Just over half the funding allocated to Clare County Council for Traveller specific accommodation was drawn down over a ten year period with five new builds in this time.
From 2010 to 2020, €2.2m in funding attributed to Clare County Council by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government was sent back to the Department by the local authority. Of the combined allocation of €5,119,870, a total of €2,915,646 (56%) was drawn down.
In the first quarter of each year, the Traveller Accommodation (TA) unit within the Department issue correspondence requesting detail from the Local Authority (LA) in tabular form on existing commitments, projects approved in principle and planned projects. This information from each LA is used to distribute the annual national allocation of funding. “It should be noted that generally annual allocations are not issued in the first quarter of the year. The budget allocations are annual and for claims to be submitted the expenditure must be incurred with proof of expenditure required to support a claim for reimbursement,” a Council spokesperson flagged.
Figures obtained by The Clare Echo on the Council’s Traveller Accommodation Capital Spend 2010 -2020 show that €1,900,000 was allocated in 2010 with less than half of this (€544,603) drawn down. The allocations for 2011 (€500,000), 2012 (€300,000) and 2013 (€343,450) were also not utilised fully with €481,387, €183,281 and €248,890 respectively accessed. A change was observed in 2014 with €181,976 allocated but €250,613 was drawn down by the Council.
Work on St John’s Park in Deerpark resulted in a €37,000 allocation in 2015 but none of this was spent, a spokesperson for the local authority said the defects liability period had not lapsed so the final account could not be paid in that year.
For the construction of five Traveller specific units in Ballaghboy on the Quin Rd, €200,000 was set aside by the Department in 2016 but the Council advised the Department of “a maximum spend of €30,000 during 2016”.
A year later €100,000 was put towards the same five units on the Quin Rd but no expenditure was calculated in 2017 with the project still ongoing. Though €40,000 was attributed for one house in St John’s Park in Ennistymon, the Council explained that while it has incurred expenditure in excess of €30,000 it cannot claim for this until the works are complete. The full amount of €29,124 was met for the pumping station at St John’s Park in Deerpark. €13,250 was spent by the Council on the provision of a mobile home in St Michael’s Park, Ballymaley.
An allocation for the five units on the Quin Rd was diverted to the property purchase claim of €122,535 in 2018, €100,000 had been made available by the Department. €40,000 was sent down for the same house in St John’s Park, €17,210 of this was included as part of an upgrade to Traveller specific accommodation payment in 2019, the works remain uncompleted. The amount of €13,250 was recouped for the purchase of a mobile home St Helen’s Park in Ballymurtagh. Between refurbishment and fire safety works, there was a combined allocation of €700,000, however the Council informed the Department that this money could not be drawn down in full during 2018 as allocation was only received in July, it was drawn down in full in 2019.
Upgrade works to Traveller specific allocation saw €635,000 dispensed from the Department in 2019, €669,389 was drawn down. The allocation was a duplication of the amount issued a year previous.
There was no allocation from the Department last year but €464,579 was drawn down by the Council which includes recouped expenditure in response to COVID-19.
In a decade noted for an ongoing housing crisis, just five new Traveller specific units were built in Clare. Between 2015 and 2019, the total expenditure on mobile homes and caravans was €158,400 with €26,500 recouped from the Department.
“Clare County Council undertook an extensive Traveller accommodation capital programme between 2002 and 2009 with 37 Traveller specific houses and 6 bays constructed over this period. This was in addition to the existing stock of 11 houses, 2 apartments and 9 bays which existed in the county,” a spokesperson explained in defence of the amount of units built.
Currently, 15 of the 59 Traveller specific accommodation units are vacant “with little prospect of appointing tenants to the vacant units due to compatibility issues within the community”, the spokesperson detailed.