MORE than half a million euro is to be spent on improving footpaths in Ennis, from funding aimed at reducing the number of public liability claims being made against the local authority.
Clare County Council has received a “significant” dividend of €2.371 million from Irish Public Bodies Mutual Insurances Ltd (IPB). The IPB requires that the council spend the money in a way that “will facilitate mitigation of risk, and by implication, reduce the incidences of public liability claims”.
A total of €1.6 million of the funding has been earmarked for a footpath improvement programme throughout the county, with €508,000 of this to be spent in Ennis. This includes €112,140 to macadam 623 metres in length along the Tulla Road; €49,680 on concrete and concrete paving surfaces for Church Drive, Clarecastle and €48,000 on a concrete surface in Cloughleigh. Historical stone paving, costing €8,800, will be installed at Bank Place, along with concrete footpaths totalling €24,960.
According to the council’s Schedule of Municipal Works 2018 document, the majority of the IPB funding is to be spent on footpaths.
“Generally, the majority of public liability claims tend to arise as a result of footpaths that have fallen into disrepair and become trip hazards or defective in other ways.”
The document continues, “The criteria used to determine the content of the programme focused on locations where footpath conditions pose a risk to users or where there is a history of occurrence of mishaps or accidents or the submission of public liability claims.”
Tom Tiernan, acting director of service for physical development, told a recent meeting of Ennis Municipal District, “IPB has recommended that Clare County Council consider investing this fund in claims risk management, which will have the effect of reducing both the incidence and ultimate cost of claims for Clare County Council.”
He continued, “Reduction in claims frequency and costs will directly impact on Clare County Council’s insurance premium pricing by tempering the need for future rate increases, yielding significant benefits in the short, medium and long term.”
A total of €0.3 million of the IPB funding will be spent on drainage works, with €40,000 of this going to Ennis.
According to Mr Tiernan, this will “facilitate a more methodical and structured approach to dealing with surface water management, which is so critical in terms of maintaining the road network sustainably.”
The allocation will be added to the grant provided by the Department of Transport towards drainage works, with €95,000 in total to be spent in Ennis. €0.371 million will be spent on “necessary remedial works to obsolete Clare County Council assets to minimise risks from a health and safety point of view”.
This is expected to include a spend of €100,000 on an old waterworks in the Ennis Municipal District.
The remaining €0.1 million will go towards the cost of funding the development of a new temporary traffic management planning strategy to facilitate compliance with health and safety legislation and to support the implementation of the roadworks and other on-site programmes for which the council is responsible.
Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy called for a district-by-district breakdown of where the funding is going, speaking out against dividing the funding equally between them. “The risks are not equal in each district,” she said.
Councillor Johnny Flynn also voiced concerns about the division of the funding, stating, “While we don’t have the same length of road as other areas, we have the highest risk, as they get the most amount of use.”
Councillor Ann Norton stressed the importance of spending most of the money “in the main town in County Clare”.
She said, “We have the majority of foot traffic and car traffic as well. Every municipal district will be fighting for money but we are the municipal district of the hub town and surrounding areas and we would like to see a considerable amount spent in and around Ennis and the surrounding villages.”
Mr Tiernan confirmed that the funding had not been divided equally, pointing out that Ennis had received the lion’s share of footpath funding, worth €508,000, while 11% of the roads in the county are within the Ennis district.
That is over 30% of the footpath allocation going to Ennis Municipal District. At the end of the day, it’s a judgment call, it’s not an exact science. It is my job to distribute grants and allocations in the best way I can. I have made the best judgment call in consultation with the area engineers in attempting to get the priorities dealt with.”