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Sunday 21 September 2014

Red tape delays spending of €30m on storm repairs

Published 29/08/2014 | 02:30

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The scenes of devastation at Lahinch promenade in Co Clare after last year's storms, where massive walls and quarter tonne wall cappings were tossed across the car park. Photo: Press 22
The scenes of devastation at Lahinch promenade in Co Clare after last year's storms, where massive walls and quarter tonne wall cappings were tossed across the car park. Photo: Press 22

CONFUSION over funding levels and bureaucratic red tape has contributed to tens of millions of euro set aside for storm damage repairs remaining unspent.

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In the aftermath of last winter's storms - officially considered the most devastating in 143 years - the Government announced €70m would be made available for repairs and remediation work.

Most of the money was to be allocated to local authorities by a number of Government departments and bodies.

However, the Irish Independent has learned that six months after the last of the storms, just a fraction of the money allocated by two of those bodies, the Office of Public Works (OPW) and the Department of Transport, has been drawn down by city and county councils.

In OPW's case, just €400,000 of its €18.3m fund has gone to two local authorities, Galway City Council and Mayo County Council, for the repair of coastal defences.

Clare County Council, which is due to receive €8.2m from the OPW, has yet to draw down a single cent amid confusion over how the money can be spent and whether additional funding will be made available.

The council is seeking to spend some of its allocation on the construction of coastal defences.

However, the OPW fund only allows the money to be spent on repairs.

And just €4.1m has been drawn down by local authorities from a €16.8m fund controlled by the Department of Transport for the repair of roads.

It means that of the total €35m pot allocated to the OPW and the Department of Transport, €30.5m has not been spent.

The department said that there was an overlap between its fund and the OPW one.

"This means that the full road repairs in a particular case may have to be delayed until certain coastal protection work is put in place," said a spokesman for the department.

"In some cases the new works may have to be designed by a consultant and a procurement process may be required before the consultant is appointed.

Clean-up

"When the design is completed a further procurement process is then required before a contractor can be appointed. Hence the delays in completing the works and drawing down the monies in the case of many projects."

One of the worst affected counties, Clare, was pledged over €16m from various Government bodies.

However, this figure falls well short of the €39m Clare County Council was seeking.

Its senior engineer Tom Tiernan said that the council had been able to spend around €3.5m on extensive clean ups and some essential works.

It made two applications for funding to the Government, one in the aftermath of storms in January and another after storms the following month.While there was funding allocated following the January application, he said none has been pledged after the February one.

"Unfortunately we haven't received a reply on that yet.

"That is part of our difficulty," he said.

He said that as well as looking for a total of €27m for repair works, the council had been seeking €12m for strengthening works where it felt coastal defences were no longer adequate.

However, the OPW said it had made it clear that funding was for repairs and not the construction of entirely new coastal protection works.

It said some local authorities had indicated repair works were being progressed, and that substantial draw downs of funds would be made in the coming months.

Irish Independent

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