The Department of Education is to warn the Cabinet of significant spending pressures driven by construction inflation of 21 per cent and the impact of expanding services for special needs education and children fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Minister for Education Norma Foley is to tell Cabinet colleagues on Wednesday that expenditure at the end of September was €314 million ahead of where it was expected to be – accounting for an overspend of 4.7 per cent. The information is contained in a quarterly expenditure report being brought to Cabinet on Wednesday morning, which warns that the spending excess covers both current items like wages and capital projects such as new school construction.
Ministers will be told that the department’s basic building costs, based on tender outcomes, grew by 21 per cent in the year to June 2022. This is occurring while more building is under way to support a large cohort of special needs children, Cabinet will be told.
Ms Foley will say the department is also facing a pressing requirement to handle the significant numbers of children unexpectedly coming from Ukraine and elsewhere.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will update the Cabinet on the Government’s flagship Housing For All programme, which is also understood to recognise the impact of construction inflation, which it says is running at 17 per cent in the year to the end of September. It will say that a burden-sharing arrangement on Government projects which has seen the State take on 70 per cent of cost increases has supported activity.
Mr O’Brien will also brief Cabinet on plans to appoint the Construction Industry Federation to oversee registration with the Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI).
Ms Foley will tell colleagues that current expenditure is running €144 million ahead of profile, driven by factors such as substitute teacher pay and transport costs, and capital expenditure is running €170 million over. Overall, the department had spent €7.04 billion at the end of September, 78.5 per cent of its allocation for 2022 of almost €9 billion.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will brief Ministers on the establishment of a new division of the High Court to deal with planning and environmental issues, which was agreed in the programme for government. The intention is that it should act on the same basis as the existing Commercial Court model. Legal sources argued that the establishment of a new court would require more judges to be hired in order to make an impact.
[ Can an Irish tourist town cope with an influx of Ukrainian war refugees? ]
[ North vs South: How the island’s two education systems compare ]
[ The Secret Teacher: Schools must have licence to be firm, even harsh ]
Meanwhile, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan will brief Cabinet on plans to attend the COP27 international climate summit in Egypt. Mr Ryan will seek approval to negotiate on Ireland’s behalf and participate in agreements or initiatives that emerge from the summit. Ministers will be updated on Ireland’s preparations and priorities for the summit, which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh from November 6th to 18th, and plans for engagement with both developed and developing countries to deliver a comprehensive and balanced outcome.
Elsewhere, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath is to seek Cabinet approval for new legislation revising thousands of laws dating back to before Independence in an effort to remove obsolete legislation. The Statute Law Revision Bill is part of a process aiming to have a modern statute book, which has examined 114,000 laws to date. The proposed Bill arises from a review of secondary legislation from 1821 to 1860.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman is to brief Cabinet on already-announced plans for a once-off cost-of-living payment to foster carers from Tusla.
Ministers will also consider appointments to the High and Supreme Courts.