Minister hits out at ‘complaining’ local authorities over failure to spend money

Former FF spokesman calls on Minister to allocate funds on ‘use or lose basis’

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring  during the ‘Be Winter-Ready’ campaign  launch at the National Emergency Co-Ordination Centre  on Kildare Street, Dublin on November 7th Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring during the ‘Be Winter-Ready’ campaign launch at the National Emergency Co-Ordination Centre on Kildare Street, Dublin on November 7th Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring has hit out at local authorities over their failure to spend allocated funds for projects including road improvement works.

Mr Ring said “the local authorities are always complaining that they have no money, yet when they are given money to spend and asked to draw it down, they leave it to the last minute to do so”.

The Minister has been under pressure about underspending in the Department of Rural and Community Affairs.

Last year the department had a €26.7 million underspend but said these were related to the Leader and Town and Village programmes.

Mr Ring said €40.4 million in capital expenditure and €19.3 million in current expenditure was still to be spent, but he gave a guarantee in the Dáil that “my money will be spent in full by the end of the year”.

Fianna Fáil’s Eamon O Cuív, speaking before he was sacked from his frontbench position on Thursday evening, had highlighted that spending in the department was “skewed towards the end of the year, which is bad practice”, but that even then there was still a significant underspend.

He noted department announcements of the re-allocation of funds for local improvement schemes (Lis) for roads, but he said that local authorities had not received formal notice of funding.

Improvement scheme money

“These local authorities cannot spend money they have not been notified about no matter how many press releases the Minister issues,” he said.

It was late in the year and “these authorities will not be working on Lis roads over Christmas”.

Mr Ring said Mr O Cuív knew as a former minister in this area that local improvement scheme money for roads “is always spent at the end of the year”.

But some local authorities had started spending money re-allocated to them, he said.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. I allocated money in early February of this year to some of the local authorities and some of them have still not spent some of it.”

Mr O Cuív could not understand why the department did not allocate funds on a “use or lose basis”.

He said money had been allocated in January to the improvement scheme. “Why did it not specify that any money not spent and accounted for by June would be lost and reallocated in July?

“Now is not a great time of year to make a big push on roads with dark, wet and frosty days ahead.”

But the Minister said he was happy that many of the local road projects would be completed by year end.