LOSSES ON ADVANCES FROM SPECIAL EMERGENCY SCHEMES VOTE
Adverting to the proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee on the 20th May last, at which I undertook to report to the Committee any writing off of losses in connection with advances made from the Special Emergency Schemes Vote to the Tipperary and Bray Guilds of Muintir na Tíre, I have to inform you that the remission of £1,000 of the £1,500 advanced to the Bray Guild was authorised by the Minister for Finance on the 10th June, 1943. The balance outstanding (£500) has since been received from the Guild.
The advance of £1,500 to the Guild was sanctioned subject to a guarantee for repayment being given by a number of guarantors under which the liability for loss would be apportioned among the guarantors with a fixed limit in each case. The aggregate of the individual sums guaranteed amounted to £1,500.
An audited statement furnished by the Guild showed that as at 31st December, 1942, their liabilities exceeded their assets by £3,217. In addition to the State loan of £1,500, the Guild owed upwards of £3,400 which they had borrowed locally from their supporters.
Of the deficit of £3,217, the sum of £2,450 represented trading losses on the production and sale of turf. A large part of the loss was attributed to the fact that of 2,400 tons of turf produced, 700 tons were lost by disintegration on the bog during the winter of 1941-42. The loss through this cause alone was about £1,800, based on a cost of production figure of 52/- a ton on the bog.
Under the Emergency Powers (Control of Fuel) Order, 1941, the sale of turf in non-turf areas after 31st August, 1941, was confined to persons holding a fuel merchant’s licence. As the Guild were not eligible to obtain such a licence, they were restricted from marketing to the best advantage, turf which was surplus to the amount required to meet commitments to their original supporters. This turf had to be disposed of to licensed fuel merchants at whatever price the Guild could get.
Subscriptions to finance the scheme were obtained by the Guild on the understanding that for each 50/- subscribed one ton of turf would be delivered. Although the actual cost of production and delivery was much in excess of the estimate of 50/- a ton, it was impossible for the Guild to increase the price to their supporters, but, as indicated above, the scheme was assisted by some of the Guild’s more wealthy supporters with loans totalling £3,400, the bulk of this debt being due to persons who had guaranteed repayment of the State loan. In the circumstances, it was considered that it would be harsh to press for payment by the guarantors of the full amount outstanding in respect of the State loan.
In arriving at his decision to remit £1,000 of the loan, the Minister was influenced by the fact that the Guild, through their turf scheme, had afforded considerable employment to unemployed men in the Bray area, thereby saving expenditure by the State on unemployment assistance, estimated at £744. Furthermore, the Guild expended £250 on the construction of a road to the turf banks. This expenditure was supplemented by a State grant of £250 through the County Council, and a good case could have been made for having the full cost of the road defrayed by the State in view of the emergency conditions prevailing at the time.
Although the Bray scheme was unsuccessful financially, it was a useful experiment in the employment of urban labour for the production of turf during the emergency. It also resulted in making available in the Bray area about 1,700 tons of fuel which otherwise would have had to be supplied from other sources.