State won't foot €180m big-freeze roads bill
THERE will be no additional money given to local authorities to repair roads damaged during the big freeze.
Instead, city and county councils which face a €180m repair bill will be given greater discretion in deciding how to spend their annual budget for local and regional road improvement works announced by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey yesterday.
The current strain on the public finances means that no extra money is available, Mr Dempsey said, adding that €411m would be allocated this year to local authorities.
Of this, €240m can be used to repair and improve road surfaces damaged during three weeks of sub-zero temperatures, with the remainder allocated to specific projects.
"My priority is to protect investment in the roads network and to carefully target resources to address the most urgently required repairs resulting from the extensive damage caused by the recent severe weather," Mr Dempsey said.
"The cost for repairing damage caused by severe weather events is estimated by county councils as €180m. These grants represent a very significant investment at a time when public finances are under severe pressure."
He added that councils could use money from other sources for improvement works.
"They have to work within tightened budgets but they can increase their spending on roads," he added.
"The vast majority of local authorities are very responsible, but some put just 5pc of their own money into roads. I'm saying here's a lump sum, prioritise the damaged roads, repair them as soon as possible.
"Since last October we've known what we have for roads funds, but we're giving them almost complete discretion on how they spend that."
Some €240m has been provided for rehabilitation and maintenance of roads, many of which were damaged during the freezing weather.
Another €60m has been set aside for surface dressing; €26.5m for urban roads; €62.2m for 138 specific projects including bridges; €6.3m for low-cost safety works such as installation of speed bumps and almost €5m for a regional road sign-posting programme
In previous years a list of projects was approved by the department, and the authorities would not be forced to carry out such extensive repair works which are now needed. Budgets for other projects have been slashed as a result.
The Labour Party's transport spokesman Tommy Broughan said the lack of extra funding for repair works was "very disappointing". "The authorities (councils) have already faced a significant reduction in the local and regional roads grant in the last two budgets," he said.
Cork County Council received €42.3m, Donegal got €25.8m, Galway Co Council got €23.1m and Mayo got €20.3m. The biggest grant to a city council was to Dublin which got €10.5m.