Last week in the Dáil we discussed how the housing crisis is being handled and the balancing of individual rights with the public good. You can read my contribution below.
The Government has responded to the current housing crisis with a comprehensive range of actions, policy initiatives and increased investments, as outlined in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, the Strategy for the Rental Sector and other relevant policies and actions, with the aim of increasing and accelerating supply across all housing tenures, and providing increased targeted supports for households in need, especially those in emergency accommodation or at risk of becoming homeless;
while it recognises the rights conferred by the Constitution of Ireland on private property, the Government has already taken steps to balance these rights with targeted interventions and proportionate measures that impact on these rights in the interests of the common good;
a range of such policy interventions are already in force, including:
– provisions under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts to cede a percentage, currently ten per cent, of residentially zoned and permitted land for social housing provision;
– compulsory purchase powers that enable public bodies to acquire lands or properties for housing purposes;
– the introduction of a Vacant Site Levy as a charge on vacant or underutilised housing lands in urban areas to incentivise their development or redevelopment and the announcement in Budget 2018 that the Levy will be more than doubled to seven per cent per annum from 2019;
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Yesterday I spoke in the Dáil about the National Planning Framework (NPF). You can read my speech below.
You can have your say on the NPF plan – a public consultation remains open until 10th November, here.
The publication of the final National Planning Framework (NPF) consultation represents a unique opportunity to set out an ambitious vision and 20-year strategy for what our country should and can look like in 2040.
The National Planning Framework is primarily about planning properly for what will be one of the fastest growing economies in Europe over the next couple of decades,
-Focusing development in existing villages, towns and cities; and
-Realising the potential of our regions and our rural areas.
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This week I brought forward legislation dealing with the future of Irish Water, charges and funding. You can read my speech below.
“The Bill provides for the repealing of the 2014 domestic water charging regime and it introduces a new regime focused on the promotion of water conservation under which a levy will apply in certain circumstances for usage of water above a reasonable threshold.
“In making these changes, provisions is made in the Bill for the extinguishing of liabilities under the current regime and the making of refunds to the 990,000 customers who paid in accordance with the 2014 Act. This will give rise to a new funding model for Irish Water, which is underpinned by the Bill.”
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You can watch a video of my speech here.
In the Dáil I spoke about my approach to housing and homelessness as I undertake my review of Rebuilding Ireland.
Read my statement below or watch the video here.
I thank Deputies and committee members for scheduling time to discuss the homeless emergency and housing crisis we are currently facing. I have already had the opportunity to appear in front of the committee to discuss the latest quarterly report on Rebuilding Ireland. It was a good engagement and I want to thank individual members of the committee who were very generous with their ideas and time outside of the committee. This opportunity for statements on the latest report is very welcome. To those Deputies not on the committee, I would like to direct them to my opening statement at the committee.
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The Cost of Insurance Working Group, which I chair, has published its first report on the implementation of our action plan to tackle the rise in motor premiums. Read the first progress report of the working group here.
The Government’s approach to this issue has been based not on promising what we can’t deliver, since it is legally impossible for us to directly intervene in commercial costing decisions made by insurance companies, but has instead focussed on those areas we can influence, like the claims environment, while improving transparency for consumers.
The Central Statistics Office has now reported, here, that there has been no month-on-month increase in the cost of motor insurance for the first three months of the year.
We will continue to work on implementing the working group’s action plan and encouraging new entrants to the market in order to deliver better value for motorists.
Watch my comments on this issue in the Dáil this week here (six minutes in).
FINANCIAL services companies will be relocating to Ireland in the wake of Brexit, I told the Dáil this week, while adding that it is up to the firms themselves when they choose to announce this.
Central to our efforts to attract businesses here is our strategy for growing financial services. IFS2020 set out the aim of creating 10,000 new financial services jobs in the five years to the end of 2019. We are on course to achieve that.
One of the pillars of the IFS strategy for this year is looking at education, training and skills development and attracting Irish emigrants back home into these high-level jobs that are being created, not just in Dublin, but also Cork and other parts of the country.
Watch a video of my comments in the Dáil here.
THE Cost of Insurance Working Group, which I chair, having already published its proposals on motor premiums here, has now turned its attention to tackling the cost of business insurance.
It has met five times already this year and is in detailed discussions with stakeholders, for instance in the hospitality sector, for which insurance costs are a growing concern. Some have responded by closing vital parts of their operations, such as nightclubs and hosting wedding receptions, because of the fear of high-value claims.
This week, I told the Dáil of my concern at the worrying trend whereby some businesses are opting to ‘self-insure’, putting aside a portion of their revenue instead of having an insurance policy. This is a dangerous practice that jeopardises firms.
Promising recommendations to be delivered within a specific timeframe, I added: “We will approach this issue (of business insurance) as urgently as we approached motor insurance.”
Watch the exchange in the Dáil, here.
THE Government is fully committed to maximising access for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to public contracts, while ensuring that the State gets value for money and meets its obligations under EU law. As things stand, 95pc of the public procurement spend is within the State.
I am in favour of including social clauses in public tenders. As chair of the Government’s SME working group, I am, however, aware of concerns that business representatives have expressed about using a ‘blanket’ approach to social clauses.
We debated this recently in the Dáil, where I stated: “Overall, the Government supports the principle of social clauses and sees significant merit in developing an effective approach to their use. Any legislation and guidance must comply with the fundamental principles of EU law, including the free movement of goods and services, equal treatment, non-discrimination and transparency.”
Watch my speech on this Bill here (from 25.30).
The new Office of Government Procurement (OGP), which I oversee, is responsible for bringing about reform and improvements within the state procurement process. This process is under constant review to ensure that it is fair, transparent, in keeping with EU law and delivering for both SMEs and the tax payer.
I answered a question on this in the Dáil last week.
You can watch the exchange here.
To find out more about the OGP and what it does, go here.
Education has always been important to me, ever since I was first elected to the Dáil in 2011, and before that as a city councillor.
In particular, the question of admissions policy has been a particular focus and I have worked on the School Admissions Bill since 2012. Some of you may have attended the public meeting on this issue that I held in Donnybrook in 2013.
Our education system ultimately belongs to the children, parents, teachers and other staff and it is vital that they all have a chance to shape it and have a real say in how it operates.
For that reason, I would encourage all stakeholders to avail of the opportunity to make their views known on the role of religion in school admissions, which is currently being considered by my colleague Richard Bruton.
His Department of Education and Skills has now extended the deadline for written submissions to March 20 – now is the time to make your voice heard.
For more details to submit feedback, go here.
The full consultation paper can be viewed here.