Thursday 22 March 2018

Kenny's constituency flooded with housing grants

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Renua finance spokesman Billy Timmins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's constituency is being flooded with housing grants as the countdown to the next general election begins. Mr Kenny has been criticised in the past for failing to deliver for his constituents in Mayo, especially is his hometown of Castlebar.

But new figures from the Department of the Environment show Mayo - with less than a year to go before the country goes to the polls - is now benefiting more from housing grants than other counties with similar populations.

Other high-profile Cabinet members, including Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Finance Minister Michael Noonan, have also seen their constituencies receive a high level of grants when compared to constituencies with similar populations.

Renua finance spokesman Billy Timmins has demanded answers from the Government over the "huge disparity" in funding allocations.

"The Taoiseach gave a commitment that his ministers would be ministers for all the country not just their constituencies. Again, we can see with the housing allocations actions speak louder than words and we are still stuck in the parish pump politics of Fianna Fail," Mr Timmins told the Sunday Independent.

The Department has paid out more than €100m across four separate housing grants so far this year, which were distributed across all local authorities.

The payments include grants for modifying houses for elderly and disabled people, and funding for making homes more energy efficient. There is also a grant available for converting a vacant unit into a productive premise.

The grants are part funded by local authority budgets and centrally by the Department.

The energy efficiency and vacant site grants are used by local authorities to refurbish properties which they own, which can be then used as social housing or for other purposes. Elected representatives at all levels of Government and in Opposition regularly lobby local authorities on behalf of constituents seeking housing grants.

The latest figures from the Department of the Environment show the Taoiseach's home county of Mayo, which according to the last census has a population of around 130,000, received €4,014,507 so far this year. Meanwhile, counties with similar populations such as Wicklow, with a population of 136,000, received €2,779,603. And Louth, which has a population of almost 123,000, received €2,990,686 in grants this year.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin's Wexford constituency which has population of 145,000, also received less than the Taoiseach's home county with €2,623,741 in grants paid there this year.

However, some €1,554,660 of Wexford's funding was made up of adaptation grants for disabled and elderly, which was almost double the amount received by Wicklow.

Similarly, Mr Kelly's Tipperary constituency, which has a population of 158,000, received €4,152,899 in housing grants since the start of the year.

Limerick, the home of Minister Noonan and Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan, received €3,852,275 in grants. The county has a population of around 191,000, according to the last census. Meath, which has a population from of 184,000, received just €2,805,333. Cork City and Cork County Councils each received grants in excess of €8m.

A large proportion of Cork City's funding is made up of the vacant site grants due to a high number of derelict buildings in they city.

The Department insisted funding allocations are based on a number of factors and all grants are distributed in a transparent manner.

A spokesman said population size and age profile are among the factors considered ahead of a final decision but other metrics are also accounted for.

However, he said Minister Kelly is concerned that "those in need in his own constituency receive the maximum assistance available to them".

The Department of the Taoiseach also insisted the housing grants allocations in "transparent and fair".

And in a comment remarkably similar to Minister Kelly, a Government spokesman said: "The Taoiseach is of course concerned that those in need in his own constituency receive the assistance available to them."

A Finance spokesman said any representation for housing grants are made by Minister Noonan's constituency office.

Sunday Independent

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