By Owen Ryan
FUNDING for roadworks in Clare has been almost halved over the last six years and maintaining the county’s infrastructure is now “a real case of loaves and fishes”, this week’s meeting of the County Council heard.
Senior engineer Tom Tiernan presented the council’s roadworks programme to Monday’s meeting, which was held in Killaloe, in honour of the Brian Ború Millennium Celebrations.
He told the meeting the total allocation for 2014 is a massive 46.8% less than the figure for six years previously. “2008 was the last year of the so-called Celtic Tiger and, since then, things have been on the slide, basically.”
The 2014 allocation is down by just over 6%, to €16.8million, from €17.9m in 2013. In the introduction to the programme, it was stated weather conditions have only added to the problems created by the declining funds.
“It is now six years since the last roadworks programme, which reflected the characteristics of the boom period, was presented to the council. Since 2008, very significant changes have evolved in terms of funding, programme structure, expenditure management etc. Apart from the fact that overall funding levels have reduced considerably over the past six years, the severity of the 2009/10 and 2010/11 winters very much exacerbated the situation and, as a result, it’s fair to say that weather-related damage over the period set the county’s year-on-year programme back to the tune of approximately €10m, in monetary terms.”
It added that the bad weather in the early months of this year has done nothing to improve the matter.
Although the local authority is being given some scope to divert restoration improvement funds to discretionary expenditure, it stated that this won’t solve much.
“While such a strategy is welcome and effective, in so far as it can be with grossly inadequate funding available, the overall remediation impact is modest and, ultimately, the network remains in a more deteriorated state than if the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 were normal in severity terms.”
Going through some aspects of the programme for the coming year, Mr Tiernan noted there is an allocation of €120,000 for Blake’s Corner.
He said in terms of restoration, improvements and surface dressing, the council will deal with about 280km this year, which he claimed is “about half what it should be” if the council were to cyclically deal with all roads as often as they should.
Discussing the programme, Councillor Michael Hillery warned that as the years go by, not enough roads are being tarred to keep things to an acceptable standard. He said some roads are going out of shape and, consequently, becoming quite dangerous.
Councillor Tom McNamara said the programme is now “a real case of the loaves and the fishes”. He added that he was very disappointed that, in some cases, people in rural areas are being asked to pay 20% of the cost of road improvements, while those in other areas don’t have to pay at all.
Fianna Fáil’s Pat Hayes said more was being spent on roads 11 years ago and that people who are paying their property and road taxes should be getting proper services for their money.
His party colleague, PJ Kelly, described the programme document as “a draft obituary notice for County Clare”.
He also said the county’s potholes will be getting so bad that black boxes may be sought at the bottom of them.
Councillor Cathal Crowe criticised the State allocation funds for the Northern Distributor Road, given that it is 10 to 15 years away. He also described it as “a pie in the sky project going nowhere”.
He claimed, last year, the Government allocated €60 million just for Parnell Square in Dublin, while he proposed the council not accept the programme and to seek more funds.
However, his proposal found favour with neither the council executive or his fellow councillors and no one seconded it.
It was agreed that a deputation be put together to seek more resources for Clare.