WI funding

The cuts in funding to Waterways Ireland have been covered here many times. Now, thanks to the invaluable KildareStreet, we have official information on the matter from the Minister for Fairytales. A young chap called Martin Heydon [who has annoying automatically changing pics on his website], FG TD for Kildare South, put this written question to the minister:

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the funding provided by her Department to Waterways Ireland in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36691/15]

The minister, Heather Humphreys, FG TD for Cavan-Monaghan, wrote:

Waterways Ireland is co-funded by my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in Northern Ireland. The current expenditure of the body is funded 85% by my Department and 15% by DCAL, which reflects the distribution of the navigable waterways in each jurisdiction. Capital expenditure is funded 100% in the jurisdiction in which the capital works are carried out.

The amount of funding allocated to Waterways Ireland from my Department’s Vote for each of the years from 2011 to 2015 is set out in the following table.

Year €m
2011 €30.300m
2012 €27.099m
2013 €25.463m
2014 €24.183m
2015 €23.426m

This is useful because, since 2011, the annual budget figure for North South Cooperation has not been broken down between Waterways Ireland and the language shamrock. Last time it was, WI got about 60% of the current expenditure total and almost all the capital. We’ve had to wait for WI’s annual reports to find how much it got two years earlier.

So it’s useful to have these figures, but they would have been even more useful if the minister had distinguished between current and capital expenditure.

From the Multi-Annual Capital Investment Framework, it seems that WI got €3,368,000 for RoI capital spending in 2015. Subtracting that from the minister’s 2015 figure of €23,426,000 suggests that WI’s current spending budget for RoI in 2015 is €20,058,000, which is less than my rough estimate of 60% of the NSCoop total (€35,072,000 X 0.6 = €21,043,200).

In 2011, the Estimates figures showed that WI was to get €6 million for capital expenditure. Subtracting that from the minister’s figure for 2011, €30,300,000, leaves €24,300,000 for current spending in that year.

I haven’t cross-checked that with WI’s accounts, and I could be wrong in other ways: feel free to add a comment below if you can help to correct these figures.

What I make of it is that

  • total RoI spending on Waterways Ireland in 2015 was 77% of the 2011 figure
  • capital spending was down from €6,000,000 to €3,368,000, a cut of almost 44%
  • current spending was down from €24,300,000 to €20,058,000, a cut of 17.5%.

Clearly, Waterways Ireland would benefit from having new sources of income outside the control of the central exchequer. Perhaps Mr Heydon could persuade the canal-based boat-owners of Co Kildare to pay higher charges?

Capital expenditure

I said above that capital spending was down from €6,000,000 in 2011 to €3,368,000 for 2015, a cut of almost 44%.

However, it had been €11,000,000 in 2008, whence the cut is over 69%; the 2016 figure is less than 25% of the 2008.

It is clear therefore that the government does not see investment in waterways as being productive, either of economically desirable results (eg tourism earnings, jobs) or of politically desirable benefits for its TDs.

I wonder therefore why one of its TDs has drawn attention to the matter.

Grim oop north

Something similar has happened in Norn Iron, where an MLA of the minister’s party has asked a question about Waterways Ireland, whose HQ is in his constituency.

Another young chap, one Phil Flanagan (who seems to have joined Sinn Féin seven days before being elected as an MLA. Could that be right?), has asked two questions of the (Sinn Féin) Minister for Marching Bands:

  • AQW 50030/11-16: To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to detail the amounts in (i) financial terms; and (ii) percentage terms of the budget in Waterways Ireland that is set aside for pension payments for former staff; and whether this is comparable with other bodies.
  • AQW 50029/11-16: To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure how the value of the Euro has affected the budget of Waterways Ireland in each of the last three years.

I look forward to reading the answers.

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