€80m underspend of walking and cycling funding in 2022 blamed on lack of staff

— Opposition to projects means limited staff resources get “tied up”.

Local authorities across Ireland spent €80 million less than the walking and cycling funding which was allocated to them for projects in 2022 — a central issue according to sources who spoke to IrishCycle.com was the lack of staff and capacity of consultants to carry out design work.

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The 2022 allocation from national Government via the National Transport Authority was just over €382 million and the spending amounted to €301 million.

The underspend has decreased compared to 2021 when it totalled €132 million on active travel projects compared to the €344.5 million, made available.

As IrishCycle.com reported this week, city councils are continuing to struggle to hire staff for the rollout of walking and cycling routes with most of the largest councils only having filled between 40-67% of positions which have been funded by national Government. The staffing position was also more acute last year when the underspend applied.

According to senior council officals, city-based councils have said that they are finding it difficult to hire staff because of a mix of the higher cost of living, consultant engineering and planning firms paying a premium to staff. But even where some councils have tried to use consultants, they have sometimes found that tenders for projects have got no reply.

Among councils with cities in their areas, the breakdown of spending as a percentage of what was allocated was: Fingal County Council at just 53%, Galway City Council at 59%, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council at 63%, Cork City Council at 64%, Limerick City and County Council at 75%, Dublin City Council at 82% and South Dublin County Council at 85%. Waterford City and County Council was an outlier spending 169% of their allocation.

IrishCycle.com has now also submitted a new FOI request looking for a breakdown of what each council was allocated and what funds were drawdown for.

Although city-based councils seem to be experiencing issues with resources, they are not the worst for understanding — according to the NTA data, Galway County Council only spent 34% of what was allocated a number of other spent between around 50-70% of their allocation. See the full table below.

Louise O Donnell, a spokesperson for the Cork Cycling Campaign, said: “Cork Cycling Campaign are disappointed that any amount allocated to active travel goes unspent. There are many areas of the city crying out for cycling and pedestrian facilities as well as engaged community groups like the Cork Cycling Campaign who would be happy to advise on unused funds.”

She added: “Bike counter displays, a contraflow cycle lane on North Main Street and removing remaining kissing gates are just some of the minimally disruptive and inexpensive options for spending remaining funds.”

Cllr Oisín O’Connor, a councillor for Glencullen-Sandyford in Dublin said: “Projects delayed by political opposition so the money is not spent and projects delayed by lack of staff resources too. Staff get tied up in trying to address the opposition from councillors who are lukewarm in their support of active travel measures.”

“If we expect local authorities to be at the forefront of implementing sustainable transport, there needs to be more than financial support. When some staff members leave, archaic rules mean it takes up to a year to replace them. Before we even get into growing the number of staff working on projects, replacement and retention is an issue,” he said.

Cllr O’Connor also highlighted what he called the “delay of the rollout of national regulations or even guidelines on trialling local active travel improvements”. He said that this has been a “great disappointment and points to a lack of urgency in the Department of Transport.”

He added: “The cumbersome tendering process has also held back progress with almost every project suffering delays in securing contractors to go to construction on key projects.”

A request for comment was made to the National Transport Authority.

Sponsoring Agency2022 Allocation2022 Spend% of 2022 Allocation 2023 Allocation
Dublin City Council52,810,00043,181,46881.7%59,850,000
Cork City Council46,291,01029,752,25164%34,825,000
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council38,990,00024,630,87163%24,808,476
Fingal County Council25,535,00013,608,09253%17,110,110
Limerick City and County Council24,390,56818,322,60175%21,000,000
Waterford City and County Council24,010,00040,588,903169%11,000,000
Cork County Council20,456,54518,477,28790%22,175,000
South Dublin County Council18,158,48515,496,89285%22,065,000
Galway City Council15,185,0008,994,12059%12,138,700
Meath County Council13,910,00013,159,43294%14,135,000
Kildare County Council13,670,0009,707,90971%9,965,000
Wicklow County Council9,007,5007,864,18587%8,409,000
Galway County Council7,875,0002,667,25634%3,000,000
Tipperary County Council6,666,6017,374,513110%4,633,000
Louth County Council6,533,3614,285,63565%5,285,000
Donegal County Council5,596,0004,595,48082%4,500,000
Clare County Council5,298,0003,915,87774%4,500,000
Mayo County Council5,027,7244,444,97088%4,500,000
Wexford County Council4,440,0002,839,65064%3,280,298
Kerry County Council4,130,2931,914,43146%2,350,000
Westmeath County Council4,000,0002,333,46558%3,900,000
Offaly County Council3,681,9081,831,24050%3,009,382
Cavan County Council3,371,4453,505,543104%3,500,000
Roscommon County Council3,264,7921,509,09446%2,500,000
Sligo County Council3,020,0002,002,35666%3,000,000
Laois County Council3,000,0003,137,834104%3,300,000
Kilkenny County Council3,000,0002,907,32597%3,120,000
Carlow County Council2,515,0002,371,36194%2,700,000
Monaghan County Council2,500,6052,587,640103%3,000,000
Longford County Council2,382,6681,098,68446%2,500,000
Leitrim County Council2,086,7311,558,26975%2,000,000
3rd level
University College Dublin990,000102,5111,648,489
St James Hospital120,000118,858250,000
Trinity College Dublin50,000122,652150,000
Galway University Hospitals50,00050,000
Dublin City University50,000200,000
Dublin Institute of Technology/TUD100,000

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