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Roads funding branded ‘a joke’



Council denied access to scheme due to audit of its use of funds

Oisín McGovern

COUNTY councillors have taken aim at the level of available funding for local-road repairs in the county, with one describing it as ‘a joke’.
Elected representatives from across the county said there was insufficient funding to repair roads under the current Local Improvement Scheme (LIS). The scheme, which is funded by the Department of Rural Affairs and Community Development, provides funding for the repair and maintenance of non-public roads.
Mayo County Council is currently being denied access to this scheme due to an audit being conducted by the department into how the council managed department-funded projects.
Minister Heather Humphries recently announced that €12 million had been allocated for the scheme to service roads across 24 counties.
Speaking at the recent monthly meeting of the local authority, councillors said that municipal districts were not being allocated enough LIS funding to cater for the demand.
West Mayo councillor Christy Hyland said that, under the scheme’s current terms, it would take 14 years to service the 102 LIS roads in his municipal district, which has seven councillors.
Cllr Hyland said the current allocation – approximately €20,000 – falls far short of what roads in his area need.
“We’re trying to get our LIS funding back, but could they please increase it?” he stated.
“It’s a joke the way they are treating people with LIS funding, a joke. Giving them false hope of one road per year [per councillor],” he added.
Cllr Hyland was supported by Cllr Al McDonnell from the Castlebar Municipal District, who said that LIS funding had been ‘inadequate’.
Cllr McDonnell said that his municipal area received between 70 and 80 applications to the LIS scheme every year, but the funding meant that only a maximum of ten roads could be serviced.
“The funding will be welcome when it comes, but every effort should be made in our negotiations to have it increased,” the Fianna Fáil councillor said, referring to the ongoing audit of the council.

Huge disappointment
BELMULLET-BASED councillor Sean Carey said that Mayo’s exclusion from LIS funding was met with ‘huge disappointment’ from constituents.
“This was a lifeline for rural areas to bring roads that are non-council [owned], to bring them up to a state that they are fit to be taken over by the council,” he said. “Last year we were lucky that we got a good number of roads done, but I have a list as long as me arm of LIS [roads] in the area. Every day people are on about wanting their own road done, naturally enough.
“I’ve been told that, a couple of years ago, we were allocated between €70,000 and €80,000 per councillor, and we want that to be reinstated again,” Cllr Carey added.
Charlestown-based councillor Gerry Murray said that there was a ‘massive of backlog’ of LIS-eligible roads in the east Mayo area that were in ‘an appalling state’.  Cllr Richard Finn said that ‘backlogs’ of LIS applications had built up from the years that the scheme was not available to local authorities. The Claremorris-based councillor said that councillors ‘could not spend’ their previous allocation of €80,000 per councillor.  Cllr Finn’s assertions were echoed by Cllr John Caulfield, who argued that roads which do not serve at least two farms should be eligible for the scheme.
A total of €80 million has been provided for works on over 3,000 roads since the LIS was reintroduced in 2017.
The Department of Rural and Community Development states that roads eligible under the Local Improvement Scheme include non-public roads that provide access to parcels of agricultural land, or provide access for harvesting purposes (including turf or seaweed) for two or more persons; or non-public roads leading to important community amenities, such as graveyards, beaches, piers, and mountains.