Monday 18 December 2017

€20m of storm repair fund still unspent after one year

The prom in Lahinch, Co Clare, was damaged in last year's storms that hit the West coast. Photo: Gavin Gallagher
The prom in Lahinch, Co Clare, was damaged in last year's storms that hit the West coast. Photo: Gavin Gallagher
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

More than €20m allocated by the Government in response to the worst storms in over a century remains unspent, the Irish Independent has learned.

The Coalition announced funding packages totalling €66.6m in response to the wide-scale damage caused by the storms of December 2013 and January 2014, officially considered the most devastating in 143 years.

However, figures released by various government departments indicate that one year on, just €46.36m of this has been spent.

Officials say a variety of factors are responsible for the slow draw-down of the cash, including environmental restrictions and public procurement requirements.

There has also been some confusion at local authority level over how money can be spent.

This saw delays in progressing work in Co Clare, where the council wanted to spend money on building new coastal defences - but funds were only being made available for repairs to existing defences. Under the repair programme, councils can apply to government departments for cash to repair roads, coastal protection infrastructure and damaged amenities.

Data supplied to the Irish Independent shows:

• Out of €19.6m available from the Office of Public Works (OPW) for the repair of coastal and flood defences, just €7.67m has been paid to local authorities to date;

• €13.85m of the €17.1m originally earmarked for damage repairs from Department of Environment funding has been claimed by city and county councils;

• €12.64m has been given to councils out of €16.2m available for road repairs by the Department of Transport.

The take-up in funding for certain types of projects has been better than others.

For example, out of €7m available from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for the repair of 111 storm-damaged harbours, piers and slipways, some €5.5m has been allocated.

A €6.7m transport infrastructure fund has been completely allocated, according to the Department of Transport.

A spokeswoman said the OPW understood the slow drawdown was due to a variety of factors affecting some projects, such as the need for technical investigations of proposed solutions, environmental restrictions on carrying out works, or procurement process requirements.

The Department of the Environment said it had made provision for a further €10m in funding to be given to local authorities this year.

"You cannot simply look at projects in isolation. By way of example, you may have pieces of public infrastructure that were destroyed by severe weather, for example, roads, public car parks and playgrounds.

"There is no point in reinstating these until the underlying problem has been resolved and that could be a flood defence or a coastal defence measure."

Irish Independent

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