Deputy Frank Feighan and Senator John Kelly have been accused of cynically claiming that €2.2m is available for housing projects in Roscommon – including for home improvements for older people and people with disabilities – when no monies are in fact available. At Monday’s meeting of Roscommon County Council several councillors said there was huge public confusion arising from the claims made in the media last week.
Deputy Feighan said last week that the Minister for Housing had just provided Roscommon County Council with €2.2m from the housing capital allocation. However it emerged on Monday that the Council’s 2012 allocation has already been spent.
Director of Services Ms. Kathleen Martin has moved to address the confusion by issuing a press release (published elsewhere in this week’s edition) to the Roscommon People.
At Monday’s Council meeting, Ms. Martin said that in relation to the 2012 Capital Allocations grant schemes for Older People and People with a Disability, just over €1m had been provided to Roscommon County Council. The precise figure is €1,009,251 and the Council has contributed a small part of that figure from its own resources. €485,000 had already been paid out in grants; a further €361,000 has already been committed to other recipients. €163,000 is remaining ‘in the kitty’ and there are 487 applications for grants before the Council. Accordingly in the remainder of 2012 the Council will only deal with applications which are “absolutely urgent”.
The €2.2m referred to in the Roscommon People last week by Deputy Feighan included this €1m allocation and further funding for social housing. Referring to the €2.2m alluded to by Deputy Feighan, Ms. Martin said this figure would “just cover existing commitments.”
These comments were seized on by councillors who then claimed that Deputy Feighan had caused huge confusion by inferring that new monies are available when, in effect, the entire 2012 allocation has already been used up and the Council is not embracing new applications.
In her press statement issued after the meeting, Ms. Martin elaborated further, saying that due to the number of emergency applications which were approved in 2011, the full budget allocation for 2012 has been committed.
“Consequently, Roscommon County Council will not be in a position to accept new applications or to progress applications which are on hand during 2012. Only extremely urgent cases or emergency situations can be considered at this time.”
Ms. Martin told the meeting that schemes in Arsdsallagh, Roscommon and Lisroyne in Strokestown will be proceeding.
Cllr. Tony Ward called on the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to provide a further €1m for the Council. He said there were still grant applications outstanding from 2008 and 2009 and he personally was aware of huge concern on the part of many members of the public.
Cllr. Martin Connaughton said people think there’s money available and clarity was now required. He noted that many of the people involved are elderly and there may be confusion arising from recent press reports. He called on the Council to advertise the true position in the local press.
Cllr. Michael McGreal said that it would make sense to spend more money on housing as such grants generate employment locally. The money will go back into the community, he said.
Noting that a four-bedroomed house had recently been sold in West Roscommon for €35,000, Cllr. McGreal asked if the Council would consider talking to “Nama or the banks” about purchasing some of the houses which are in unfinished estates. “Some of these houses will have to be knocked and perhaps if we use our imagination we could purchase a small number of them. It could generate 200 jobs in this county” he said, explaining that there were many tradesmen available to work on such properties.
Cllr. Rachel Doherty said that Deputy Frank Feighan had claimed in the Roscommon People that €2.2m has just been allocated to Roscommon County Council from the housing capital allocation. These figures were “totally skewered,” she said, and what was required was a statement from the Council outlining how “catrastrophic” the situation is in respect of housing grants.
Cllr. Sean Beirne said he wished to welcome the €2.2m allocation. He also wished to support Cllr. McGreal’s call for the Council to consider purchasing some houses in unfinished estates.
Cllr. Michael Mulligan said he wished to take issue with Deputy Frank Feighan and Senator John Kelly for making “a big hullabaloo” about grants when in fact “there’s no money available.” With 487 applications pending and €163,000 left to allocate, the situation resembled the miracle of the ‘loaves and fishes’.
Cllr. Jim Cogan spoke of his concern at public confusion over just what grant-aid is available while Cllr. John Naughten suggested that the Council should write to applicants explaining the status of their applications. Cllr. Doherty agreed that this should happen so that people would “know where they stand.”
Cllr. John Keogh called on Fine Gael councillors and Deputy Frank Feighan to lobby the Minister for extra funding.
Cllr. Tom Crosby said that he knows three small builders in the Strokestown electoral area who specialise in the type of repairs under discussion. Each of them employs three people, he said, by way of pointing out that nine jobs were now at risk. On that basis, he said, some 54 jobs could be at risk between the six electoral areas in Co. Roscommon. Cllr. Crosby said the situation was scandalous and affected the most vulnerable people in society.
Cllrs. Paschal Fitzmaurice, Gerry Garvey, Valerie Byrne and Domnick Connolly agreed there was confusion and that the Council should make a public statement. When Director of Services Ms. Kathleen Martin said that the Council would issue a press release Cllr. Ernie Keenan said that he was glad that this course of action was being followed.
Cllr. Liam Callaghan noted that €361,000 has been committed to people in grants and he wondered if these people should be contacted to check if they wish to still draw down the grants.
The Mayor, Cllr. Eugene Murphy, said there had been savage cuts in the housing budget. He called on the Government to consider giving tax breaks to builders as an incentive.
Director of Services Ms. Kathleen Martin said that the Council will be giving consideration to buying houses in unfinished estates but she cautioned that these houses may not always be “where you want them.”
Issue dated: 30th March 2012
© Roscommon People