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10 local authorities failed to draw down funding for Traveller accommodation last year

Of €12 million allocated to local authorities in 2018, only €6.2 million was drawn down.

Traveller. Traveller site at Balgaddy, Clondalkin, Co Dublin Source: RollingNews.ie

TEN LOCAL AUTHORITIES in Ireland failed to draw down funding for traveller accommodation last year, newly released figures show. 

Meanwhile, 14 councils failed to draw down all of their allocated funding.

Local authorities in Carlow, Cavan, Cork County, Laois, Longford, Mayo, Meath, Westmeath, Wexford and Galway City drew down €0 in funding from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to provide accommodation, while 14 local authorities under-spent on accommodation last year. 

Carlow County Council did spend money on traveller accommodation, a spokesperson has said, but has yet to draw down the funding from the department. 

Figures released to Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD show that there was an overall 48% under-spend in traveller accommodation budget by local authorities in 2018.

Of €12 million allocated to local authorities to provide accommodation, only €6.2 million was drawn down in 2018. 

Ó Broin has described the figures as “extremely disappointing” and criticised the fact that some local authorities had drawn down no funding for accommodation at all last year. 

Meanwhile, South Dublin, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, Kerry, Waterford and Tipperary all overspent on accommodation for the Travelling community. 

Of €12 million allocated by the Department in last year, local authorities were allocated between €2,922 – Longford – and €1,321,558 – Dublin City Council. 

In 2017, only €4.8 million out of a total allocation of €8.7m was drawn by local authorities in Ireland.

Ó Broin, who says the latest figures form part of a worrying trend, welcomed the establishment last year of a working group to review the Traveller Accommodation Programmes but questions why local authorities are under-spending. 

“Is the Minister engaging with the local authorities who are not spending anything on Traveller Accommodation?” Ó Broin has asked. “The Minister must outline what action he’s taking to ensure there is not a similar under-spend in 2019.”

The working group, headed by Professor Michelle Norris of UCD, is due to submit its review in the coming months. 

‘Delivery’

In June 2017, the Government’s report Review of Funding for Traveller-Specific Accommodation and the Implementation of Traveller Accommodation Programmes (2000-2016) confirmed consistent failings at local authority level in the delivery of accommodation. 

That report found that there was substantial under delivery, consistent underspending throughout the period (€55 million unspent) and it identified a lack of accountability and transparency, Jacinta Brack, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator of the Irish Traveller Movement, has said. 

It is indisputable that non-Travellers’ interests have dominated the decisions about whether new Traveller accommodation sites go ahead.

Some local representatives have also played a role by opposing plans and overriding their statutory functions without sanction or legal implication, Brack has said. 

“Very often, council plans for Traveller accommodation fail at the first hurdle – the public consultation process often stops them abruptly.”

“Temporary sites and overcrowded sites will continue to exist as long as locals and their representatives are allowed to block the development of adequate, safe accommodation for Travellers, whether that be in halting sites or group housing developments.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing has said that the purpose of the working group is to continually “review the effectiveness, implementation and operation of legislation and to put forward proposals that will improve delivery”.

The group is also tasked with reviewing the legislation around the provision of Traveller Accommodation in Ireland. 

“In carrying out their review [this group] will consult widely with all relevant stakeholders including local authority officials and members, Traveller representative groups and relevant Government Departments.”

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