Mayo County Council officials have said that a recent allocation of funding for LIS roads came ‘out of the blue’, and they have defended spending the money elsewhere.
The officials were fielding questions as to why the funds had been used for amenity roads, such as the Great Western Greenway, rather than non-public roads in the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS).
Minister for Rural and Community Affairs Michael Ring had announced at the end of November that he was allocating funding of just under €418,000 to the scheme in Mayo.
The issue was raised at yesterday’s monthly meeting of the West Mayo Municipal District where councillors welcomed the funding, but questioned why they had no input as to where the money was spent.
To avail of the funding, work on the roads had to be completed by the end of December, which councillors claimed was almost impossible.
Mr Padraic Walsh, head of the West Mayo Municipal District, admitted that the allocation came without prior notice and explained that due to the time restriction, they decided to allocate the money to improve amenity roads.
“The money came to us out of the blue. We were delighted to get the money, but we had to pull out all the stops to get it spent,” he explained.
“There wasn’t time to put a great deal of time into considering what options were there because literally there were only a couple of working weeks [in which] the money could be spent. So our view was that the only feasible way to spend it was to select amenity roads where the local contribution of 10 percent was funded directly by ourselves.
“We were put in a position where to get the money spent within the timeframe there was only one possible solution, which was to take amenity roads on the list and offer them as candidates for spending,” he said, adding: “We believe we will get it spent by the end of the year.”
Responding to councillors’ complaints that they had been contacted by people looking for the money to improve their roads, Mr Walsh pointed out that the council would have to write to these residents to get approval, and said that this delay would have made it unlikely the work could be carried out in time.
Independent councillor Michael Holmes said that the improvement works carried out on LIS roads was done to a high standard, and that many residents wanted these roads taken in charge by the council.
Mr Walsh confirmed that it was the council’s policy not to take in charge any new roads due to the limited resources for existing public roads. He said unless there is an increased allocation in budgets for roads, the policy is likely to continue.