The Government handed out over €1m to Longford Town and County Councils in the weeks before Christmas to purchase new houses despite a staggering 75 dwellings lying idle across the county.
It has also emerged local authority bosses have yet to receive any notification from Department of the Environment officials two years after plans to proceed with regeneration plans for the Springlawn area of town were first submitted.
The Leader can reveal approximately €426,000 was set aside by government chiefs for the acquisition of six houses in Longford town before the turn of the year.
Those units, situated in the Teffia Park, Catron Breac and Park Road areas of town have since been snapped up by the urban authority, with the remaining monies going to Longford County Council for similar acquisitions.
Earlier this month, the state of the county’s current housing dilemma was revealed amid revelations up to €250,000 was being lost annually to derelict and predominantly boarded up units.
But its concerns surrounding the hefty sums handed down from central government level for new house purchases which has this week led to mounting anger from politicians locally.
“I don’t understand how or why Longford Town and County Council were provided with well in excess of €1m to purchase houses when we have over 70 houses blocked up,” said a visibly infuriated Cllr Mae Sexton this week.
The former Labour representative vented her fury at a meeting of Longford Town Council last week as councillors gathered to adopt budget changes over the next 12 months.
She said the tactic employed by Leinser House figureheads to encourage local authorities to bolster their housing numbers at a time when more and more were lying dormant was highly questionable.
“I am not saying I don’t welcome the fact we were able to purchase six houses, but you don’t throw money at a council when we have 70 houses boarded up and say ‘Go and purchase houses’. Think of the work we could have done with that money in terms of retrofitting and dealing with houses that are not up to standard.”
The fallout, allied to the concerns aired at last week’s meeting, are now expected to fuel fresh talks with Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan over the coming weeks. Town Mayor Cllr Peggy Nolan suggested the council should now compile a detailed dossier on its most recent housing register before seeking a face-to-face meeting with the Limerick based TD.
Cllr Sexton seemed to agree, but said the controversy had raised serious question marks about the Government’s present day housing policy.
“We need to tell the Department (of the Environment) that if they have money to spare we (council) would be delighted to have it but for God’s sake’s to allow us to decide where we want to spend that ourselves,” she insisted.
“What we don’t want is this nonsense of throwing it (money) at us in the last month of the year and telling us we have to purchase these houses by the end of the year. If that’s the way this Government is intending on running this country then God help us all.”