Government announces €150m infrastructure stimulus plan

Funding will be invested in school projects, road maintenance and energy efficiency

The funding announced by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin will be invested in school projects, road maintenance and a local authority energy efficiency scheme. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

The funding announced by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin will be invested in school projects, road maintenance and a local authority energy efficiency scheme. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Wed, Jun 5, 2013, 17:03

A €150 million infrastructure stimulus plan has been announced by the Government.

The funding announced by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin will be invested in school projects, road maintenance and a local authority energy efficiency scheme.

Mr Howlin accepted that the €150m package was modest enough but said it represented a “turning point for capital investment” after several years of severe budget cuts.

Mr Howlin said that although public finances were “severely constrained”, it was important to build for the future .

“It is absolutely vital for our long-term well-being and prosperity that children have proper school buildings in which they can learn, that our roads are safe and well-maintained and that local authority housing is as energy efficient as possible,” he said.

He asserted that the plan was separate and additional to the €2.25 billion stimulus plan that was announced by him in July last year and which has promised to create 13,000 jobs. He said that that was proceeding well.

This new plan would use some of the money raised from the sale of State assets later this year, he said. He specifically referred to the proceeds from the sale of the National Lottery licence which he said would be completed by the end of 2013. Part of that money (some €200m) has been ringfenced for the new children’s hospital, but the balance may be allotted to other projects.

Mr Howlin was joined in the press conference by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and the Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan.

Each of their departments has been allocated € 50m under the plan to invest in the repair of local roads; to invest in 28 school projects and to carry out insulation and energy efficiency works in 25,000 local authority houses.

Mr Howlin and Mr Quinn, both of the Labour Party, took issue with some of the comments made on radio today by the newly-appointed Minister of State for Agriculture Tom Hayes. The Fine Gael TD said that plans to sell the harvesting rights of Coillte had been jettisoned and also said that there were no longer plans to assess capital assets as part of the means test for third level grants.

Mr Howlin insisted he has said nothing about the plans in relation to Coillte and pointedly said that no decision had been reached in relation to its assets. He said that a proposal would be jointly brought to Cabinet by himself and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

Mr Quinn said that he had been a minister for two and a half years while Mr Hayes had been a minister for half a day. He said studies going back to the 1990s and headed by Donal de Buitléar had concluded that household income should not be the sole component but that capital assets should also be included. He said that Government would make a decision on this issue after he brought a memorandum to Cabinet.

Mr Varadkar, asked about the National Road Authority’s proposals for multiple tolling on the M50 reiterated his opposition to the idea, saying he did not think it was a good idea now or in five or ten years time. He said it would not solve the problem, rather displace the traffic to local roads and onto residential areas around the M50. Asked if he had the authority to stop new tolling, Mr Varadkar said that any new tolling proposals would require a policy direction from him as minister.

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