Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher says the new Minister for Rural & Community Development must demonstrate his commitment to rural communities by ensuring that the Local Improvement Scheme is fully restored.

Senator Gallagher is calling for a minimum of €5m in funding to be allocated to the scheme in the 2018 Budget.

“The Local Improvement Scheme is an important source of State funding, which provides money to local authorities to carry out essential repair and upgrade works on private roads.  We have seen major issues arising on roads across Co. Monaghan following the abolition of the scheme by the Fine Gael led Government.  Since then the County Council has found it increasingly difficult to incorporate this work into its budget, and as a result many of these roads have fallen into disrepair”, explained Senator Gallagher.

“The Local Improvement Scheme was an important source of funds for isolated and neglected roads and lanes, which have not been taken in charge by the local authority, and many rural residents are suffering as a result of the Government’s short-sighted decision to abolish it.  Some of these roads have become dangerous to drive on and need to be repaired as a matter of urgency.

“The Department of Rural & Community Development has asked for expressions of interest from County Councils with regard to the scheme – however, the deadline for this process is 14th September.  I would like to see that deadline extended – as the consultation process has not been widely publicised.  People living in rural areas need to be given a chance to contact Monaghan County Council, and in turn the council must be given enough time to carry out an assessment of these projects before lodging them with the Department.

“The importance of this scheme cannot be underestimated.  In 2011, the budget for LIS was €5m and it is imperative that at least that amount is allocated to the scheme in Budget 2018.  The Programme for Government promised to “expand the scheme to include the taking in charge of non-council roads with a view to having this scheme up and running by end 2017”.

“Fianna Fáil has been raising this issue and the Government must now follow through on its commitment and ensure that €5m is allocated to roll out this scheme in Budget 2018”.