Wednesday, 8 March 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
11. Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation the number of applications received for sport and recreation grants from national lottery funds; when the allocations will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7029/00]
35. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation the number of projects before his Department by way of application for grant aid for sporting, recreational and amenity facilities from the proceeds of the national lottery or other sources; the combined value or cost of these proposals; his ability or intention to meet these in 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7045/00]
The sports capital programme for 2000 was advertised in early December 1999 with a closing date of 11 February 2000 for the receipt of completed applications. In excess of 1,600 applications were received and the initial processing of these applications has commenced. Until such time as the processing has been completed, I am not in a position to indicate the combined value or cost of these applications.
Applications received under the programme will be evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria which are outlined in the guidelines which accompanied the application form. I hope to be in a position to announce the grant allocations by June 2000 at the latest.
Mr. O'Shea: Does the Minister not agree it is most important that projects receive approval as speedily as possible so that construction work can start and be significantly advanced during the good summer weather? Can he give an assurance that every effort is being made to clear the approved applications as speedily as possible?  Will he indicate if his Department has any policy this year on giving priority to a particular sport or sports over other sports? Also, how much money will be available for grants this year?
Dr. McDaid: I agree we should try to get the approvals out as soon as possible. That is the reason I approved the newspaper advertisements in December for publication in February. I hope to advertise again, if at all possible, towards the end of the year to be in a position to approve applications in January or February 2001. We should not prioritise one sport over another. We have to take into consideration the fact that, because of their size, certain sporting organisations receive more applications than others but each application will be judged on its individual merits. The amount of money available to me this year will be approximately £20 million.
Mr. Allen: The Minister said that 1,600 applications were received. From my time in the Department I estimate that projects would be worth anything from £700 million or £800 million, yet only £20 million is available. How does the Minister reconcile the demand from organisations at grass roots level for basic facilities such as running water, sanitation and even electricity with the spending of £400 million on a stadium that will be used about six times a year? That is the crunch issue facing the Government and the Minister.
Dr. McDaid: I have a problem in getting money spent. Last year we handed back £8 million to the Department of Finance that was not used by different organisations and clubs. They have a difficulty getting builders to carry out existing projects.
Mr. O'Shea: I have spoken about this matter before. Contractors find State sponsored contracts more difficult to deal with than those in the public service. There is a higher level of inspection and also a greater time lag on payment. Is there any reason the Minister could not direct the payment of grants to contractors when his inspectors have cleared the work? That could make some of these jobs more attractive to contractors.
Dr. McDaid: There is merit in what the Deputy said and I would like to progress his suggestion further. I will look into this matter. If it will expedite matters and get more contractors in to do the work, the suggestion is worth pursuing.
Mr. Perry: There appears to be a misunderstanding of the problem in that the Minister indicated that many people were unable to draw down the funds but that is due to the fact that they are getting so little money. In certain cases the contracts can cost up to £200,000 but they may get funding of only £10,000, less than 5% of the cost. Of a total of 50 applications from Sligo, only four received funding. This problem must not be allowed to recur but there seems to be a misunderstanding in relation to the cost involved.
Dr. McDaid: I have tried to do the opposite. Last year I approved about 400 projects but I increased the amount of money we allocated. That is the change I made since Deputy Allen's time as Minister. Previously, counties which had a small population such as Sligo, Carlow, Leitrim and others were allocated money on a per capita basis. I am doing away with that to an extent in that I announced at the weekend that every county would receive a minimum of £200,000 this year and that subsequently the money would be allocated on a per capita basis.
Dr. McDaid: Deputies, Senators and public representatives are the best people to guide me as to the priorities of a particular area. That is the reason I kept the national lottery funding within  the ministerial remit whereas Deputy Allen wants to give it to other areas. Public representatives are the people who know exactly what to do. That is why I have told my own colleagues, and the Deputy, that they must individually prioritise what is necessary. I will not give £4,000 to any one project. I will fund one, two or three decent projects so that there will not be abstract plans on someone's desk but a three dimensional project in place by the time the next applications are made.
Mr. Allen: It is three years since I was in that ministry and the figures the Minister is quoting are mainly of his making. Does he accept it would require almost a team of accountants and experts to fill out the forms he is asking clubs, which are struggling to survive, to fill out? Does he agree that approximately 1,200 clubs were refused funding last year? Some of them do not even have the basic services of running water, sanitation or electricity and they would have been glad to spend £5,000 or £10,000 if they got it. If they got it, they would have had it spent the following morning because they serve young people who must undress and dress on the sides of ditches and roads. To try to say this problem has arisen because of the lack of contractors and workmen is like something out of cloud-cuckoo-land. The Minister is out of touch. He does not realise the basic difficulties faced by clubs. Will the Minister look at clubs in the most disadvantaged areas?
Mr. Perry: I am delighted the Minister has agreed that, in regard to future funding of applications in Sligo, he will consult Opposition Deputies and will take their recommendations on board. That is a welcome announcement which I very much appreciate.
Dr. McDaid: Is Deputy Allen in the real world? Has the Deputy, who comes from a city, tried to ask somebody to do a little extension to his house, although perhaps he may not have to do that? He will not get anybody to do these extensions. These small clubs, which are trying to help themselves, must have local funding in place as well. If a small application for £10,000 is made, I may give it all to the club provided it is able to draw it down. It is not true that smaller clubs have no water. There have been tremendous improvements in the past ten years and the Deputy knows that. That is as a result of both Governments coming together.
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