Responding to the news that the Department of Transport are allocating over €15.6million in funding for regional and local roads in Cavan and Monaghan, Senator Kathryn Reilly has called on the Minister for Transport to allocate additional funding for Local Improvement Schemes, reiterating calls from local Sinn Féin councillors who have been raising this issue.
Senator Reilly said: “Local Improvement Schemes are the method people in rural areas use to get roads to places which are not serviced by existing county council roads.
“While I welcome that the scheme was reopened and that people living on these private roads and lanes now can have some recourse to assistance with funding, there does exist issues around the funding of the scheme. Demand for the scheme far outweighs supply and the pressures on the public roads funding allocation of local authorities has meant that some councils cannot use their funding for this purpose.
“It is necessary that something is done for the endless number of people who are waiting for the primary provision of a road to their dwelling house.
“The Local Improvement Schemes may have been reopened, but this does not mean additional Government funding, it just means the Council has leeway to use a percentage of its Budget to the works on non-public roads. However, having the leeway to do this, and it being practical within the current budgetary constraints and demands on the public roads budget, are two different things.
“The Local Improvement Schemes needs special ring-fenced fund of their own, not scrapings from the Roads Budget. By suggesting that Councils can instead use a percentage of their budget for the scheme it is only paying lip service to rural areas, giving the Council permission to do the work but not the real financial backing or ability.
“The Minister for Transport previously stated that local authorities, with their community base and local knowledge are best placed to judge the priority of works on private roads. But I do not believe local authorities should make the either/or decision whether they want to operate the Local Improvement Scheme in their area or would prefer to put their resources into regional and local public roads. Specific ring fenced extra funding is exactly what we need. Councillors would rather if it came by way of additional standard roads funding that we could then decide in the council chamber to allocate to LIS.
“The announcement of additional funding for local and regional roads is welcome, particularly in Cavan where it was reported last year that the figure for regional and local roads saw a six per-cent reduction from the 2014 allocation, which saw the roads budget total return to 2001 funding levels. However, given the condition that local roads and lanes are in, particularly after the spate of bad weather, the Minister needs to look now at specific ring fenced funding for Local Improvement Schemes.”