Friday, 6 November 2020
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Local Improvement Scheme
I welcome the Minister of State back to the House. I thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to attend.
I would like to talk about the local improvements scheme, LIS. LIS funding provides works for small roads and laneways in rural Ireland that do not come under the normal maintenance performed by local authorities. These lanes are used to access people's homes, farms and businesses. They also allow people to access local attractions such as lakes, rivers, parks and so on.
The previous Government allocated €10 million in both 2019 and 2020 for the LIS. Unfortunately, as the Minister of State will be well aware, the funding is totally inadequate. The funding for my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan means that each county got approximately €250,000, which I am disappointed to say that is totally inadequate based on the number of people who are waiting to get lanes done.
Previous Ministers have referred applicants to local authorities for discretionary funding but they do not have the luxury of discretionary funding because the road budgets for local and regional roads have been cut year-on-year. Discretionary funding simply does not arise. This has reached the stage where funds must be ring-fenced for the LIS. We need a decent amount that will go some way to addressing the long waiting lists in every county, and I am sure the Minister of State's county is no different in that regard.
These lanes are used to access at homes, business and local amenities. At the moment there is much talk of rural regeneration, which is positive, even more so now because of Covid-19 where people have been forced to work from home. Many businesses have discovered that people can work from home without having a negative effect on the business or, indeed, the employer. One basic right for anyone is to access one's home or business on a private laneway but access is a serious problem. I have heard of stories of emergency vehicles being unable to access their destinations because the local roads were in such bad condition.
I plead with the Minister of State to use her good offices to impress on Government the need for us to return to the way this scheme used to operate where X amount was allocated each year for the LIS. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding down through the years, the lists have become very long and if one lives in counties Monaghan or Cavan one might have to wait up to 15 years to get a lane done, which is crazy. I ask her to send a positive signal to rural Ireland and inform us that the Government will take the LIS and the people who live along these roads seriously by allocating a decent amount to address the long waiting lists for the scheme.