Discretionary spending fails to fill hole in road funding

The transport minister’s decision to give power to Cork County Council on discretionary spending of €15.5m to repair weather -beaten roads looked good on paper initially.

Councillors welcomed Leo Varadkar’s decision to allow some autonomy in how they spend road repair money.

However it quickly emerged, when the figures were analysed, that the exact spend will not fill in too many potholes, and that far more money will be needed to address the serious deterioration in the county’s roads.

County manager Martin Riordan said approximately €11,000 had to be set aside for each of its 350 roads department staff, to balance payroll expenses.

That means wages amounting to €3.85m will have to be immediately deducted from the €15.5m discretionary allocation.

Mr Riordan then said that criteria had been adopted by council officials which determined what each electoral area received.

He said 60% was based on road length, 30% on population (excluding town council areas), 5% on road condition and 5% on a “peripherality” factor to recognise higher costs in outlying areas, such as the islands.

Councillors expressed concern that only 5% was being focused on road condition, and Mr Riordan said he would agree to reconsider that.

In the meantime, councillors will discuss with their area engineers which roads in each of the 10 electoral areas will get priority works.

The Skibbereen (€2,293,000) and Bantry (€2,180,000) electoral areas have been given the biggest discretionary funds in the county.

Councillors from other areas complained that they were getting less.

But figures showed that, when it came to the length of roads in those particular areas, they were in fact the poor relations.

Mizen peninsula-based councillor Dermot Sheehan (FG) pointed out that roads nearer to Cork City were getting the biggest allocation per kilometre and that peripheral areas, where most of the weather-related damage had occurred, were getting a raw deal.


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