At a time when the building industry in this country needs a boost, the recent cold weather, both here and abroad, highlighted the fact that more government grants to improve housing insulation are badly needed. Such grants would create employment and help to conserve energy in a green way.
In the mid 1980s, when the economy was in a weak state, grants were available to improve insulation in dwelling houses such as the provision of new windows and doors. Without doubt, the move created work for tradesmen and did save energy. However, the grants back then were more generous that the ones now on offer and the Minister for Finance could have done more to help the situation in his Budget.
It is a matter that can still be tacked in the Finance Bill. With so many in the building sector out of work, estimates and prices would be keen and such work would get people off the dole while creating income tax and VAT revenue. Industry sources have suggested that a maximum grant of €10,000 per home for insulation and door and window replacement would be a huge boost to a sector that badly needs a life-saving injection.
The government should also address the school building programme and spend money there. A change would be required in the tendering and planning areas in order to speed things up but it would pay dividends. Again, better value than in recent years would be secured through the tendering process.
Some practical thinking needs to take place in the coming year to enable building projects get off the ground as opposed to the lethargy that exists at present. A programme of large projects spread evenly around the country would help everybody and Waterford would certainly benefit on a number of fronts.