Richard Bruton: I can’t solve school planning delays

Education Minister Richard Bruton

Planning and other delays to major school building projects are beyond Education Minister Richard Bruton’s control, he told the Dáil.

He was responding to criticisms by Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne who described a December 2014 announcement of projects that were to begin building in 2015 as a “fantasy list”.

The opposition education spokesperson said work had yet to start on 26 of the 70 large-scale projects, and questioned whether Mr Bruton’s department had the money to meet its commitments.

The minister acknowledged it may have been over-optimistic for some projects to have been included on the 2015 list almost three years ago.

“Every single one of them is being progressed. Some are at earlier stages than they would have expected, when they were put on the list in 2014,” the minister told the Dáil.

He said 64 of the 70 projects have either been completed, contractors are on site, or the work is at an advanced stage of planning. But others have not progressed as well because of difficulty acquiring sites or delays in the planning process.

“These issues are, in the vast majority of cases, outside the department’s control,” he said.

But Mr Byrne said schools were promised to have building start during 2015, not that they would be at architectural planning stage

“About one-third of those schools haven’t started yet. That’s the tip of the iceberg,” the Fianna Fáil TD said.

Mr Bruton rejected the suggestion that the funding was not there to move the projects along, and said his department does its best to keep all major school building works moving along at different stages of planning and construction.

The Department of Education has increased the number of new schools or large expansions being completed from 25 in 2010 to 50 last year, and expects 46 such projects to be completed this year.

Mr Bruton said more than 80% of this year’s capital allocation for schools will go to large projects and providing additional accommodation. Since 2011, his department has completed more than 170 school projects, including 120 major builds, providing more than 100,000 places.

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