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Councillor Cillian Murphy asked for a breakdown of all the services offered, and the staffing levels relevant to each of those services.

Show us the money to deal with ’embarrassing’ roads

ROADS in a Clare housing estate were described as “an embarrassment” at a meeting of the local authority.

Asking that funds would be allocated next year to the Municipal Districts (MDs) for infrastructure in local authority estates, Councillor Cillian Murphy was scathing about the situation.

“At the heart of this motion is a lived and very frustrating experience,” he told the July Council meeting.

“The issue is falling between the Housing Section and the MD offices. If you take Marian Estate in Kilkee, the roads there are, quite frankly, an embarrassment and they should be to the Council.

“I have asked the Housing Section and they said its the MD office. The MD said they had no budget, and round and round and round we go. The only solution is to have a specific item in budget for MDs to tackle estates. We are not asking for more money, but for clarity.”

Co-sponsors of the motion, Councillors Pat O’Gorman, Shane Talty and Ian Lynch also outlined their concerns. 

Thanking the Director of Services for Housing, Anne Haugh, for her reply, Councillor Lynch said: “This is a significant problem and the reply suggests we dont have a policy around this. Our request is for a specific budget figure. The funding cant take from Roads budget. For now, we need to set money aside to do this over the coming years.”

Councillor Shane Talty said the matter was “falling between two stools”. “The Ballard Estate in Miltown is another example,” he said. “That was built in the 1970s and80s and has only ever had patchwork repairs since then.”

Councillor OGorman said the same issue was arising all over the county. “If you look at Drumgeely in Shannon, the roads were never built for heavy traffic that is now going in behind it,” he said. “There are some Meelick estates that have been left untouched since they were built. In Westbury, I got a call from a woman who said youd know youre in Clare, because the roads and the footpaths all change.”

Councillor Joe Cooney said: “There is some great work done by residents associations. In the Killaloe MD, we invested General Municipal Allocation (GMA) funding to get some roads in developments up to a decent standard. I hope that more funding can be allocated.”

Councillor Alan OCallaghan said huge work had been done over the last couple of years after some builders left estates half finished. “We need to go to estates that are older and need help,” he said. “Some bit of funding might be able to be pulled from contributions to other sites. There was a long list of unfinished estates in Killaloe. Now, it has nearly been wiped clear. This is another part of that work that needs to be addressed.”

Councillor Pat McMahon noted that grass cutting is also another major problem. “Not enough money is being provided,” he said. “People feel aggrieved and more money is needed.”

Councillor Pat Burke agreed that estates built in the 70s and 80s were in need of a facelift. 

CEO of Clare County Council Pat Dowling noted the spirit of the motion and the quality of the reply. “If we can maintain our level of income, we can look at how the money is allocated in the 2023 budget,” he said. “We try and embrace members’ wishes in the budget, but it must be on the basis of maximising the income coming in. All I can say is we will look at in the context of the budget for next year.”

Responding, Councillor Murphy said: “We took it that there is money allocated, but we cant get at it. its not about increasing the budget, but about identifying it and getting our hands on it.”

A written response from the Director of Housing said that custom and practice has been that roads in local authority estates, and those taken in charge, are maintained by the respective MDs. The response noted that maintenance of properties themselves is funded by the Housing Section.

The response noted that the situation regarding maintenance of green areas in estates is “more ambiguous with different arrangements having evolved in various parts of the county over the years”.

“While some LA estates are part of the annual grasscutting contracts operated by the Shannon and Ennis MDs in particular, it is the case that in many of the older estates maintenance of the green areas is undertaken voluntarily by proactive residents associations and has not been an issue in the past.”

The reply added that the Housing Section “has committed to ensuring that all newly completed schemes under the Rebuilding Ireland and Housing For All programmes will have a grass cutting regime in place for the summer season”.

The reply noted that costs are significant “considering this arrangement only covers nine out of a total of 145 estates in the county”. “A further 63 estates are already included in existing grass cutting contracts by the relevant MDs,” the response said.

“The Housing Department will continue to work with the MDs in addressing needs in some areas where complaints or issues of local capacity may arise and there maybe potential to extend existing contractual arrangements.”

The response also noted the increase in costs that will arise as the local authority stock expands significantly in the coming years.

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