Louth County Council say that applications for the CIS and LIS road improvement schemes will reopen next year and have closed the door on any potential u-turn regarding their decision to not accept new applications in 2020.
The local authority confirmed in a letter to elected representatives last week that due to the amount of outstanding applications and expected funding for the scheme in 2020, they are not opening up either scheme for new applications.
The CIS (Community Involvement Scheme) encourages a joint approach between Louth County Council, groups of local residents and landowners for the restoration of public roads, mainly local or cul de sacs. The scheme is based on a contribution from locals towards the full cost of the works, between 15% and 30%.
The LIS (Local Improvement Scheme) supports improvement works on private and non-public roads which are vital to the functioning of every day life in rural Ireland. Like CIS, this is based on a contribution from locals towards the full cost of the works.
Speaking at Monday’s February meeting of Louth County Council at County Hall, Sinn Féin’s Antoin Watters queried whether or not this funding gap would extend to further years, closing the door to new applications for a long period of time.
“The email we received last week that there would no further applications accepted, that there was already too many – that shows how badly schemes like this need more funding,” Watters said. “In North Louth especially, it is the only way people can get their roads and lanes done.
“Is this going to be a problem in future years?” he queried. “We need to looking for more funding to be drawn down from central government. These roads aren’t getting any better.
Fine Gael councillor John McGahon wanted to know if this was a central government funding issue or a local authority deficit. “If we had voted to increase the Property Tax at our last budget meeting, would this be an issue?”
Director of Services Catherine, echoing the letter issued to councillors last week, put the decision down to an “oversubscription of applications.”
“It is closed this year but we will do it again next year. It is closed this year due to a lack of funding,” she said. “Applications have built up over the years. We have closed the applications this year but we are doing work this year.”
Both DoS Duff and Chief Executive Joan Martin told the meeting that the condition of the roads, number of properties on the road affected by it’s poor state and value for money were the key considerations taken by the local authority when deciding which applications to accept.
“There is a bit of a toss of coin here,” Cllr Tomas Sharkey said, referring to whether the council commit to funding and working on long standing applications or perhaps more recent applications that are more in need of priority action. “That’s an awful decision for yourself to be in but it is a decision that has to be made.”
“Should we not leave applications open, then everyone can be scored fairly and the schemes that are done this year are the ones in the greatest need?” he asked.
In response, Chief Executive Martin noted Cllr Sharkey’s remarks and added, “There is no point allowing big numbers of applications when we already have years of applications. We have to have some way of controlling supply and demand. This is what we’ve decided. It’s just for this year.”