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Minister hits out at claim flood relief budget has been 'slashed'

Simon Harris says the government is investing more money in this area over the next five years than has been spent in the last two decades.

4/1/2016. Independent Alliance Cllr Kevin Boxer Moran. Flooding in Athlone Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

FIGURES RELEASED TO Fianna Fáil show that the Office of Public Work’s budget for flood relief in 2016 has been cut by 14%.

A response to a parliamentary question by the party’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath also shows that €13 million in the budget for flood relief works in 2015 was not spent.

McGrath said: “The government has recently been going to great lengths to promise additional funding for future flood defences, but the reality is they are actually slashing the budget for flood relief works and have failed to invest millions of euro set aside for them in 2015.”

Some €87.8 million was allocated for the flood risk management programme in 2015, of which about €75 million was spent.

FLOOD Source: Michael McGrath

Simon Harris, the minster with responsibility for the OPW, has denied McGrath’s claims.

He said the government is investing more in this area over the next five years than has been spent in the last two decades.

Harris added that the 2015 figure includes money allocated to local authorities for storm damage that was previously incurred .

He said expenditure on the flood relief programme in 2015 was less than budgeted for “due primarily to delays in the planned commencement of construction of certain capital projects”.

I can assure the Deputy that the OPW has had and will continue to have sufficient funding available to it to meet its requirements for flood relief in any year. There is no issue in relation to underfunding of the flood relief programme.

McGrath said it is “completely unacceptable” that a “massive underspend on flood defences was caused primarily by unspecified delays in the planned commencement of construction of some capital projects”.

The government should have a pipeline of flood defence projects at various stages of planning and preparation at any given time, to ensure that the relevant budget is fully invested and the maximum amount of flood defence projects are completed every year.

Harris said the allocation of €52.56 million for capital flood relief measures in 2016 “allows for the design, planning and construction of major flood relief schemes and the funding of minor works projects undertaken by local authorities”.

He added that major schemes in Waterford, Ennis and the river Wad in Dublin will be completed, and schemes at Claregalway, Bandon, Skibbereen, Foynes and Templemore are expected to commence construction in 2016.

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Órla Ryan

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