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Region on a ‘road to nowhere’ without proper local funds

March 30th, 2023 5:45 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Bandon potholes: the meeting heard that the county gets the third lowest allocation of funding per km of road. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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A WEST Cork councillor has said he’s not surprised that Cork County Council is having difficulty hiring road workers because he said the application process ‘is like going for a job with Nasa.’

Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) made the comment at a recent meeting of the local authority where councillors were being updated on the road grant allocations for 2023. They were told that the local authority is having difficulty hiring suitable road workers.

Cllr Carroll queried the recruitment process involved, noting that those applying for general operative positions have to attend the Kingsley Hotel ‘suited up’ first, before then joining a panel before they are ever called.

‘I know of fellas who applied, who then progressed to a panel and then went onto a shorter panel, and they eventually gave up as they couldn’t wait around anymore. Do the likes of Sisk and John Hegartys go through all this process to employ general operatives?’ he asked.

‘This has to be reviewed and looked at. The engineers down in Bandon and Dunmanway know the good people locally and they could easily recommend general operatives instead of going through all this.’

He also said it’s a disgrace that roads in Cork are not getting the funding they need.

Councillors were told that this year’s allocation is over €83m – at €83,613,09 – which is a decrease of 11.5% on the 2021 allocation but Padraig Barrett director of services, roads and transportation said that the reduction is because the N22 project, which represented 80% of their allocation in 2022, is nearing completion. 

Mr Barrett said that compared to other local authorities, Cork County has received the third lowest grant allocation of any local authority in the country, receiving approximately €1,000 less per km than the average county council in the country.

The county has also lost out on an additional €273m for road repairs since 2008 if allocations had remained at the same level before the recession.

County mayor Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) queried what the Department has against Cork County and said it is very worrying to see a decrease of €11m for national roads.

Council chief executive Tim Lucey said that it’s not as if they’re not making the case to the authorities to get more funding when it has the largest network of roads in the country. Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind), who is chair of the roads and transportation strategic policy committee, said the allocation is an ‘insult’ to Cork county and it’s just ‘go away money’. It’s clear to be seen that the Minister for Transport is ‘anti-road’, he continued.

‘He’s all about cycle lanes and if we keep going at the pace we’re going, that’s all we will end up with all over the county. It’s another bad day for regional and local roads,’ said Cllr Hurley.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said the allocation of €150,000 for the Bandon by-pass is ‘peanuts’ and that once again it is being ‘dragged out to the bitter end.’

‘We should be into design at this stage and I’m disgusted it hasn’t improved. I want some meat in the bone when it comes to this by-pass,’ said Cllr Murphy, who said the project hasn’t progressed ‘one iota’ since he was mayor of Bandon in 1998 except for ‘crumbs at the table’.

He also said that Kinsale needs a relief road which wasn’t on the agenda.

‘Our TDs and senators are not working on our behalf and we need to bring them in here.’

Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said that there seems to be no ‘strategic plan’ for West Cork and that the N71 needs seriously upgrading.

‘We have phenomenal potential there but we can’t achieve it unless we get a roadway and transport system that is up to spec,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.

Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) said they are coming from ‘such a low base’ when it comes to road funding and asked if funding can be rolled over to the following year. He called for more funding to be allocated to drainage works and asked where the income from road tax is going to.

Meanwhile, Cork South West Independent TD Michael Collins said there is nowhere for the government to hide when it comes to the ‘abysmal levels of road funding’ the county is receiving.

‘We are now receiving €1,000 less per kilometre than the national average and in addition to that we now have the dubious honour of being the county with the third lowest sum allocated to all local authorities,’ said Deputy Collins.

‘We are not asking for money from a pot which we have not contributed handsomely to. We are asking for a fair and proportionate share of the massive tax burden that we yield to central government.’

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