Despite the recent announcement by the Minister for Transport of the re-opening of the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS), Leitrim County Council senior management have said there is no way to justify financing the scheme in Co Leitrim.
At the recent monthly meeting, Cllr Enda McGloin put forward a motion seeking clarification on the re-introduction of the scheme in Co Leitrim. Cllr Sinead Guckian also raised the issue noting that it was important those already on the waiting list, be made aware of what the Council intended to do.
However Director of Infrastructure, John McGuinness said the Council was simply not in a position financially, to re-open the scheme. He noted that the Council now has leeway to use 7% of its Discretionary Grant to fund Local Improvement Scheme works on non-public roads.
Before the previous scheme was suspended in April 2012 there were over 190 applicants on the waiting list in Co Leitrim, some of whom had been waiting for prioritisation for over two years.
Mr McGuinness said it was “not possible, in the present financial climate, to justify taking any funding from the already inadequate provision made for the maintenance of the Public Road network.”
The Director of Service said that applicants under the LIS were also utilising the counties public roads and there was no way to transfer funds from these to “private lane ways serving only a very few”.
After criticism from the chamber for the decision, Mr McGuinness went on to State that there had been a “very incorrect” picture presented of the Council’s 2013 roads budget allocation.
He said that despite some claims to the contrary, Leitrim’s Regional and Local Roads Allocations for 2013 represented a drop of €1m on funding granted in 2012 and the Non National Roads Budget had dropped by over €4m since 2006.
“Such a large reduction is not sustainable and the valuable asset built up in our road network in the good years is in very serious danger of being lost,” he admitted.
The roads funding crisis has now hit such a level that work such as surface dressing, which should be carried out every 10 years, is now only budgeted for every 16 years. The position in relation to road strengthening works is even worse with works carried out once every 33 years when recommended figures for the protection of roadways suggest this work should be carried out every 20 years. Co Leitrim has 2,105 Km of non national roads and the present budget available to maintain this network is only €780 per km per year, he said.
Cllr Enda McGloin asked the Council to go back to the Government to source ring-fenced funding for the LIS programme. Cllr Sinead Guckian also reacted angrily saying “By suggesting that the Council can “instead” use 7% of their roads maintenance budget for the scheme” the Government is little more that giving the Council permission to do the work but not the financial backing or ability.”
She said she was also unhappy the contribution expected from applicants was now 20 percent of the cost of the works, double that under the scheme before its suspension last year.
Her party colleague, Paddy O’Rourke said it was clear that greater clarity was needed on the roads budget from the Government.
Fine Gael Councillor, Gerry Reynolds pointed out “the country is broke”. “We now have a decision to make, we have one of the highest amounts of LIS applications in the country and we have to either take 7% funds from the Discretionary Grant or we write to the Minister seeking funding and suspend the scheme for this year.”