Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has again called for specific funding for local authorities for the local improvement scheme, to upgrade minor roads in need of urgent repair.
In a series of questions to the Minister for Transport in the Dáil, Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “Up until 2012 the local improvement scheme had a substantial and specific funding stream. Unfortunately, that ceased at that time. As we know the local improvement scheme provides for the upgrading of more minor local roads which are particularly important for rural communities. At present, most counties have a significant backlog of such roads in need of urgent attention. There is a limited scheme at present, but we need substantial investment by the Department on an annual basis to ensure this backlog is eliminated as soon as possible.
“I know many laneways and local roads along which ten or 12 families live. These are people of all age groups and people who, thankfully, have come back to live in their local communities. In many of those areas we have the social infrastructure in place, be it schools, sporting facilities or whatever. I now have queries from people who want to move back to rural Ireland. They want to go back to live in their home places and they ask me whether there is any chance that the roads along which they have their sites will be brought up to an acceptable and appropriate standard. These people pay their taxes, as do people living in urban areas, who have good roads and road surfaces, footpaths and public lighting. These people are being denied proper road surfaces leading to their homes, which is not acceptable.”
The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “Will the Minister give me a commitment that he and his Department colleagues will carry out an analysis of the capital spend throughout the year? If there is a slowness in drawing down some of the capital funding under any given heading, will he give due consideration to providing funding that is not drawn down by other sections to the roads section specifically for the local improvement scheme?”
The Minister for Transport responded that his Department looks at that constantly and there was an underspend last year, largely because of Covid, but the underspend has never been on the roads programme.
Minister Ryan added that if he were to consider allocating funding for non-public roads, this would reduce the funding available for public roads. The Transport Minister continued that in this context, one initiative taken since the Department of Rural and Community Development’s introduction of a local improvement scheme is the provision by my Department of ring-fenced funding for the community involvement scheme. This scheme is designed to provide for the repair of more lightly trafficked public rural roads, which tend to be considered only towards the end of road authorities’ annual roadworks programmes.