Fears were expressed last night that the Government had slashed €10 million from the OPW’s 2011 flood risk management budget, which stood at €79m this year — €28m for current expenditure and €51m for capital works.
However, figures in the budget estimates show that its 2011 flood risk management budget is down 14% to just over €68m.
The current spending is down to about €26m and €10m has been cut from the capital budget, bringing it down to just over €41m.
However, a spokesman for the OPW confirmed last night that it will be carrying €4m over into next year’s flood risk management budget, bringing the funding up to close to €45m.
And while it is down on this year’s allocation, he said keener tendering prices have ensured that the OPW will be able to deliver on its committed projects in 2011.
But Labour TD Ciarán Lynch, who sat on the Oireachtas Committee which investigated last winter’s severe weather, said: “This demonstrates that the lessons of last winter have not been learned.
“These capital works should be priority measures. It shows the department is being penny wise and pound foolish.
“Had proper flood protection been in place last winter, huge savings could have been made.
“If money is spent on flood defences, we can achieve immediate and long-term savings to the taxpayer in terms of reduced damages from flood.”
During a visit to Cork last month, Minster of State at the OPW, Dr Martin Mansergh, said the OPW’s budget has been cut by 35% since 2008 and that his biggest challenge has been to ensure that there is an adequate budget for all the works that need to be done.
The OPW has already allocated €12m to local authorities in 23 counties for 160 small-scale flood projects.
A further €50m is being spent on flood protection in Co Cork alone, including projects in Mallow and Fermoy.
The Fermoy South Scheme is expected to start early next year and take 18-24 months to complete, and major work in Bandon is due to start in 2012.
A full-scale flood relief scheme has also been sanctioned for Skibbereen. The minister has also vowed to protect the taxpayer from any attempts to blame or sue public bodies for flood damage.