith. My colleague, the Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, also appreciates the Deputy’s sentiments. The more money he provides the OPW, the more I will be able to spend.