A PROPOSAL by Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey to increase funding for improvement works on small country roads and laneways has resulted in Rural Development Minister Heather Humphreys asking Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to consider a joint approach to supporting the scheme.

Deputy Carey has repeatedly expressed concern over the long waiting list for repairs to be carried out on rural roads and laneways serving homes and farms which are not normally maintained by local authorities.

He has sought an extension of the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) which was reintroduced by Minister Michael Ring in 2017 and claims that if funding could be increased by at least a third many  of these small roads could be completed.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, he asked Minister Humphreys for an update on her discussions for an enhanced Local Improvement Scheme funded by her Department, the Department of Transport and Local Authorities. He also asked for a breakdown of the investment proposed by both Departments and when the new scheme would be launched.

He was told by Minister Humphreys that the Government is committed to ensuring the Local Improvement Scheme is funded into the future as it makes an important contribution to connectivity in rural Ireland.

“The Scheme was reintroduced in 2017 following a number of years with no dedicated funding. Since then, my Department has allocated €80 million towards improvement works on over 3,000 non-public roads and lanes. These works have benefited over 13,300 landowners and residents in these rural areas.

“I launched the 2021 Scheme with an initial budget of €10.5 million and allocated additional funding last year from savings in my Department, bringing the total expended in 2021 to €21 million. Funding for this year’s scheme has been increased to €11 million.

“I have also recently written again to my colleague, Minister Eamon Ryan, to explore whether funding may be available from the Department of Transport to support the scheme.

“I believe a cross-Government approach might reap dividends in dealing with the backlog of applications on hand and I will continue to keep all options open in this regard,” Minister Humphreys added.

In response to the Minister’s statement, Deputy Carey said: “It’s encouraging that Minister Humphreys has followed up with Minister Ryan and it’s important that he responds positively to this proposal”.