Saturday 1 October 2016

Capital Spending: The investment in each sector

Indpendent.ie Newsdesk

Published 30/09/2015 | 02:30

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan
Alex White
Flooding in Enniscorthy

The investment in the Eduction, Transport, Environment, Justice, Technology and Health sectors.

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Education: “Too little, too late”, say universities"

Universities criticised the third-level allocation as "too little, too late" in the face of a "massive backlog of repair and maintenance and an urgent requirement for new buildings".

The bulk of the €3.8bn earmarked for education will go on building new and extended schools to deliver 62,000 extra places - 19,000 at primary level and 43,000 at post-primary, to cope with rising enrolments, as well as replacing pre-fabs and school refurbishment.

It also includes €210m for a schools' digital strategy, including wireless connectivity in every school.

The third-level share will be €110m, plus €200m for public-private partnerships, on top of €40m already committed for Dublin Institute of Technology's Grangegorman project.

Irish Universities Association (IUA) chief executive Ned Costello said: "While the plan concentrates heavily on demographic pressures in first and second level, it ignores the fact that these pressures feed through to third level.

"The moneys have to be spread across seven universities, 14 institutes of technology, and numerous smaller bodies."

Transport: Bulk of funding will be used to maintain existing network

The big-ticket item here is Metro North, a €2.4bn light-rail project running 16.5kms from St Stephen's Green to Dublin Airport and Swords, and due to become operational by 2027.

While €42bn might seem an enormous sum to invest in just six years, the Coalition could easily have doubled the spend and, as the Taoiseach said, delivered a "catch-all for every parish".

But it resisted that temptation and left itself open to predictable accusations that the Capital Plan lacked ambition.

It doesn't. In fact, it's ambitious because it signals a real change in political thinking, in that to a large degree it focuses on the dull but worthy, instead of the new and flashy.

A striking component is just how much money is being spent on maintaining and upgrading existing assets, with 70pc of the transport budget dedicated to this alone. There will be grumblings that Metro North won't be delivered quickly enough, but better to take a long-term and pragmatic approach than make an empty promise.

There are obvious shortcomings. There's not enough money for energy efficiency, which would not only create jobs, but also deliver real energy (and financial) savings for the hard-pressed public sector, while reducing emissions.

It's also heavily reliant on State agencies delivering. Of the €42bn pledged, some €15bn will come from this sector - taking in a range of capital projects, including power lines which are still without planning and subject to enormous public opposition.

The involvement of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in delivering projects also needs careful consideration. The State will pay €1.5bn to its PPPs over the lifetime of this plan under existing arrangements, so can we really afford any more?

There's also an element of recycling here: the national children's hospital project is not new, and nor is Luas Cross-City, but they're both built in.

Why? Because they will have to be paid for over the lifetime of the plan, so therefore must be included.

Many will be unhappy with what the Government has decided, but by and large it is delivering about as much as could be expected.

The Government has made a judgement on how it thinks scarce public monies should be spent. The people will ultimately decide by next March if the right choices were made. What this plan doesn't do is promise the devil and all. That, in itself, is a welcome change.

Environment: Housing and water make up the bulk of spending

Of the €4bn allocated to the department until 2021, the bulk - €2.9bn - is for the social housing programme, which is expected to deliver 35,000 new homes and another 75,000 units through renting and leasing from the private sector.

Another €300m of housing investment is planned through public-private partnerships, with €105m set aside for a rural development programme.

Upgrading the water network will involve substantial investment, with €4bn in spending planned. Among the main projects include works in Cork's Lower Harbour, a new supply for Dublin and the Midlands, and a €150m investment programme to reduce leakage rates.

Flood defences in at-risk areas, including Cork city and Enniscorthy, are also proposed at a cost of €430m.

Some €444m is allocated for energy efficiency projects, with funding also available to subsidise electric vehicles.

Justice: Family and child court is jewel in new justice plan

A €60m state-of-the-art family and children's court, to be built under public-private partnership, is the centrepiece of the justice sector's Capital Investment Plan.

A site has already been secured by the Office of Public Works adjacent to the Four Courts complex for the dedicated facility.

Although not the largest investment in the justice sector's Capital Investment Plan 2016 to 2021, the move has been widely praised.

Families and victims of domestic violence have been forced to use unsuitable and outdated accommodation that has added to their difficulties, as they seek to resolve family law disputes.

After mass closures of courthouses and garda stations across the country in recent years, almost €30m will be spent on refurbishing courts and garda stations.

The most significant investment for gardaí is a €205m "breakthrough allocation" for technology and systems that will help improve Garda response times.

Amid mounting criticisms over a perceived failure by gardaí to tackle burglaries, especially in rural areas, an additional €46m will be provided for new Garda vehicles.

Funding will also be put in place for a previously shelved new Forensic Science Laboratory.

Technology: Rural broadband: phased spending now “likely”

The Government is to spend €275m on an "initial stimulus" for the National Broadband Plan, a scheme to connect hundreds of thousands of rural homes and businesses to fibre broadband by 2020.

While the amount of broadband money is just over half the sum previously touted by the Government, Communications Minister Alex White has insisted the sum "does not represent the full cost of the National Broadband Plan". He said any remaining investment would "likely be spread over 20 years".

The Government had initially put a €510m figure on the project.

"The €275m will provide the initial stimulus for the early years of the State intervention under the National Broadband Plan," said Mr White.

He said that the Government will commence "formal procurement" for tenders to build the new network by the end of 2015.

The Government's original estimate of 700,000 premises may be cut short by new promises from Eir and Siro.

Health: €3bn funding for health facilities, including hospitals

Four new hospitals should be completed at the end of the five-year Capital Investment Plan, which will free up €3bn for health projects, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday.

They include the new National Children's Hospital, the National Rehabilitation Hospital, the Central Mental Hospital and the National Maternity Hospital.

Headway in terms of planning and design should be made at that stage on the new Rotunda Hospital, which will move to Connolly Hospital, and a new Limerick Maternity Hospital. It will take longer to progress the new Coombe Maternity Hospital, which will move to the campus at St James's Hospital.

The plan will also see the upgrading and replacement of several outdated nursing homes and the ending of congregated settings for most people with a disability, allowing for more modern care.

Funding will also be allocated to more radiotherapy services across the country and also information technology. It is also planned to continue to roll out primary care centres with a strong emphasis on public-private partnerships.

Mr Varadkar said he did not envisage that private investment would be a difficulty.

Irish Independent

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