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Clarity over council costs in preparing pyrite testing

DETAILS have been provided on the costs incurred by Clare County Council in preparing a report on the extent of pyrite in homes here.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request shows the council is seeking to recoup €80,000 after the Department of Housing asked it to make a case for extending the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme to Clare.
The report is being considered by Minister Darragh O’Brien, alongside a major overhaul of the scheme itself, which currently only covers Mayo and Donegal.
At a public meeting in October, attended by up to 80 homeowners, there were some fractious exchanges between Oireachtas members over the bill.
A breakdown of the costs was sought by the Department of Housing and correspondence, secured under FOI, shows that the council clarified the bill.
The authority said that external tests and reports were carried out on ten properties at a cost of €7,000 each. A further cost of €15,000 was incurred for “internal technical input since September 2020”.
The Department requested clarification, by email, on August 5. The council responded on September 28. In response to a query from The Champion, the council issued further details as to the nature of the internal input into the report.
The authority said that the preparation of a submission to request extension of the Defective Concrete Blocks scheme to Clare was added to the programme of work for the Department during 2020 and continued in 2021.
“This activity was unfunded and as a body of work was not budgeted or resourced,” a statement said.
“The work for the team included but was not limited to the following list of items: Liaising with the Clare Pyrite Action Group; Liaising with Clare Public Representatives during the process to-date; Liaison with external Consultants in relation to their work in testing and reporting; Responding to the numerous media queries; Production of tender documents to procure an IS465 qualified engineer; Visual inspections of potentially affected properties; Collation of data for final Department submission.”
The statement added that: “This body of work competed with other funded work programmes therefore it was necessary the Council recover this cost from the sanctioning authority and that a provision is made by the sanctioning authority to fund the cost of this work programme going forward.”
Meanwhile it has emerged proposals on improving the overall grant scheme in the wake of a campaign by those already availing of it, will not now come before cabinet for around a fortnight.
Options for an improved scheme were discussed this week by government party leaders along with the Minister for Housing, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure.
On a visit to Clare on August 27, Minister O’Brien said homeowners would get a discussion “within weeks” on access to the scheme. Deputy Cathal Crowe has said he expects a positive decision before Christmas.

by Fiona McGarry

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