Posted: Thursday December 02 2010, Blog Tags:
It’s an absolute disgrace that the Dept. of Education squandered the opportunity to invest in school infrastructure, while at the same time employing people in the construction industry. Mary Coughlan blames construction firms going out of business as one of the reasons why work was delayed. This is a joke. If her department operated properly, those tendering for the jobs would be able to show that they were in a financial viable position to carry out the work.
MORE than 600 potential building jobs were lost this year because of delays on primary school projects for a second year running.
Education Minister Mary Coughlan revealed she will not spend €62 million of her €378m allocation for large-scale projects in the primary sector.
This year’s budget included €72m under the same heading which her predecessor Batt O’Keeffe did not spend last year and was carried over.
But because unspent capital funding can no longer be transferred from year to year, the leftover money will instead go to computers and technology for second-level schools (€20m in grants was announced last week) and €42m on equipment and safety improvements in third-level colleges.
However, with an estimate that every €1m of large-scale capital spending creates 10 jobs, opposition TDs criticised the minister for failing to use her budget as planned.
"It’s an appalling situation if you can’t build schools in this environment when it’s 40% cheaper than during the boom period. It’s an absolute shambles," said Fine Gael education spokesperson Fergus O’Dowd after Ms Coughlan outlined the planned transfer to the Dáil Education Committee.
Labour Party education spokesperson Ruairí Quinn questioned if the Department of Education building unit is capable of doing the work properly at a time when builders are clamouring for work.
Ms Coughlan said other factors, apart from cheaper tenders, were weather-related delays in the first three months of 2010, sanction for major projects being later than in other years, and contractors going out of business.
Her department will spend its full €200m allocation for second-level building works, and she pointed out that 39 large-scale schools projects have been finished this year. Another 65 are under construction or have been recently completed and 52 have advanced to the tender stage, she said.
Niall Murray, Irish Examiner