Environment, Heritage & Local Government

Weather forecasting – 17th July 2015

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to add weather forecasts from weather stations in Northern Ireland to all of Met Éireann’s weather reports (details supplied).

Details: Met Eireann’s forecasts cover the island of Ireland except in one respect. See http://www.met.ie/latest/reports.asp

Reply

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly)

All of Met Eireann’s general forecasts cover the entire island of Ireland. Furthermore the regional forecasts as published on www.met.ie and on the Met Éireann weather app relate to each of the four historic provinces of Ireland.

Weather reports are only supplied from the Met Éireann stations in the Republic of Ireland. There are no current plans to publish weather reports from Northern Ireland on the Met Éireann website – these are available through the website of the UK Met Office.

Cuts to social inclusion programme – 13th March 2015

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the fact that a 13 per cent cut to the SICAP budget on the back of successive cuts of 33 per cent (details supplied) over the past 4 years, will continue to have a detrimental impact on the communities in Lot 2.4, Canals/Rathmines/Pembroke, and that community development focuses on building relationships and working in solidarity with communities; his views on the dismantling of this sector and the long term negative implications this will have on those who our voiceless in our communities.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No.7 of 4 March 2015, if he will clarify statements made, during which it was said that €0.6m was being made available to Dublin Central groups outside of the LCDP/SICAP budget; the use for the money and the groups that will benefit;: the fund this money is being made available from; and if other unsuccessful tenderers including a group (details supplied) will be provided similar funding outside of the tendering process.

Reply

Minister of State for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan)

My Department’s Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP) is the largest social inclusion intervention of its kind in the State and is being implemented on a transitional basis until the end of March 2015, pending the roll out of the new Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) on 1 April 2015.

In accordance with the Public Spending Code, legal advice, good practice internationally and in order to ensure the optimum delivery of services to clients, SICAP is subject to a public procurement process, which is in its final stages. Tenderers have now been informed of the outcome of their tender and Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) are in the process of issuing contracts to the successful tenderers.

It should be noted that as there is currently a 14 day standstill period in place, the public procurement process is still ongoing and, therefore, confidentiality requirements continue to apply. Following contract signature, Pobal will publish a Contract Award Notice in the Official Journal of the EU (http://ted.europa.eu/) and on the eTenders website (www.etenders.gov.ie) announcing the results of the procurement process. Such notice is likely to be published in early April 2015.

I n relation to the Dublin Central area, a s referred to in the reply to Parliamentary Question No.   7 of 4 March 2015 , my Department has continued to ensure that LCDP services, for the communities in the Dublin Central area, have been maintained in a coordinated manner through LCDP interim funding arrangements until 31 March 2015.

In terms of the transition thereafter, funding of some €0.6 million, separate to SICAP, is being provided to certain Dublin Central groups (former Community Development Projects ) , pending agreement with Dublin City Council and the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) on an optimum delivery mechanism for the area. This funding is entirely separate to the €0.63 million which is being provided to the Dublin Central area under SICAP.

The groups in question are: An Siol, Cabra, Lourdes Youth and Community, Nascadh, North Wall Women’s Centre, Robert Emmet, South Inner City Community Development Association, Community After Schools Project.

Regulation of home heating services – 6th February 2015.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans regarding regulation of certain home heating (details supplied).

Details: An issue that troubles me is the unregulated business of the sale and installation of stoves/inset cassette fires. While gas and electricity installers are regulated the stove business seems to be a free for all. Very rarely do two vendors quote for the sale work. One vendor over sells while others under sell to the consumers risk depending on the customers perceived budget and the vendors profit target. In effect short cuts are being taken to satisfy both. In most cases the vendors and their sub contractors engaged to install are not even aware of current building regulations.

The consumer has not got an idea of the risks they are potentially taking when purchasing such a device. I strongly recommend that this business is regulated so everyone can sleep at night knowing that these extremely hot flamed devices are installed to a high standard in keeping with building regulations issued by the Department of the Environment.

Reply

Minister of State for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Paudie Coffey)

The regulation of gas and electricity heating installers is undertaken by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.   I am not aware of any plans for the establishment of a state regulatory body for the installation of other fuels along the lines suggested.    However, I understand that industry stakeholders are developing both a training and registration scheme for the installers of oil and solid fuel heating systems.

Part J of the Building Regulations sets out the statutory minimum requirements that apply to ensure the safe design and installation of heat producing appliances in dwellings. Following a full review, new Building Regulations (Part J Amendment) Regulations 2014 and a revised Technical Guidance Document (TGD J 2014) came into effect from 1 September 2014. Part J/TGD J 2014 place a new emphasis on the engagement of competent contractors, the proper commissioning of systems and the obligation to provide information for owners on the system installed and any continuing maintenance required to ensure its safe and effective operation and avoid risk to health.

There are no proposals for the establishment of a state regulatory body for stove installers along the lines suggested.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), which comes under the remit of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, is the lead agency in relation to the formulation of quality, design and safety standards for heating installations and it normally advances such work through the establishment of expert industry working groups. I also understand that the Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) established by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) as a register of builders and contractors provides for participation in the register by heating and plumbing contractors. While the CIRI register is a voluntary register at present, the Government has signalled its commitment to placing the register on a statutory footing. I expect that legislative proposals in that regard will be brought to Government in the first half of this year. in line with the Government’s commitment to have the necessary legislation in place during 2015. I have asked my Department to liaise with CIRI and the NSAI in relation to the development of the heating and plumbing element of the register.

Social housing construction – 6th February 2015

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total number of social housing built in 2009 and each subsequent year, including plans for 2015.

Reply

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Alan Kelly)

My Department publishes a wide range of housing statistics. It includes data on the number of units provided directly by local authorities and approved housing bodies (under the voluntary and co-operative heading), broken down by year. The statistics requested are available on my Department’s website at:

http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications/HousingStatistics/FileDownLoad,15291,en.xls


by clicking “Social Housing Outputs” under the Social Housing Supports heading.

I expect that, nationally, some 7,400 new social housing units will be provided under a range of initiatives for 2015.

Standards and monopolies in the waste market – 4th December 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the privatisation of Dublin City Council’s waste contract; if he is satisfied with the manner in which this occurred; if he is satisfied that customers of private companies are protected from quasi-monopolistic practices and poor services in view of the fact that the council is no longer a direct service supplier in the waste market.

Reply

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Alan Kelly)

Under Section 33 o f the Waste Management Act 1996, a local authority is required to collect, or arrange for the collection of waste within its functional area . Almost all local authorities have now exited the waste collection market.

Collection of waste by a private operator is subject to compliance with applicable environmental and other relevant legislation, primarily the Waste Management Act 1996 and conditions attached to each waste collector’s collection permit issued under the Waste Management (Collection Permit) Regulations 2007. Waste collection in individual local authority areas may also be subject to local bye-laws , and enforcement of waste legislation, a waste collection permit condition or waste bye-law is a matter for the relevant local authority.

As Minister, I am specifically precluded under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996, from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by the Agency or a local authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it. My role as Minister in terms of waste management is to provide the legislative and policy framework under which waste management enforcement authorities work.

In this regard, as part of the introduction of a radical and comprehensive new regulatory framework to reform the regulation of the collection of household waste in 2015, I intend to introduce measures to require collectors to have a customer charter in place and to meet certain minimum standards of customer service , such as specified frequencies of collection . I will be setting out in law what the minimum content of these customer charters will be , so that standards of service are raised and are consistent. It will also become a statutory requirement for all collectors to operate the “pay-by-weight” system as a condition of their permit.

The regulation of weighing mechanisms used to determine weight-based waste collection charges is the responsibility of the National Standards Authority of Ireland and queries in this regard should be directed to that body.

Standing electoral commission – 18th November 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on the progress of ongoing work to establish an independent standing electoral commission; and when a first proposal might be ready for discussion by Dáil Éireann.

Reply

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Alan Kelly)

The Government Legislation Programme for Autumn 2014 provides for the publication of an Electoral Commission Bill in 2015.Work on this task has commenced in my Department.

This will involve detailed and considered examination of the key issues, including international best practice, the Commission’s structure and functions, who it reports to, its relationship with other bodies currently involved in electoral administration, and the approach to be followed in relation to the extensive legislation that will be required, as well as practical matters including staffing and funding arrangements.

 

NPPR fines & deadlines – 30th October 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government regarding the late payment of the non principal private residence, if he is satisfied that communications of the charge and of the late payment procedures and penalties were sufficient in view of the potential costs concerned to persons; the way the level of penalty was arrived at; and if he will provide the guidelines in place for assessment of appeals.

Reply

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Alan Kelly)

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, provides the legislative basis for the Non-Principal Private Residence Charge. The NPPR Charge, which has since been discontinued, applied in the years 2009 to 2013 to any residential property in which the owner did not reside as their normal place of residence. The self-assessed charge is set at €200 per annum and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties. Section 6 of the 2009 Act, as amended, provides that the owner of a liable property who fails to pay the charge, in addition to his or her being liable to pay the charge, is liable to pay to the relevant local authority a €20 late payment fee in respect of each month or part of a month in which the charge, any late payment fee, or any part of such charge or fee, remains unpaid.

Part 12 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 deals with the collection of undischarged liabilities relating to the NPPR charge. The Act provided for a period from 2 March 2014 to 31 August 2014 during which time no new late penalties were applied to existing liabilities. If payment was not made in full or if settlement terms were not agreed by the end of that period, an additional late payment fee of €120 per liability date applied on 1 September 2014. As the Charge applied in each of the years from 2009 to 2013, there were five liability dates – 31 July 2009 and 31 March for each of the years 2010 to 2013. In addition to this late payment fee to be applied per liability date, the entire NPPR liability is then increased by a factor of 50% and frozen.

My Department undertook an initial media campaign when the NPPR Charge was first introduced in 2009. Nationwide advertising has also taken place in each year since the introduction of the Charge under the auspices of the local authorities to ensure general awareness of the Charge and the liability dates. In addition, local authorities have undertaken their own advertising campaigns locally. The NPPR Project Board, in conjunction with individual local authorities, undertook a media campaign this year aimed at reminding non-compliant owners that additional late payment penalties applied after 31 August 2014. The extensive radio and print media campaign reminded non-compliant owners of their obligations to come forward to regularise their affairs and to take advantage of this once-off grace period. While it is a necessary principle of law that all citizens are required to be aware of relevant legal obligations and duties in respect of such charges, as is the case in other jurisdictions, it remains my view that reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that property owners have been aware of the Charge and liability dates.

Under section 77 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 my Department issued guidance to local authorities concerning matters relating to arrears of the NPPR Charge and late payment fees to ensure that a consistent national approach is adopted. The guidelines, which are available at http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/LocalGovernment/Administration/FileDownLoad,37899,en.pdf , encourage local authorities to take a proactive approach to ensure that any outstanding NPPR liabilities are discharged in the most equitable, efficient and economically beneficial manner and also include information in relation to dealing with hardship cases . It is expected, in the majority of cases, that local authorities will collect the full NPPR Charge liability from owners. In some cases, this may be by means of arrangement by installment. The Act places the Charge under the care and management of the local authorities and application in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority. A ll non-compliant owners should log on to www.nppr.ie or, alternatively, contact their local authority to discuss any matters they wish to clarify and to make their outstanding payments.

Protection from dramatically increasing rents – 24th October 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce further protections insofar as dramatically increasing rents over a short period of time are concerned for long-term renters, specifically families, so that they can realistically choose to rent long-term, where buying a home is either not an option or a preference, so that families cannot be effectively evicted from their homes with the resulting upheaval to their families’ lives for example moving a child out of their school and so on.

Reply

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Alan Kelly)

The private rented sector is an important element of the housing market, with the proportion of households in the sector almost doubling in the period 2006-2011. I am conscious of the difficulties caused by rising rents and the problem of sourcing suitable accommodation, especially in Dublin and other urban centres.

Part 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 deals with rent and rent reviews. Under the Act, rent may not be greater than the open market rate and may be reviewed (upward or downward) only once a year unless there has been a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation that warrants a review. Tenants must be given 28 days notice of the new rent and may ask their landlord to review the rent if they feel it exceeds the market rate for the property. Disputes about any aspect of rent may be referred to the Private Residential Tenancies Board ( PTRB ) .

The fundamental reason behind the rise in rents is a lack of supply. Increasing both public and private housing supply is a critical issue and earlier this year the Government published Construction 2020 – A Strategy for a Renewed Construction Sector . It includes a commitment to a social housing strategy which is being finalised and will be considered by Government in the coming weeks.

In addition, the PRTB was asked to conduct a study to explore options to address the difficulties being experienced in segments of the private rented sector due to rising rents and to report back to me with policy options. This report , with a specific focus on rent stability, was completed recently and is the first of two studies on the private rented sector.

It explores a range of issues in regard to rent stability, ranging from an examination of rent regulation regimes to the tax treatment of the private rented sector and the role of rent supplement. It will require careful consideration before deciding on the best options to address the current difficulties in the market. The overriding objective is to achieve stability and sustainability in the market for the benefit of tenants, landlords and society as a whole.

Water allowance for third level students – 6th October 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider extending the under 18s water allowance to third-level students living in the family home.

REPLY

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Alan Kelly)

With effect from 1 January 2014, Irish Water is responsible for public water services. The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that Irish Water can collect charges from its customers in receipt of water services provided by it. The Act also provides that responsibility for the independent economic regulation of the water sector is assigned to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers.

The proposed approach to charging was outlined by Irish Water in a water charges plan which it submitted to the CER in line with the provisions of the Act. The CER recently held a public consultation on this plan which covered a range of issues relating to water charges and allowances. The CER has today issued a determination on the water charges plan and details are available on the CER website ( www.cer.ie ) . The water charges plan provides that the children’s water allowance will only apply to the address at which a child is registered for the purposes of receiving child benefit, unless the registered occupier provides approval to transfer.

In making its determination on the water charges plan, the CER had to take account of the decisions made by the Government on the funding model for Irish Water and a direction made under Section 42 of the Water Services (No. 2) Act in July 2014. This policy direction addressed a number of matters relating to domestic water charges including the provision of a free allowance of 30,000 litres of water supplied and waste water treated per annum for a primary residence on a public supply and a free allowance to cover the normal usage of water services by every child in their primary residence based on the same qualifying conditions as the child benefit allowance. There are no plans to provide additional allowances, other than those announced in the Government decision.

Self-builders and new building regulations – 4th June, 2014.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide clarification regarding the position of self-builders after the introduction of the recent building regulations – S.I. 80 which came into effect on 1 March 2014; if he will shed light on the position of certified suppliers such as small quarries supplying stone gravel or small family joinery shops in particular; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Building Control Act 1990 places a clear statutory obligation on owners, designers and builders to ensure that buildings are designed and constructed in compliance with the building regulations. This applies to all sectors of the construction industry, including the self-build sector.

Neither the Building Control Act 1990 nor any regulations made thereunder, including the new Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014, place any restriction on whom an owner may assign as a builder once the owner is satisfied that the builder is competent to undertake the works involved.

An owner who intends to self-build, and who contracts out elements of their work to other parties, must assume legal responsibility for ensuring that the building or works concerned will comply with the requirements of building regulations.

The reply to Question Nos. 432 and 434 of 4 February 2014 addresses some of the practical considerations that arise for an owner in meeting their obligations as owner and as builder in a self-build situation. An Information Note on Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and the Self-Build Sector issued by my Department on 26 February 2014 has also been placed in the Oireachtas library.

The responsibility of the manufacturers of construction products to provide robust and reliable information in relation to the performance characteristics of such products arises from Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC. In addition, the National Standards Authority of Ireland has also produced additional guidance in respect of some harmonised standards in the form of National Annexes or Standard Recommendations which set out appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of certain products in Ireland. The key effect of the EU Construction Products Regulations is that since 1 July 2013, manufacturers of any construction product which is covered by a harmonised European product standard (known collectively as hENs) are required, when placing a product on the market, to make a Declaration of Performance for the product, and to affix the product’s CE mark.

The recent reforms of the arrangements in place for the oversight of building activity will mean that all those along the supply chain, including small quarries and joinery shops, can now expect certification to be sought in relation to the products they carry.

Planning applications; unfairly weighted against objecting parties? – 27th May, 2014.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied that the current process in relation to objecting to or appealing planning applications is not unfairly weighted against the objecting parties.

For example, where planning is refused and the case is appealed to An Bord Pleanála (ABP), the local authority must inform those who objected to the application, of the appeal to ABP – this is done by way of a letter and may not be the most effective or efficient way of notifying objectors. Should other forms of communication be used or should there be a notice issued locally or in local media.

REPLY

Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Jan O’Sullivan):

Under Article 69(1) of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, a planning authority is required – as soon as possible after it is given a copy of an appeal lodged with An Bord Pleanala against a decision of that planning authority – to notify in writing any person who made a submission or observation on the planning application, in accordance with the Regulations. The notification must –

(a) specify the reference number of the Board in respect of the appeal,

(b) specify the date on which the appeal was received by the Board,

(c) state that a copy of the appeal is available for inspection or purchase for a fee not exceeding the reasonable cost of making a copy during office hours at the offices of the planning authority, and

(d) state that submissions or observations in relation to the appeal may be made in writing to the Board within the appropriate period and on payment of the appropriate fee.

The appropriate period is, as specified in section 130 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, 4 weeks beginning on the day of receipt of the appeal by the Board.

The above provisions apply equally to objectors to, and supporters of, a proposed development.

I am not aware that there are any difficulties with the current provisions, but will consider whether any revisions to the provisions might be required in the context of the proposed Planning Bill to be brought forward later this year.

Increased water allowance for individuals with specific medical conditions – 27th May 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if persons with an ileo-anal pouch will qualify for an increased water allowance.

REPLY

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that Irish Water can collect charges from its customers in receipt of water services provided by it. The Act also provides that responsibility for the independent economic regulation of the water sector is assigned to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers.

Under the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulation s 2014, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas library, suppliers of drinking water are required to ensure that the water supplied is wholesome and clean. Water which is wholesome and clean is defined as water which is free from any micro-organisms and parasites and from any substances which in numbers or concentrations constitute a potential danger to human health, and which meets the quality standards specified in the Schedule to the Regulations.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the supervisory authority with responsibility for monitoring Irish Water’s compliance with these regulations.

In the event of non-compliance with the quality standards set out in these Regulations, the water supplier will investigate the cause and, in consultation with the EPA and, if a potential risk to human health may exist, the Health Service Executive, ensure that the appropriate remedial action is taken.

The Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 requires the CER to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of the customers of Irish Water. This is similar to the CER’s statutory role in respect of the gas and electricity sectors. I fully expect that the CER will consider compliance with statutory standards by Irish Water in the discharge of its functions.

The Government has decided, following consideration of proposals in relation to the funding model for Irish Water, to provide a free allowance of 30,000 litres of water supplied and waste water treated per annum for a primary residence on a public supply. The Government has also decided to provide for an additional free allowance to cover the normal usage of water services by every child in their primary residence based on the same qualifying conditions as child benefit, such that water charges will in effect only apply to adults in such households. The normal consumption is estimated at 38,000 litres annually per child of water supplied and waste water treated and so the allowance being provided will be up to 38,000 litres per annum. This level of consumption will be verified over time through actual data from metering. There are no plans to provide addition allowances, other than those recently announced by the Government.

The Government has also decided that bills will be capped at the relevant assessed charge level for those customers with particular medical conditions which necessitate high water usage. Qualifying medical conditions will be set out, following consultation with the Minister for Health and the Health Services Executive.

There are no plans at present to provide communal public taps in community locations.

I intend to use my powers under the Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 to issue a policy direction to the CER in relation to the Government’s recent decisions relating to domestic water charges, including to ensure the water charges plan makes provision for circumstances where the quality of water services provided by Irish Water to customers is impaired or where services are reduced or restricted (e.g. customers with boil water notices). As required by the Act, a draft of the policy direction has issued to the CER and the Joint Oireachtas Committee for the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, and has been published in Iris Oifigiúil. The draft direction is currently open for public consultation and details are available on my Department’s website at

 http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Water/WaterSectorReform.

In making its decision on the approval or otherwise of the first water charges plan, the CER will take into account the decisions made by the Government on the funding model for Irish Water and the policy direction issued.

Water metering of apartments – individual metering for all units? – 30th April 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on the water metering of apartments; when this is likely to commence; if it will be possible to have individual metering for all units in an apartment block; when this is likely to be completed; if persons living in apartments will be charged before then and if so, how.

REPLY

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

With effect from 1 January 2014, Irish Water is responsible for public water services. The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that Irish Water can collect charges from its customers in receipt of water services provided by it. The Act also provides that responsibility for the independent economic regulation of the water sector is assigned to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers.

The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has, therefore, decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. The Government has committed to the provision of a free allowance, above which charging based on usage would apply. Charges for customers who are not metered will be structured in such a way as to ensure that it represents a reasonable proxy for usage and is fair.

Local authorities are in the final stages of a pre-installation survey of households connected to public water supplies. The survey is providing information to Irish Water on the properties that can be metered. The intention is that a meter will be installed in any household connected to a public water supply where it is technically feasible to do so. Where a suitable boundary box for a water meter has already been installed in a property, this will be identified in the survey. Irish Water has also recently commissioned a study on possible approaches to metering properties that are not part of the current metering programme, including apartments and properties with shared service connections. The findings of this report are currently being assessed by my Department.

Irish Water will not collect charges from any households not connected to a public water supply. Currently, any farm connected to a public water supply is liable for charges as a non-domestic customer, with an allowance provided for domestic use. Following the introduction of domestic water charges, farms connected to public water supplies will be charged by Irish Water for both non-domestic and domestic use, subject to the free allowance to be provided to households in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. There is no process in place where a housing estate can apply for an exemption from water charges for a set period of time.

The approach to charging will be outlined by Irish Water in a water charges plan to be submitted by it to the CER in line with the provisions of the Act. The CER will be responsible for approving the water charges plan which will set the approaches to charging domestic and non-domestic customers. The CER will announce its decision on the approved wat er charges plan, which will include details of the levels of metered, assessed and standing charges, in August 2014.

The CER commenced public consultations on the approach to the structure of domestic water services tariffs (for both metered and unmetered properties) and non-domestic water services tariffs on 17 April 2014. Further consultations are planned for June in relation to the water charges plan to be submitted to the CER by Irish Water. Full details of the CER’s public consultation plans are available on its website (www.cer.ie).

In making its decision on the approval or otherwise of the first water charges plan, the CER will take into account the decisions made by Government on th e funding model for Irish Water. The free allowance and the level of funding to be provided by the Government to Irish Water will have a strong bearing on the net charges to be met by households. Consequently, decisions on these matters will provide greater visibility on the expected level of charges in advance of the final determination of all aspects of the water charges plan by the CER. Proposals on these matters are currently under consideration by the Government. Part of this consideration will be the appropriate method for addressing affordability issues which may arise with the introduction of domestic water charges, particularly for households with high usage due to medical needs.

Water charges bring a number of benefits to communities including the security of a public drinking water supply, increased investment in water treatment and waste water treatment, greater environmental sustainability, increased efficiencies through the creation of Irish Water. The reform of water services delivery will also support economic growth and the creation of employment.

Transitional arrangements in S.I.105 for educational and healthcare projects only – 1st April 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason the transitional arrangements detailed in S.I.105 extend only to educational and healthcare projects (details supplied).

Details: Is this an admission that the role of Assigned Certifier is not yet defined in either the GCCC or RIAI standard contracts and that to proceed without this clear definition of roles could present contractual difficulties which may cause delays and increased costs? If this is the case, shouldn’t the same applies to all contracts, not just those for educational and healthcare projects? How can a relaxation of the requirement to appoint an Assigned Certifier be considered an “alternative but equivalent” means of compliance?

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 127, 128, 129 and 130 of 26 March 2014 which sets outs out clearly the background context leading to the making of the Building Control (Amendment ) ( No 2) Regulations 2014. The position remains unchanged. I will make arrangements to have the letter of 5 February 2014 received from the Minister for Education and Skills, referred to in the reply, placed in the Oireachtas Library. This is the only written representation I received from another Minister in relation to this matter.

As indicated, my Department consulted with relevant Departments/ agencies represented on the Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC), in relation to the implications of the Regulations for the public capital programme. Several Departments/Agencies, including the Department of Education and Skills, the National Development Finance Agency and the Health Services Executive, expressed concerns that the new requirements may cause delays in the Public Capital Programme. Large-scale public infrastructure projects, in particular, are prone to costly delays due to strict national and EU procurement rules which do not generally apply to private sector projects. Other agencies, notably the OPW, reported that the necessary arrangements were in place to administer contracts in accordance with the new requirements.

I understand that the Office of Government Procurement at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has issued Guidance Note 1.1.1 – Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 – Procurement Implications for Contracting Authorities. Concerns in relation to the clarity and definition of the Assigned Certifier on public procurement projects do not therefore arise.

Outside of the application of the Building Control ( Amendment ) (No.2) Regulations 2014, my Department will liaise closely with industry stakeholders and relevant Departments/agencies in order to ensure that no unforeseen difficulties will arise in relation to the delivery of large scale capital investment projects.

Waste collectors failing to provide brown bins for food waste – 25th March 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a person is in contravention of Part III Section 6(1)(c) of the Household Food Waste and Bio-Waste Regulations 2013 where there is no company offering such a service, as mandated under Part II Section 5(1) of the same regulations; if they are in contravention does the liability fall to the company that is in contravention of Part II Section 5(1); if the services as required under Part III Section (2)(b) are available in every local authority.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

In line with the objectives of the national waste policy, A Resource Opportunity – Waste Management Policy in Ireland, in terms of maximising the resource potential and minimising the disposal of our waste, the European Union (Household Food Waste and Bio-waste) Regulations 2013 are designed to promote the segregation and recovery of household food waste. The Regulations impose obligations on both householders and waste collectors.

Under articles 4 and 5 of the Regulations, household waste collectors are required to provide, or arrange for the provision of, a separate collection service for food waste from households for population agglomerations in accordance with the following time schedule:

– 1 July 2013 – for population centres greater than 25,000 persons

– 31 December 2013 – for population centres greater than 20,000 persons;

– 1 July 2014 – for population centres greater than 10,000 persons;

– 1 July 2015 – for population centres greater than 1,500 persons; and

– 1 July 2016 – for population centres greater than 500 persons.

Under article 6, householders are required to ensure either that they:

– source segregate their food waste, keeping it separate from non-biodegradable materials, other waste and contaminants and make it available for collection by an authorised waste collector; or

– subject the food waste to a home composting process; or

– bring the food waste to an authorised facility with a view to its composting or anaerobic digestion or treatment in a way which fulfils a high level of environmental protection.

Enforcement of the Regulations is a matter for the local authorities and in cases where a collector has failed to provide a food waste collection service in a defined brown bin area, affected householders should contact the local authority concerned who have significant enforcement powers under the Regulations to secure compliance by both waste collectors and householders.

How funds already raised by the Property Tax will be spent in 2014 – 6th March 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government where funds already raised through the local property tax will be spent in 2014.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The local government funding model is changing considerably in 2014. Under the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, commencing this year, the Minister for Finance will pay into the Local Government Fund an amount equivalent to the Local Property Tax paid into the Central Fund during that year. Details of the proposed expenditure from the Local Government Fund are set out in t he Revised Estimates Volume for Public Services 2014 as published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Local Property Tax paid into the Local Government Fund in 2014 will contribute to a range of financial supports being provided to local authorities, including General Purpose Grants and funding, on the basis of Service Level Agreements, for water services which local authorities will be providing on behalf of Irish Water.

Deferral of new Building Control Regulations to allow further examination in line with requests from the RIAI – 18th February 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will defer the new Building Control Regulations (SI 9/14), to allow further examination in line with those requests from the RIAI and to provide for third party inspection.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The new Building Control Amendment Regulations will greatly strengthen the arrangements currently in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates.

The new regulations are necessary following the widespread instances of failure by owners, designers and builders to comply with their statutory obligations under the Building Control Act 1990 to design and construct buildings in accordance with the building regulations.

Arrangements for a smooth transition to the new regulatory environment on 1 March 2014 are well in hand and my Department will continue to work with all parties to ensure they understand their obligations and the steps necessary to meet them.

As regards the issue of third party certification, it is not clear what useful purpose would be served by imposing a requirement for independent verification of design or construction by a third party as suggested. The merits of a designer overseeing the implementation of their design cannot be overlooked. Neither is there any intention to constrain the capacity of all-in service delivery models in key sectors of the industry. Enforcement powers under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2007 continue to be vested in the local building control authorities and it is here that independence is called for and in place.

The effect of the new Building Control Regulations on self builders – 11th February 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has any concerns regarding S.I 9 insofar as it relates to self builders; and if he intends to make any amendments to S.I 9 before it comes in to effect.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 544 and 554 of 28 January 2014 which comprehensively addressed the concerns raised by the Irish Association of Self-builders.

The new Building Control Amendment Regulations which come into operation on 1 March 2014 will greatly strengthen the arrangements currently in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates.

The new regulations are necessary following the widespread instances of failure by owners, designers and builders to comply with their statutory obligations under the Building Control Act 1990 to design and construct buildings in accordance with the building regulations. These obligations apply to all sectors of the housing market, including the self-build sector.

An extensive public consultation process was undertaken in 2012 to inform the development of the regulations. The consultation document Strengthening the Building Control System – A Document to inform public consultation on Draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2012 set out the context in which the reforms – as later signed into law last year, following some technical amendments, in S.I. No. 9 of 2014 – will operate and the regulatory impact of these for building owners and industry stakeholders. This document is still available on my Department’s website.

Pay scales in Irish Water – 4th February 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if pay scales in Irish Water were set in line with payscales in Bord Gais Energy; and if salaries for staff in Irish Water were benchmarked against contracts in BGE that are based on pre-2009 salary levels.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The employment terms and conditions for Irish Water staff are a matter for the company and I understand that the terms and conditions are in line with the arrangements applying with Bord Gáis Éireann. Bord Gais has in place a competitive market based pay model. The model offers market based pay ranges for all employees which includes a pay at risk element called Performance Related Award (PRA). A pay freeze will remain in place until 2016 as this is a key element of reducing overall payroll costs within the Group.  As such, Irish Water does not pay increments or any form of automatic pay award; the pay model applied allows for part of salaries to be placed at risk and this element of pay is only earned subject to performance.

In this model, where an employee does not meet expectations they will not be eligible for a performance award and underperformance will be dealt with under the Irish Water Disciplinary Procedure and will lead to sanctions up to and including dismissal. Performance pay will be based on a structured performance review and requires company performance, business unit performance and individual performance metrics to have been met.

I also understand that no bonuses have been paid to Irish Water staff, but I have asked the company to set out the basis and content of the model as applied to Irish Water contracts of employment, including the criteria against which high performance will be evaluated and the kinds of targets (at company and division or grade levels) against which such performance may be bench-marked. The amount of the performance pay will be a function of corporate performance, business unit performance and individual performance.

Employment of existing local authority staff at Irish Water – 4th February 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the creation of Irish Water will lead to any local authority staff responsible for water services being made redundant or being re-allocated within the authority to non water services functions; and if not, the reason for same.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Irish Water is being established to accelerate capital investment in water services and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of water services delivery. The organisation needs to be appropriately resourced to fulfil this task but will not be over-staffed. Irish Water is currently recruiting to build up the required internal capabilities and the number of staff employed is an operational matter for the organisation. I understand that the numbers and competencies were determined through a detailed planning process. It was agreed by the Steering Group for the Water Sector Reform programme that, to ensure skills within the sector were fully availed of in building up the new organisation, competitions for positions in asset management, capital delivery and operations would be restricted to staff in the partner organisations i.e. Bord Gáis Éireann, local authorities and my Department in the first instance. Open competitions are held for all other positions and details of these are available on Irish Water’s website .

Irish Water has entered into service level agreements (SLA) with each of the 34 authorities for the provision of water services. Staff in local authorities conducting work under these arrangements will remain local authority employees. The SLA reflects the transformation agenda required for the sector, with provision for annual service plans which will set out required performance, budgets and headcount. The length of the service level agreement and the fact that the agreement will include a programme of change are reflected in a Framework document, agreed with the Trade Unions under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, and which is available on my Department’s website. This agreement, and the Water Services No.2 Act 2013 provides that, in the event of an SLA coming to an end, the staff covered by that agreement will become Irish Water employees and their terms and conditions and superannuation arrangements will be protected by legislation.

The headcount provided for water services under the SLAs for 2014 is 4319.6 full time equivalents subject to alignment with the budgets notified by Irish Water to each local authority. This headcount will be reviewed each year as part of the preparation and approval of the following year’s annual service plan.

While this number will reduce over time, the actual headcount requirement is intrinsically linked to the levels of investment within the sector in automation, rationalisation and infrastructure and operational upgrades. The SLA provides for the development of joint approach to long-term staff and workforce planning which will facilitate the implementation of the transformation programme. The establishment of Irish Water will lead to improved efficiency and effectiveness of water services delivery, and progress in these regards, leading to staffing reductions, will be closely monitored in the context of annual service plans.

Monitoring state expenditure on the new communities partnership – 4th February 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of money given to the new communities partnership in each year since the partnership was established; the person responsible for the partnership; if the money spent is audited; and if he will provide the details of relevant audits.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

My Department is responsible for a range of programmes to support communities, including the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP) and the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO). Both of these programmes provide funding to support the work of the New Communities Partnership.

The LCDP is one of my Department’s main social inclusion programmes. Its objective is to tackle poverty and social exclusion through partnership and constructive engagement between Government, and its agencies, and people in disadvantaged communities.

The Programme is administered and managed by Pobal on behalf of my Department and delivered at a local level by the nationwide network of Local Development Companies and a small number of alternative delivery structures.

Following the closure, in 2010, of the Local Development Company for the Dublin Inner City area (Dublin Inner City Partnership), New Communities Partnership is one of a number of groups contracted directly by Pobal to deliver LCDP services in the Dublin Inner City Area. The table below provides details of the funding provided to New Communities Partnership under the LCDP.

2010 – €47,000

2011 – €54,183

2012 – €50,388

2013 – €49,585

2014 Allocation – €50,163

While the Board has ultimate responsibility for running the Company, Pobal carries out audits of LCDP funded groups in line with arrangements agreed with my Department. Although the Group in question has not been selected for audit under the LCDP to date, it has been required to comply with the financial guidelines which underpin the programme.

The SSNO in the Community and Voluntary sector provides multi-annual funding to national organisations towards core costs associated with the provision of services. Priority is given under the Scheme to supporting national organisations which provide coalface services to disadvantaged target groups. Core funding refers typically to operating costs that will always need to be met, and are fundamental to the organisation’s survival. The funding normally covers basic organisational and administrative costs of an organisation, and may include items such as salaries, facilities, equipment, communications, and the direct expenses of day-to-day work.

The organisation in question was first funded under the SSNO which ran from 2008-2011, and is now funded under the current Scheme which commenced in 2011 and will finish on 30 June 2014. My Department conducts inspections on nationally funded schemes and programmes operated and implemented by the Department. A minimum selection of 5% of expenditure is examined each year across the Community & Voluntary Sector support programmes. To date, the Partnership has not been selected for inspection, although a system of checks is carried out prior to each payment.

The table below provides details of the funding to New Communities Partnership over the period 2008-2013.

2008 – €113,000

2009 – €108,500

2010 – €97,600

2011 – €83,600

2012 – €90,000

2013 – €84,800

Collection rate for NPPR charge – 28th January 2014

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm the collection rate achieved by local authorities for the non-principal private residence charge.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The self-assessed charge is set at €200 per annum and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties.

Under the Act, it is a function of a local authority to collect Non-Principal Private Residence Charges, and late payment fees due to it and all Charges and late payment fees imposed and payable to a local authority are under the care and management of the local authority concerned.

Approximately 360,000 properties have been registered for the Non-Principal Private Residence Charge, which has raised in excess of €398m to date over its five years of operation. It is not possible to state with any certainty the level of non-compliance with the Charge, and therefore an estimate of the overall collection rate would not be sound. However, I am confident that compliance levels are high as a result of data matching undertaken with other public bo dies, such as the Private Residential Tenancies Board, as provided for under the Act. The amount raised by the Charge to date also indicates a high compliance rate.

2013 was the final year of the operation of the Non-Principal Private Residence Charge although local authorities will continue to pursue arrears outstanding in the period from 2009 to 2013. Since its introduction in 2009, the Charge has been an important source of revenue for local authorities and has funded the provision of vital local services.

Improving the rights of renters of residential property – 12th December 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way he intends to protect and improve the rights of renters of residential property.

Reply

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Ms. J. O’Sullivan) :

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 sets out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants in the private rented residential sector and represented the most significant legislative reform in the private rented sector in over a century. The Act provided real security of tenure for tenants in the private rented sector for the first time and, inter alia, provided access for both tenants and landlords to an inexpensive, informal and independent dispute resolution process operated by the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB).

Nine years on from the passing of the Act, however, it is clear that there are aspects of the legislation that require amendment in order to improve the functioning of the rental sector. The Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2012 was published on 19 July 2012. The Bill builds on what has already been achieved by the 2004 Act, and by the PRTB, and is a key element in the delivery of the Government’s housing policy.

Among the main issues addressed by the amending legislation are the extension of the remit of the Residential Tenancies Act to Approved Housing Body tenancies; the Board of the PRTB to be reduced from 15 to 12 members; the separation of the governance and quasi-judicial functions of the Board; the merger of the PRTB and the Rent Tribunal; the simplification and streamlining of the mediation process and the introduction of a new procedure to enable the PRTB to deal effectively with tenants who do not pay rent during the dispute process.

While the Bill addresses a wide range of issues, there are some other aspects still under development which I hope to bring forward for consideration during the Bill’s passage through the Seanad. In particular, I am keen to progress the commitment in the Programme for Government to introduce a tenancy deposit protection scheme and I intend to provide for the establishment of such a scheme at Committee Stage of the Bill in the Seanad. The Bill is currently before the Seanad.

Amendment of the residential tenancy legislation – 4th December 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a proposal (details supplied) in relation to residential tenancy legislation.

Reply

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Ms. J. O’Sullivan) :

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 represented the most significant legislative reform in the private rented sector in over a century. The Act provided real security of tenure for tenants in the private rented sector for the first time and, inter alia , provided access for both tenants and landlords to an inexpensive, informal and independent dispute resolution process operated by the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) .

Nine years on from the passing of the Act , however, it is clear that there are aspects of the legislation that require amendment in order to improve the functioning of the private rental sector, including in relation to the withholding of rent during the dispute resolution process. Currently, under Section 86 of the Act, rent continues to be payable pending the determination of a dispute but a termination of the tenancy may not be effected during this period.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2012 builds on what has already been achieved by the Act and by the PRTB and is a key element in the delivery of the Government’s housing policy.   Amendments were introduced at committee stage of the Bill in the Dáil , to provide for the introduction of a new procedure which will enable the PRTB to deal effectively with tenants who do not pay rent during the dispute resolution process. The amendments insert a new section into the Act which provide for a landlord, in such instances, to bring a complaint before the PRTB. On hearing this complaint, the PRTB can order the tenant to pay any rent due. The matter is then adjourned for a period of no more than 14 days to allow the tenant comply with the Order. Where the tenant does not comply the PRTB will have the power to terminate the tenancy irrespective of whether a notice of termination has been served.

Essentially, the non-payment of rent issue is fast-tracked and any other aspects of the dispute will be dealt with in the normal way .    The proposed new provisions will allow the PRTB to deal effectively and quickly with the small number of tenants who do not comply with their statutory obligation to pay rent during the dispute process.

The Bill is currently before the Seanad.

The Producer Responsibility Initiative Model – 12th November 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding a review, initiated by his Department in June 2012, of the Producer Responsibility Initiative Model in Ireland; when this review will be complete; and when he will be in a position to publish the review in full.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding producer responsibility initiatives here and the various waste streams which are covered by produ cer responsibility initiatives.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the current number and identity of approved Producer Responsibility Initiatives under the Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2007, S.I. No 798 of 2007; the date such approval commenced; the date and term of any extensions to the schemes; the process which was undertaken for the approval of such schemes; and if such approval is contingent upon or will be delayed until the outcome of the review of the Producer Responsibili ty Initiative Model in Ireland.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the current number and identity of applications to his Department for approval to operate a Producer Responsibility Initiative under the Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2007, S.I. No 798 of 2007; the process which will be undertaken in such an approval process; and if such approval is contingent upon or will be delayed until the outcome of the Review of the Producer Responsibility Initiative Model in Ireland.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

I propose to take Question Nos . 268, 269, 270 and 271 together .

In June 2012, I announced a wide ranging review of the existing producer responsibility initiatives (PRIs) in Ireland. The overall purpose of this review is to assess the nature and level of the challenges which are currently facing the existing Producer Responsibility Agreements as well as the forthcoming challenges that are expected to arise in the management of various waste streams. The findings and recommendations from the review will form the basis for the development of robust producer responsibility initiatives that will enable Ireland to operate successfully in meeting our domestic and EU environmental obligations in the medium to long term.

The terms of reference for the review provide that certain parts of the project would be progressed faster, and delivered once completed. In this regard, my Department has recently published the reports on Corporate Governance and the consideration of the introduction of a Packaging Levy. These reports are available on my Department’s website ( www.environ.ie). I expect to publish the reports on Waste Tyres and End-of-Life Vehicles in the coming weeks and the final report of the review will be published in the coming months.

The principal PRIs in Ireland are in the areas of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), batteries, packaging, end-of-life vehicles (ELVs), waste tyres and farm plastics. The majority of these PRI schemes have operated very successfully and have enabled Ireland to reach our domestic and EU recycling targets. They have also successfully contributed to Ireland meeting our overall environmental goals and have diverted substantial amounts of waste from landfill.

In terms of packaging PRI s, Repak is the sole compliance scheme approved to date under the Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2007. My Department currently also has one application on hand, from ERP Ireland, for approval under the Regulations.

Repak’s last five-year approval expired at the end of 2011. This was initially extended for a twelve-month period to 31 December 2012 and then for two further periods of six and then three months to 30 September 2013. Repak was re-approved for a further five-year period from 25 September 2013.

The application and assessment processes are set out under Article s 18 and 19 of the 2007 Regulations.

One of the issues under examination under the PRI review is the issue of the competitive environment for compliance schemes in Ireland , and the review will examine and advise on the optimal competitive environment. As the review is also examining a variety of inter-related issues within the packaging sector , including the possibility of a packaging levy, I decided that I would await the results and final report of the PRI Review before completing the decision- making process in respect of ERP Ireland’s application. My Department has kept ERP Ireland fully informed on this matter and on the status of their application generally and has given similar indications to other potential applicants in other waste streams who had enquired about the application process namely that , while they could seek to apply , their applications would not be considered and determined until after the PRI review was finalised.

Voting rights for Irish citizens living abroad – 8th October 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the extension of the franchise to overseas voters for elections taking place within the State.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

In order to be able to vote at elections and referendums, a person’s name must be entered in the register of electors for a constituency in the State in which the person ordinarily resides.

Postal voting is provided for in electoral law in respect of certain categories of person who are entered in the register of electors and who may be abroad on polling day – whole-time members of the Defence Forces; members of the Garda Síochána; Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses or civil partners; electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day.

I understand that the Convention on the Constitution recently voted in favour of recommending the extension of voting rights in Presidential elections to Irish citizens who are resident outside of the State, including Irish citizens resident in Northern Ireland.  In accordance with the resolution of the Oireachtas on the calling of the Convention the Government will provide in the Oireachtas a response to the recommendation of the Convention within four months of the report of the convention being submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas and, if accepting the recommendation will indicate a timeframe it envisages for holding any related referendum. Proposals for change to electoral law will be brought forward in light of any decisions for change which might arise from this process.

Current financial position of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority – 8th October 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the current financial position of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority; if it can currently meet its day-today requirements such as providing street lighting within its functional area.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The most recent annual accounts of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, for the year 2011, have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and are also available on the Authority’s website, at www.ddda.ie.

The annual accounts for 2012 are being finalised and are expected to be submitted to my Department shortly. Once received, the accounts will be brought to Government after which they will, as in previous years, be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Authority continues to operate on a ‘going – concern’ basis and, as such, is in a position to meet its day-to-day financial requirements.

Transfer of assets from Dublin Docklands Development Authority to Dublin City Council – 8th October 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the transfer of the assets of the Dublin Docklands Development Agency to other bodies; if he will confirm that the public spaces, and other property such as parking spaces and social housing apartments, will be transferred to Dublin City Council.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

In the context of the decision to wind-up the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), the Government has confirmed Dublin City Council (DCC) as the organisation under which the future regeneration of the Dublin Docklands is to be continued. In practical terms, DCC is providing staffing and other supports to the DDDA to allow it to continue to operate for the remainder of its period of operation.

My Department is currently examining the legal and financial arrangements needed to complete this process. The transfer of assets and other property is being considered in this context.

Installation of water meters – 24th September 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the time-frame for the installation of water meters, the reason that such a time-frame was decided on; and if he has considered installing these meters over a shorter period of time.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Programme for Government sets out a commitment for the introduction of water   charges based on usage above a free allowance. The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has, therefore, decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. The Water Services Act 2013 provides for the establishment of Irish Water as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group and assigns the necessary powers to allow Irish Water to undertake the water metering programme. It is a matter for Irish Water to comply with all national and European legislation in the discharge of its functions.

The installation programme commenced in Au gust 2013 and will be implemented nationally as quickly as possible. The approach to procurement ha s been structured by Irish Water to ensure that there are sufficient boundary boxes, meters and installation contracts available for deployment to allow for the ramping up of the programme above the initial level once work is underway. It is important that all of these works are carried out safely and to a high quality standard with the minimum disruption and I expect that Irish Water will monitor and supervise all works accordingly.

Responsibility for the administration of my Department’s Rural Water Programme, under which funding is provided towards the capital costs of group water schemes, and of the subsidy scheme under which funding is provided towards the operational costs of group water schemes, has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. My Department will remain responsible for the overall policy and funding of the non-public water sector, including the group water sector. Over the past decade, substantial improvements have been made in the group water sector, reflected in improved infrastructure and management and leading to greater compliance with drinking water standards. This has been accomplished through a partnership approach between my Department, the local authorities and the group water sector itself, with the important involvement of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes. This co-operative approach will be maintained as the reform of water services provision is progressed.

Some group water schemes currently purchase water from water services authorities. In such cases the distribution network remains under the control of the group scheme. It is not intended that there will be any change to this arrangement when Irish Water assumes the water services responsibilities of the existing 34 water service authorities.

Section 237A of the Local Government Act – 24th September 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to repeal or amend section 237A of the Local Government Act in order to further separate the roles and responsibilities of Councillors and members of the Oireachtas.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

I have no plans to repeal or amend section 237A of the Local Government Act 2001.

Offsetting the NPPR Charge against the Property Tax– 21st June 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is considering offsetting the liability of the non principal private residence charge against the local property tax.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Local Property Tax is being introduced on a half year basis this year and accordingly 50% of the Tax is payable in 2013. The Local Property Tax and Non Principal Private Residence Charge operate quite differently in many respects; however, in general, those properties which are liable for the Charge will also be liable for the Tax. The amount of Local Property Tax incurred in respect of a liable property is based on that property’s value, while the Non Principal Private Residence Charge is incurred on the basis of a flat rate of €200 per liable property per annum. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assume equivalence between the Charge and the Tax. Liability for the Charge will not be offset against the Tax.

This year will be the final year of the operation of the Non Principal Private Residence Charge.

Guidelines for Planning Authorities -12th March 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if local authorities are obliged to follow the Development Contributions Guidelines for Planning Authorities as issued by his Department.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the purpose of the Development Contributions Guidelines for Planning Authorities if local authorities are not obliged to follow them..

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 214 of 27 February 2013, if he will clarify the meaning of his statement when he said that guidelines published by Dublin City Council are very substantially in accordance with the draft guidelines.

Reply

Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Ms. J. O’Sullivan):

I propose to take Questions Nos. 417, 418 and 419 together.

My role , as Minister, is to provide the necessary statutory and policy framework within which individual development contribution schemes are adopted by each local authority. The adoption of individual development contribution schemes is a reserved function of the locally elected members of each planning authority. While planning authorities, and An Bord Pleanála, are required to have regard to the guidelines in performance of their fu nctions under the Planning Acts, it is a matter for the members to determine the level of contribution s and the types of development s to which they will apply. Dublin City Council’s current development contributions scheme was adopted by the elected members before the publication of the new statutory guidelines. Nevertheless, the scheme reflects very closely the final content of the statutory guidance and contains several innovative provisions that are fully consistent with the pro-jobs/pro-planning objectives of the guidelines.

The guidelines were issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act s 2000 – 2012. This means that planning authorities are required to have regard to the guidelines in performance of their functions under the Planning Acts. However, the guidelines do not seek to alter the roles and functions of the elected members, the executive functions of local authorities or the role of my Department. They are intended, rather, to provide the necessary statutory and policy framework within which individual development contribution schemes are adopted by each local authority.

DCC proposals to energy retrofit Glovers Court in Dublin 2 – 19th February 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is familiar with Dublin City Council’s proposals to energy retrofit Glovers Court, Dublin 2; and his views on whether these proposals will come to fruition.

Reply

Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Ms. J. O’Sullivan):

My Department is currently funding the large-scale refurbishment of a number of flat complexes in Dublin City. In line with overall national policy which promotes a reduction in energy use, the enhancement of energy efficiency standards remains a priority within my Department’s overall strategy for the improvement of local authority housing.

I am currently reviewing the terms of the energy retrofitting measure for 2013 and my Department will issue revised guidelines to local authorities in the context of the capital allocations under the housing programme for 2013, which I intend to announce shortly.

In January 2011, my Department approved a proposal by Dublin City Council to proceed to tender stage with the energy retrofitting works at Glovers Court. However, the project was not subsequently progressed to implementation stage under the capital funding programmes for 2011 or 2012. It is now a matter for Dublin City Council to progress these works within the context of the available funding and the terms of the energy retrofitting measure for 2013.

Water charges in apartment buildings – 12th February 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the way he intends to deal with water charges in apartment buildings; and if he will give a commitment that each apartment will have its own meter.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has therefore decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. Irish Water, a new State-owned water company to be established as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group, will be responsible for the domestic water metering programme and for the collection of water charges from households from 2014.

The Government has also decided to assign responsibility for the economic regulation of the water sector, including the setting of charges, to the Commission for Energy Regulation. The primary role of the regulator will be to protect the interests of customers and to ensure a consistent and appropriate level of service is provided to them.

As the metering programme will still be underway in 2014, an appropriate approach to charging customers who are not metered at that stage will be put in place. This will be structured in such a way as to ensure that it represents a reasonable proxy for usage and is fair. The approach to charges for both metered and unmetered properties will be included in a public consultation taking place this year as part of the regulatory process.

My Department estimates that up to 300,000 households may not be metered in the initial metering programme due to either the high cost or the technical difficulty of doing so. Where conventional meter installation is not possible, it is intended that alternative approaches will be considered. For example, for housing units in apartment complexes, internal metering may be considered.

Responsible waste disposal & anti-littering campaigns – 7th February 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if any funds from his Department, or funds from an agency or authority working under the remit of his Department, are used in promotion campaigns for a cleaner environment, responsible waste disposal, or anti-littering, the way such funding is spent, by whom, the campaigns undertaken in 2011 and 2012, their cost, and the funding allocated in this area for 2013, and whether or not this includes money spent by local authorities in this area.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

My Department provides funding to Local Authorities under the Anti-Litter & Anti-Graffiti Awareness Grant Scheme. The Department has co-funded these grants for local authority anti-litter awareness and education initiatives since 1997. Local Authorities are responsible for selecting suitable projects for funding and deciding on individual grant allocations. The scheme requires that projects selected should promote greater public awareness and education in relation to litter, and since 2008, graffiti. They should also, where possible, focus on voluntary initiatives by community and environmental groups and involve schools and young people in anti-litter and anti-graffiti action. Typically, eligible projects include local media campaigns, clean-ups, primary/secondary school competitions, exhibitions and the production of videos, posters and leaflets. The maximum grant for a project may be up to 70% of the cost, with the balance being met by local contributions.

A total of €1,100,000 was made available to fund suitable projects under the scheme in 2011, while €1,000,000 was made available during 2012. Allocations under the scheme for 2013 remain under consideration.

My Department also launched a national litter and illegal dumping awareness campaign in the print media in July 2012 which ran for approximately 3 months. The advertising campaign was a result of an initiative between the Department and the newspaper and magazine industry.

The print media, represented by National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI), NNI Local & Regional, the Regional Newspapers and Printers Association of Ireland (RNPAI) and Magazines Ireland, made available, free of charge, advertising space valued at €500,000 in order to raise awareness of the damaging effects that fly tipping and small scale illegal dumping have on our environment and our economy, particularly on the tourism and agriculture sectors. Advertisements under this campaign appeared in national, regional and local newspapers and magazines over the course of the peak summer period, also providing information on how to report illegal dumping activity to the Environmental Protection Agency’s lo-call number 1850 365 121. The total cost incurred by my Department in relation to this campaign was less than €1,000 – these costs were associated with the professional costs of producing and sizing the advertisements.

In addition, National Spring Clean (NSC), run by An Taisce and co-financed by my Department, is a multi-sectoral initiative that promotes public awareness and participation in local litter clean-ups and awareness actions to improve the local environment.  The campaign, which includes a central role for local authorities to co-ordinate and assist events at local level, is traditionally run annually throughout the month of April. Volunteers are equipped with free materials donated by NSC sponsors and the collected litter is recycled or disposed of in partnership with local authorities. My Department provided funding of €250,000 and €225,000 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, for this initiative. Funding for 2013 has not yet been finalised.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as an independent public body under the aegis of my Department, has a role in providing guidance to the public and to industry on various environmental topics, including waste prevention and generating greater environmental awareness.  Its expenditure is detailed in its Annual Reports and Accounts, the most recent being in respect of 2011, copies of which have been laid before the Oireachtas and are also available on the Agency’s website, www.epa.ie

Emissions trading credits to the cement industry – 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether the current allocation of emissions trading systems credits to the cement industry to be appropriate, particularly in view of the fact that this allocation was based on the industry’s high sales levels in previous years and in view of reports that the cement industry is selling on these surplus credits.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The third phase of the EU Emissio ns Trading Scheme commenced on 1 January 2013 and will run over an eight year period to the end of 2020.

Following a major revision to the trading scheme, approved in 2009, the third phase is significantly different to the first two phases; key differences include –

1. a single EU-wide cap on emissions instead of twenty seven national caps;

2. auctioning, rather than free allocation , is now the default method of allocating allowances; and

3. in specific cases where allowances are still issued free of charge, harmonised allocation rules apply which are based on ambitious EU-wide benchmarks of emissions performance.

Competitiveness concerns are addressed in the case of installations deemed to be exposed to significant risk of carbon leakage. Where i nstallations concerned reach the relevant EU-wide benchmark in principle , they will receive a free allocation of allowances. Installations that fall short of the benchmark will receive a proportionately lower allocation of free allowances compared to their emissions, and therefore must reduce their em issions or buy allowances.

Under Commission Decision 2010/2/EU dated 24 December 2009, the manufacture of cement is a sector deemed to be exposed to a significant risk of carbon leakage.

As the third phase of the trading scheme is only operational for a matter of days, it would be premature to draw any conclusions regarding the appropriateness of the agreed EU-wide allocation methodology.

Treatment of unions in Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 – 6th February 2013

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 introduces new provisions along with amendments to the Electoral Acts to further enhance the openness and transparency of political funding in Ireland.

In response to the Programme for Government commitment on corporate donations the new provisions in the Act include a ban on the acceptance of donations over €200 for political purposes from a corporate donor unless the donor has registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission. This came into effect on 1 January 2013. Corporate donor is defined in the Act as meaning a body corporate, an unincorporated body of persons or a trust, which makes a donation.

Tenancy deposit protection scheme – 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is considering the introduction of a standardised private rental contract for residential property and a deposit scheme whereby deposits paid by renters are held in a neutral account.

Reply

Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Ms. J. O’Sullivan):

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 regulates the tenant-landlord relationship in the private rented residential sector. Under the Act a tenancy includes any periodic or fixed term tenancy whether oral, written or implied and a tenancy agreement includes an oral tenancy agreement. It is a matter for the tenant and landlord to agree the terms and conditions of a lease or tenancy agreement consistent with the Act and I do not propose to vary this arrangement.

On foot of the commitment in the Programme for Government 2011 to introduce a tenancy deposit protection scheme I asked the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) to commission research on such a scheme and to report back to me with recommendations. The final report and recommendations were submitted to me on 12 November 2012 and I am examining the report with a view to providing for the establishment of tenancy deposit protection in the context of the Oireachtas consideration of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012.

Employment practices in the civil services – 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there are any retired public sector workers from his Department, or any other part of the public sector, currently on his Department’s payroll, for example, for sitting on a committee or preparing a report, but not exclusively these two areas; the number on the payroll; the cost to his Department; the services being delivered for this money; and the way that the positions were originally advertised.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Retired public and civil servants are engaged from time to time by my Department in areas where specific expertise is required for a short fixed period, and these staff provide a level of knowledge, experience and background compatible with such requirements.

The abatement principle, which ensures that the fee paid plus pension does not exceed the rate of pay the pensioner would receive if he/she had continued service in their former post, applies to payments as appropriate . The tasks carried out include time bound tasks or projects such as membership of expert groups, occasional service on interview boards, value for money reviews and process audits.
There are currently 8 retired public servants working for my Department.

The nature of the work involved, the costs and method of appointment is set out in this table.

In addition to the above, t here are a number of retired public and civil servants carrying out work for the Department from time to time on a pro bono basis.

Pop-up shops – 16th January 2013

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider a proposal for pop-up shops as a way of helping villages deal with empty premises and young entrepreneurs get their business ideas established.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001.

Under current legislation the person liable for payment of rates is the person in occupation of a rateable property at the date of the making of the rate. The owner rather than the occupier may be liable for commercial rates if the property in question is unoccupied on the date of the making of the rate. Should a person’s occupancy commence after the date of the making of the rate then that person is not primarily liable for rates for that year.

Under the provisions of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970, a rating authority may make and carry out a scheme providing for the waiver by the authority of all or a portion of commercial rates due by ratepayers in respect of a specified class or classes of property. The making of such a scheme is subject to my consent as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. No rate waiver schemes have been consented to in respect of commercial property.

While matters relating to rates are kept under regular consideration in my Department, I have no immediate plans to bring forward legislative amendment in this area.

Manning levels in Dublin’s Fire and Rescue Services – 5th December 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on manning levels in Dublin City’s Fire and Resc ue Services (details supplied).

In the early 90’s a minimum manning level for the city’s’ Fire and Rescue services was negotiated, emphasis on the minimum. These levels were agreed between management and unions taking health and safety and operational issues at the time into account. Over the past 20 years, those levels have remained static (with the exception of the 2nd fire engine added in Tallaght and Swords going full-time), through the Capital’s expanse in population and urban sprawl. That said, the personnel of Dublin Fire Brigade have responded to, and dealt with, incidents of every description, fire, rescue, road traffic accident, ambulance, water rescue, etc. with the dedication and professionalism that you would expect from a Capital City’s’ emergency service

A solution recently proposed by DOE’s National Directorate and Fire Emergency Management Body (Keeping Communities Safe document) that addresses manning levels will have inevitable consequences. Should they be adopted, the minimum manning levels in the city will fall below minimum. Fire officer’s decisions to commit resources at incidents will be curtailed, due to the Incident Command systems and Standard Operational Guidelines in place. Any loss of life, damage to property or non-payment from insurance companies due to inadequate fire service cover as a result of these measures will not be the responsibility of fire service staff. Accountability will rest on your doorstep, for it will fall to you, as elected representatives, to explain to your constituents how and why fire cover in the Capital fell to these levels.

Minimum manning levels provide enough cover for “Safe Systems of Work” for all of us, firefighters and citizens alike, and to lessen them is to invite disaster. Do so at your peril. I am not scaremongering here, but giving an opinion based on reality, as I perceive it. As such, you can agree, or disagree, but please, do not dismiss lightly.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 492 of 27 November 2012 , which sets out the position in this matter.

Question No. 492 of 27 November 2012

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has received and reviewed the draft document by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, Keeping Communities Safe; if he is concerned by any proposals to reduce minimum manning levels in the Fire Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Thomas P. Broughan.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 27th November, 2012.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Management Board of m y Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management has approved a policy document called Keeping Communities Safe (KCS) which is intended to set the future direction of fire services in Ireland. The policy document seeks to define an integrated approach to fire safety by ensuring an appropriate incident response from the fire service while strengthening the service’s role in fire prevention and community fire safety. The KCS document is the outcome of a wide ranging review of fire services activities , and considers future roles and appropriate structures to deliver services effectively and efficiently. Its preparation involved board stateholder consultation and its provisions are in line with international best practice.

I will be bringing Keeping Communities Safe to the attention of Government and I expect to publish it as national policy in the near future.

Register of electors for Dublin South East – 20th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of electors in each of the categories denoted by the letters (L) (D) (E) on the voters register for the constituency of Dublin South East who have restricted voting because they are registered to vote in Local Elections only (L), to vote in local Dáil and European elections only (D), to vote in local and European elections only (E); and if he will now readjust the electorate and turnout percentages in the official results maintained by his Department for the recent referendum to reflect this; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of electors in each of the categories denoted by the letters (L) (D) (E) on the voters register for each of the Dáil constituencies, who have restricted voting because they are registered to vote in Local Elections only (L), to vote in local Dáil and European elections only (D), to vote in local and European elections only (E); and if he will now readjust the electorate and turnout percentages in the official results maintained by his Department for the recent referendum to reflect this.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Registration Authorities – County and City Councils – publish the register of electors annually on 1 February and it comes into effect fourteen days later on 15 February. The publication of the register requires the sending of a copy of the register for the relevant constituency to members of the Dáil, the Seanad, the European Parliament and local authorities. Registration Authorities also provide information on the register to my Department in February each year. Based on this information, the numbers available to me, both nationally and for the constituencies of Cork South West and Dublin South East, for each category of elector are as follows:

 The information provided by the Registration Authorities to my Department shows the number of electors registered each year on a constituency and administrative county basis. As the European and Local Election constituencies do not correlate to Dáil constituency boundaries, the information on the number of European and local government electors in the Dáil constituencies of Cork South West and Dublin South East has not been provided to my Department.

The electorate for the recent referendum, as published by the Referendum Returning Officer on www.referendum.ie includes the number of ‘presidential’ electors (that is those entitled to vote at a referendum) on the 2012/2013 register, which came into effect in February 2012, and, in addition, those added to the register by way of the supplement to the register.

Assets under control of the Temple Bar Cultural Trust – 15th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 428 of 12 June 2012, if he will provide a list of the assets under the control of the Temple Bar Cultural Trust; the money received by the Trust as a return on these assets; and when he will publish and make available to the public the Latitude report on the Trust.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 428 of 12 June 2012, the Temple Bar Cultural Trust organisation is a private limited company with the Dublin City Manager as the sole shareholder, and governance arrangements and financial management of the Trust are matters for Dublin City Council. I have no role in relation to these matters. Accordingly, the information sought is not available in my Department and may be obtained directly from Dublin City Council.

Public Sector Rostering – 6th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the sectors of the public sector that are currently employed on a roster basis and if there are any plans to remove employees from the rostering system.

Reply

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phi Hogan):

A roster system is in use in the local authority sector and in Met Éireann, a division of my Department. There are no plans at present to change those systems, which are necessary for business reasons. There are no employees employed on a roster basis in the State agencies under the aegis of my Department.

Memorandum of understanding and the establishment of larger retailers – 18th October 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Memorandum for Understanding agreed with the Troika includes provision for the establishment of certain larger retailers here.

Reply

The Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Jan O’Sullivan):

The Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Retail Planning   and accompanying Retail Design Manual   which I published on 1 May 2012 are aimed at:

· ensuring that the planning system plays a key role in supporting competitiveness in the    retail sector;

· advancing choice for the consumer while promoting and supporting the vitality and  viability of city and town centres; and,

·contributing to a high standard of urban design and encouraging a greater use of    sustainable transport.

The Guidelines take into account the recommendations of the Forfás s tudy : Review of the Economic Impact of the Retail Cap which is an evidence-based and focused study to analyse the potential economic impacts of eliminating the cap on the size of retail premises and is published on my Department’s website at www.environ.ie

. This s tudy was prepared i n response to the requirement in the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland for an economic analysis of the potential impact on competition and consumer prices of eliminating or relaxing the floorspace cap on retail premises .

On foot of the Forfás s tudy , and the public consultation process on the draft Guidelines, the convenience retail floorspace caps were amended rather than eliminated and proposed exceptions to the   6,000 square metres retail warehouse cap may be considered on the merits of individual development applications in the five National Spatial Strategy Gateway cities of Dublin, C ork, Waterford, Limerick/Shannon and Galway subject to the locational criteria set out in the Guidelines.

Measures to protect tenants from paying the household charge – 25th September 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the steps being taken to protect tenants from the paying the household charge in an instance where the landlord wrongly imposes the charge on a tenant.

Reply

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislation underpinning the household charge. Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

Section 1 of the Act provides a definition of “owner” for the purposes of the Act, which, in relation to a residential property, means—

(a) a person (other than a mortgagee not in possession) who—
(i) in the case of a residential property that is let under a lease or held under a tenancy for a term not exceeding 20 years, is entitled to receive the rent under that lease or tenancy whether in his or her own right or as trustee or agent for another person, or
(ii) in the case of a residential property that is not so let or so held, would, subject to paragraph (b), be so entitled if the residential property were so let or so held, whether in that person’s own right or as trustee or agent for another person,
or
(b) where the property is let under a lease or held under a tenancy for a term exceeding 20 years, the person (other than a mortgagee not in possession) who is the lessee under that lease or tenant under that tenancy.

A tenant holding a lease of less than 20 years’ duration, whether in public or in private rented accommodation, is not an owner of the property in which he or she is living and is therefore not liable in respect of that property. The household charge is a charge levied on the ownership of property, not on its occupation, and a non-compliant owner of a property, not the tenant, will be pursued for payment.

Upward on rent review clauses for legacy tenants – 27th September 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is in a position to instruct public bodies, for example local authorities, to waive their upward only rent review clause on legacy leases for tenants where there is no borrowing against the asset in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Jan O’Sullivan):

There are no upward only rent review cl auses for social housing tenants of local authorities. In so far as the question relates to commercial leases then it is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Any changes to Constituency Commission Report – 17th July 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in the legislation to be brought forward to implement the recent Constituency Commission Report, if any changes are to be made to the Constituency Commission Report, either in a substantive way, or at a technical level, for example, proposed names for new constituencies.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

An independent Constituency Commission was established on 27 July 2011 and it presented the Constituency Commission Report 2012 to the Chairman of the Dáil on 21 June 2012.  In accordance with section 9(3) of the Electoral Act 1997 the Constituency Commission stands dissolved on the presentation of its report.  I have no responsibility for the content of the report.

Following the publication of the Constituency Commission report the next step in accordance with accepted practice is for the preparation of a Bill in my Department to give statutory effect to the Commission’s recommendations. The final determination of the constituencies for Dáil Éireann is a matter for the Oireachtas to prescribe in legislation.  I will bring the necessary legislation forward in the coming months.

Number of local authority employees to complete performance management and development system assessments12th July 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of local authority employees completed performance management and development system assessments in 2011 by authority sector; if he will provide a breakdown of the scoring categories 5 to 1 in each authority sector.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each City and County Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible. Accordingly, the detailed information sought is not available in my Department.

A wage threshold to retain council housing – 3rd of July 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on introducing a wage threshold for those in council housing whereby those earning a higher wage would no longer be able to avail of council housing.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Sections of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2009 dealing with social housing support, and the related Social Housing Assessment Regulations, 2011, were commenced on 1 April 2011. The Regulations contain national eligibility criteria, including maximum income limits, for persons applying for social housing.

Households in receipt of social housing support are not required to have their income assessed in order to continue to receive social housing support. Where household income increases this is taken into account in determining the relevant differential rent.

Number of staff in the Department’s redeployment pool26th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons in his Department’s redeployment pool, including agencies responsible to it, that is, those persons who are to be redeployed as their current role is no longer necessary, but have not been.; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

There are nine persons in my Department available for redeployment. Six have already been redeployed to other Departments. The maximum time a person has been awaiting redeployment has been fifteen months and this arises due to the particular business specialty of the persons concerned.

In relation to the state agencies under the aegis of my Department thirty four people are available for redeployment with 28 deployed already.  The maximum waiting time for this sector is 12 months and again this is due to the specific nature of their business specialty.

The possibility of a road tax to incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles 26th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is considering using road tax or other charges as a way of incentivising the purchase and use of electric vehicles.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

A review of options for the improvement in Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) and motor tax revenues in future years was announced on Budget day, 6 December 2011.  Interested parties were invited to make submissions regarding the proposed revision in the current system of VRT and motor tax to adjust CO2 bands and rates in line with technological advances in motor vehicles while maintaining a positive environmental incentive to reduce transport emissions.

The public consultation period ran to 1 March 2012.  Submissions, including submissions in relation to electric vehicles, were received from motoring representative organisations, motor dealers and other elements of the motoring industry, and also from private individuals.   My Department and the Department of Finance are currently considering the submissions and possible options with a view to bringing proposals to Government.

Public sector staffing numbers – 12th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the percentage of staff working in the public sector, including in the civil services, that he deems to fall into the category of frontline staff, administrative, management, elected representative and any other relevant categories; and the way the pay budget is allocated across these categories in percentage and real terms in terms of as a proportion of the Department expenditure on salaries.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

As of March 2012 there were 28,811 whole time equivalent staff employed in local authorities. The table below provides a breakdown by category. Information on the allocation of pay by category of staff is not available in my Department.

Managerial

Clerical

/Admin

Professional

/Technical

Outdoor

Full- Time

Firefighter

Temp

/Contract

/Other

Total

235.8

10,172.65

3,955.89

11,885.58

1,170

1,391.02

28,810.94

The total number of elected members of local authorities is 1,627.

The cost, board members and planning powers of the Temple Bar Cultural Trust -12th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in relation to the Temple Bar Cultural Trust, the number of staff employed by the trust; the number of persons that sit on the board; the names of these persons; the salaries and expenses they receive; the planning powers the trust has; the total value of assets under the control of the trust; if he will provide a list of these assets; the money received by the trust as a return on these assets; the consultants engaged by the trust and the cost of same; when the trust was last audited; the amount of public money spent on maintaining the trust; the date on which this quango will be abolished; when he will publish and make available to the public the Latitude report on the trust.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Temple Bar Cultural Trust organisation is a private limited company with the Dublin City Manager as the sole shareholder. Therefore, in the first instance, governance arrangements and financial management of the Trust are a matter for Dublin City Council.

I understand that the current staffing level in Temple Bar Cultural Trust is 15. The Board Members are listed below. The fees for the new Chair are currently being addressed as are the fees for the new Board Members, other than City Councillors and City Council Staff Members.

The Trust has no planning powers. The total value of assets under the control of the trust, as per the 2011 financial statements, is €48.4 million which includes €9 million investment properties and €39.4 million of cultural properties.

There are currently no consultants engaged by the Trust. The accounts for 2011 have been audited by Smyth & Williamson Freaney  and are currently before the Board for approval. Temple Bar Cultural Trust is financed through its property income and receives no subsidy from Dublin City Council or central Government. The Trust,  however, receives various grants from Government Departments for particular pieces of work it undertakes throughout the year. An annual grant for Culture Night amounting to €100,000 is also received from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

No decision has yet been made on the future of the Trust. I understand that an independent consultancy report into the operation of the Trust, commissioned by Dublin City Council, was presented to the Council in 2011. The contents of the report were circulated and discussed in detail at a City Council meeting on 3 October 2011.  The City Manager has tasked the Board with examining the recommendations in the  report.

Board Members:
Chairman: Daithi O’Ceallaigh
Cllr. Oisin Quinn
Cllr. Mannix Flynn
Cllr.Maria Parodi
Cllr. Kieran Binchy
Mr. Ray Yeates, Dublin City Council Arts Officer
Mr. Declan Wallace, Dublin City Council Assistant City Manager
Mr. Alan Connolly, Formerly CEO Irish Public Bodies Mutual Insurances Ltd
Ms. Jane Daly, Irish Theatre Institue
Mr. Martin Harte, CEO, Temple Bar Traders Association
Mr. Joe Moreau, Byrne Moreau Connell Chartered Accountants
Ms. Marie Ostinelli, Founder Member Business to Arts
Ms. Ciara Sugrue, Dublin Tourism / Failte Ireland (Resigned, vacancy to be filled)
Mr. Dermot McLaughlin, Temple Bar Cultural Trust, CEO
Mr. Dara Connolly, Temple Bar Cultural Trust, Company Secretary

Responsibility for hiring staff at polling stations – 12th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the person responsible for hiring staff at the various polling booths and count centres for the recent referendum; if there was an obligation to hire persons on the live register over those who are currently in some form of paid employment; and if any members of the public sector were employed on the day separate from their existing contracts with the State.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The primary role of my Department in electoral matters is to provide an appropriate policy and legislative framework for a modern and efficient electoral system.  Within that framework, local returning officers are responsible for all matters in connection with the actual conduct of elections and referendums, including the selection, appointment and training of polling station and count staff in accordance with the relevant provisions of electoral law.  Accordingly, there is no information in my Department about the number of election staff chosen from the unemployed or employed, including the public sector.

To assist returning officers, my Department issues guidance to them in advance of each election and referendum. The guidance emphasises that the smooth conduct of polls is dependent on maintaining a cadre of sufficiently skilled and experienced people. Having regard to that overall objective, returning officers are advised to employ competent and efficient persons as polling staff and asked to give consideration, where possible, to employing suitable persons who are unemployed.

Staff in Donegal County Council earning in excess of €100,00 a year – 6th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide details of all positions in Donegal County Council earning more than €100,000; the amount they earn and the additional benefits available to them.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

There are currently three employees in Donegal County Council in receipt of salaries in excess of €100,000. These comprise the County Manager and two Directors of Service. County Managers and Directors of Service may submit claims in respect of travel and subsistence expenses incurred as part of their official duties in accordance with the relevant travel and subsistence circulars. All local authorities are obliged to ensure that only essential travel is undertaken and that the number of employees going on any official journey is kept to an absolute minimum. Local authorities are also obliged to ensure that related expenditure is critically appraised and monitored.

The possibility of introducing a deposit retention scheme as a means of mediation– 22nd March 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has considered the introduction of a deposit retention scheme whereby a third party, perhaps a public body such as the Private Residential Tenancies Board, would hold a tenant’s deposit and act as mediator in disputes that arise, as is the case in many other countries such as the UK and Australia..

Reply

Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Ms. J. O’Sullivan):

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 regulates the tenant-landlord relationship in the private rented residential sector. Under section 12 (1)(d) of the Act a landlord is obliged to promptly refund deposits unless, and in accordance with the provisions of the Act, there is rent or other charges or taxes owing or there is damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear.

My Department conducted a review of the Act in 2009 and the incorrect retention of deposits by landlords was identified in the review process as one of a range of issues that merited specific attention. In July 2011 the Government approved the drafting of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2011. My Department is currently liaising with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel regarding the drafting of the Bill.

The Programme for Government 2011 commits to the introduction of a deposit protection scheme and it is important that action in this regard is taken in the context of a strong evidence base. I have therefore asked the PRTB to commission analysis-based research on such a scheme and to report back to me with recommendations. I understand that the PRTB has recently awarded the tender for this research and I expect that the Board will revert to me with detailed research and recommendations in Autumn 2012.

Housing grants for older people -22nd March 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding assistance for urgent repair work in respect of a person (details supplied).

Reply

Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Ms. J. O’Sullivan):

The suite of grants include three separate grant measures; the Mobility Aids Grant scheme with grants of up to €6,000, the Housing Aid for Older People scheme with grants of up to €10,500 and the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability with grants of up to €30,000, depending on household income.

The Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability provide a range of grants for necessary improvement works or adaptations to houses in order to facilitate the continued independent occupancy of their own homes by older people and people with a disability.  The schemes are administered by Local Authorities and it is a matter for each local authority to determine how the funding is apportioned between the various grant measures and to manage the operation of the schemes in their areas from within the capital allocations provided by my Department.

Properties owned by charities that are exempt from the household charge – 19th April 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide details of charities and the types of accommodation owned by charities that are exempt from the household charge; the estimate of what this is worth in lost revenue and if they will also be exempt from the property tax.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge.

Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.  The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he/she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.Section 4 of the Act sets out the exemptions and waivers from the household charge.  In particular, section 4(1)(b) provides an exemption from the household charge where the owner is-

(i) a body corporate beneficially entitled in possession, and

(ii) an approved body within the meaning of section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

I have established an Inter-Departmental Group on Property Tax to consider the structures and modalities for an equitable valuation based property tax.  The Group will complete its work and make recommendations to me shortly. Following consideration of the Group’s recommendations, I will bring proposals to Government on the full property tax as soon as possible. It will then be a matter for the Government to decide on the structure and modalities of the full property tax.

Information on the household charge and property tax – 27th March 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide information on an issue in relation to the household charge and coming property tax (details supplied).

(A resident is wondering whether or not an exemption for either was, or is being, considered in relation to people who had paid stamp duty on new home purchases in the past five years. Any details or points of view of the Minister would be very much appreciated.)

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislation underpinning the household charge.

The household charge is framed on a self assessment basis at a point in time. It is a matter for those who own residential property liable to the charge to declare this and to pay the charge by the due date, 31 March 2012. The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides for a number of exemptions and waivers from payment of the household charge.

Interpretation of the legislation is a matter for legal advice in individual cases and ultimately a matter for the Courts.

The exemptions from payment of the household charge are –
· Residential properties that are part of the trading stock of a business and have not been sold or been the source of any income since construction,
· Residential property owned by a Minister of the Government, a housing authority or the Health Service Executive,
· Voluntary and co-operative housing,
· Residential property subject to commercial rates and wholly used as a dwelling,
· Residential property owned by certain charities or discretionary trusts, and
· Residential property which an owner has vacated due to long-term mental or physical infirmity (e.g. elderly person that has moved into a nursing home).

The waivers which apply concern –

· Owners of residential property entitled to mortgage interest supplement, and
· Owners of houses in certain unfinished housing estates.

I have no proposals to provide any further exemptions to the household charge.

I have established an Inter-Departmental Group on Property Tax to consider the structures and modalities for an equitable valuation based property tax.  The Group will complete its work and make recommendations to me by end April 2012. Following consideration of the Group’s recommendations, I will bring proposals to Government on the full property tax as soon as possible. It will then be a matter for the Government to decide on the structure of the full property tax.

Suggestions for the household charge – 27th March 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider a suggestion (details supplied) in relation to the household charge.

(To give people acting as executors of wills who are charged with selling a house on behalf of a deceased person an exemption from paying the Household charge and the 2nd house charge. This charge should not be waived but simply deferred until sale is completed and the charge could then be taken from the monies received from the sale.)

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, set out the legislation underpinning the household charge and the charge on non-principal private residences respectively.

Application of the legislation in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority.  Interpretation of the legislation is a matter for legal advice in individual cases and ultimately a matter for the Courts.

Both Acts contain common provisions dealing with the situation where a person who is the sole owner of a residential property dies.  The legislation provides that the personal representative of the deceased person shall not, in respect of that residential property, be liable to pay the household charge or the charge on non-principal private residences relating to a year in which the liability falls after the date of death of the deceased person and before the date of issue of a grant of representation to the estate of the deceased person.

The specific provisions are contained in section 4(3) of the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and, in relation to the charge on non-principal private residences, in section 4(7) of the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended.

In addition, both Acts provide that where a person who is the sole owner of a residential property dies and, at the date of his or her death, a household charge or a charge on non-principal private residence (and any related late payment penalties) remains unpaid in relation to that property, no further late payment penalties are payable in relation to that property until a grant of representation to the estate of the deceased person issues to the personal representative of such deceased person.

The personal representative of such deceased person is, as soon as a grant of representation to the estate of the deceased person issues to him or her, liable to pay to the relevant local authority the full amount due and owing by the deceased, at the date of his or her death, in respect of the household charge or the charge on non-principal private residences and any related late payment penalties.

Where the full amount owing is paid by the personal representative within 3 months of the date of issue of the grant of representation to the estate of the deceased, he or she shall have no further liability.

Where the full amount owing is not paid by the personal representative within 3 months of the date of issue of the grant of representation to the estate of the deceased, he or she is liable to pay late payment penalties, in addition to the full amount, from the date of issue of the grant of representation to the estate of the deceased.

These provisions are contained in section 7(3) – 7(6) of the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and section 6(3) – 6(6) of the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended.

A website to report local issues – 13 March 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update in the Government’s commitment to establish a website to assist residents in reporting local problems to their councils, with a guarantee that officials will respond within two working days; if there has been a delay in introducing such a system; and when such delays will be overcome.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in keeping with the Government’s commitment to establish a web based reporting platform to local authorities, his plans to provide a mobile application platform for citizens so that they can report local issues to the local authority in real time and providing GPS data, to assist the local authority in the running, maintenance and upkeep of the local area..

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will be instructing local authorities to adopt technology, for example mobile and web based reporting tools, that will facilitate easier and better reporting by citizens of problems in their local area, that is illegal dumping, potholes and so on, technology that will then feed into performance indicators for the local authorities, will improve their service delivery, and will result in an improved interaction between the local authority and local residents, as well as obvious benefits for local businesses in view of the improved services in the area..

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

I propose to take question Questions Nos.  395, 396 and 397 together.

Local authorities already have arrangements and applications in place which facilitate citizens in making complaints or suggestions or in reporting problems through various mediums, including by post, phone, text, fax, e-mail and on-line through their websites.

In the context of the commitment in the Programme for Government, my Department is working with local authorities in developing options for the enhancement of these arrangements which will further assist citizens in availing of local authority services and in reporting problems or faults to their local authority.

This has included engagement with the County and City Managers’ Association and bilateral discussions with South Dublin County Council who have piloted an enhanced solution the www.Fixyourstreet.ie website which allows members of the public notify non-emergency issues such as graffiti, road defects, street lighting, drainage, litter and illegal dumping.  To date, in excess of 2,400 reports have been uploaded onto the website.  The average response time of South Dublin County Council to the queries raised in the last month (12 February to 12 March) was 1.3 days, less than the two working days deadline.

South Dublin County Council is currently assisting other local authorities with becoming involved with the FixYourStreet project and in this context, has recently facilitated two FixYourStreet information seminars (in December 2011 and February 2012) and plans to hold another next month. South Dublin County Council is also available to assist local authorities with technical or logistical issues around FixYourStreet.ie.  I am given to understand that another local authority anticipates going live next month once the interface between their Customer Relationship Management software application and FixYourStreet is upgraded.  I am advised that this will facilitate further roll-out to other local authorities.

Gated communities and the household charge – 28th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the consideration that was given and the consideration being given in relation to the household charge and property tax for persons living in communities with privately maintained infrastructure, for example a gated community where a management company is responsible for maintenance of roads and other amenities..

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge.  Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

Revenues from the household charge support the provision of local services. Internationally, local services are administered by local authorities and financed by local service charges. In Ireland, local authorities are responsible for, among other services, public parks; libraries; open spaces and leisure amenities; planning and development; fire and emergency services; maintenance and cleaning of streets and street lighting. These facilities benefit everyone.

I have recently established an inter-Departmental expert Group to design an equitable property tax having regard to its terms of reference. This Group has been asked to report to me by end April, 2012. I will then bring proposals to Government for decisions on the structure and modalities of the property tax.

Classification of the Swan River, a drain or a river – 22nd February 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will resolve the situation between his Department and the Office of Public Works regarding the official status of the Swan River, Dublin, if it is considered a drain or a river, as clarification of this matter is preventing progress in relation to flood protection alleviation measures and other necessary works..

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

I am not aware of any dispute between the Office of Public Works and my Department with regard to the status of the Swan River.

The river has, however, been the subject of discussions between Dublin City Council and the Office of Public Works, whose responsibilities include coordinating the activities of Government Departments, local authorities and other bodies in relation to flood risk management.

The river has been culverted by the local authority as part of it’s urban drainage responsibilities for the area, in effect incorporating the river wholly, or practically wholly, into the urban drainage system which was designed, constructed and is maintained by the local authority.

I understand that Dublin City Council is currently developing proposals for flood mitigation works for the river.

Transparency standards within the planning department of Dublin City Council – 31st January 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Planning and Enforcement Department within Dublin City Council is self-regulating; and if standards of transparency exist within this Department..

Reply

Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Ms. J. O’Sullivan)

Planning authorities are independent statutory bodies, with democratically elected councils and their own management structures to carry out their statutory duties. The Planning and Development Act 2000 extended the rules relating to ethics for planning authority staff. Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001 introduced a comprehensive ethics regime for councillors and local government employees which came into effect on 1 January 2003. This regime includes annual declaration of interests, disclosure of interests as a matter arises and a public register of interests. This regime was further enhanced by the national Codes of Conduct for Councillors and Employees.

In proceedings under the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 2010, where there is proof that certain persons in public office have received monies or other benefit from a person who has an interest in the outcome of their decisions, including planning decisions, there is a presumption that such payments were given and received corruptly.

Does the property tax apply to vacant properties – 12th January 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a property tax will apply to vacant residential properties, that are not rented and are up for sale.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

It will be a matter for the Government to decide on the scope and application of the property tax to replace the interim household charge in due course.

Situation with similar planning applications for the same property -15th December 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if two similar planning applications are put up on one site, and if an objection is lodged for one application, does it automatically apply as an objection for the second.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Article 29 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001-2011 provides that any person or body, on payment of the prescribed fee, may make a submission or observation in writing to a planning authority in relation to a planning application within the period of 5 weeks beginning on the date of receipt by the authority of the application.

The submission is made in relation to a particular application which appears on the planning register under its own reference number.  A planning authority or An Bord Pleanála will not associate the submission with any other application.

While there is not a limit to the number of planning applications that may be submitted in relation to a particular site, section 37(5)(a) of the Planning and Development Act provides that no application for permission for the same development or for a development of the same description as an application which is the subject of an appeal may be made before the appeal is dealt with by the Board.

If a subsequent application is made for a similar development on the same site it is of course open to anyone who made a submission on a previous application to make a submission on the subsequent application under the same conditions provided for by article 29 of the Regulations, including payment of the prescribed fee.

Planning applications – 29th November 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the practice when two similar planning applications are put up at the same property, an objection to one planning application has no bearing on the other application; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

It is not clear what practice is being referred to in the question. A planning authority is required to deal with any planning application in accordance with planning legislation, including the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended.

National Housing Agency building in Milltown – 24th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the situation regarding the National Housing Agency building beside the Milltown Luas station on Richmond Avenue South, Dublin 6.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The disposal by the National Building Agency (NBA) of their offices at ‘Hatherton’, Richmond Avenue South, Milltown, Dublin 6 is a matter in the first instance for the Board of the NBA. However, I understand that the offices in question are currently in the process of being sold.

Climate Bill before the Dáil – 23rd November 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to bring proposals for a Climate Bill before the Dáil committee for the Environment before the UN talks on climate change begin in Durban in December.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Climate Policy Review was published on 3 November 2011 and is available on my Department’s website at www.environ.ie.

Do water charges apply to vacant rental properties – 25th October 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if water charges will apply to vacant rental properties that are yielding no income and are not in use.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, should water charges apply to vacant properties, if the owners of these properties will have the right to have the water turned off.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

I propose to take Questions Nos 368 and 369 together.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the EU/IMF includes a commitment to introduce water charges for households. The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water. The objective is to install water meters in households connected to public water supplies and move to a charging system based on usage. My Department is currently preparing a strategy to implement these propsals and further details will be announced following the Government’s consideration of the proposals.

No appeal for decisions made by rent allowance scheme – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that decisions made by the rental allowance scheme cannot be appealed to the Ombudsman for Public Services, unlike decisions made by other local Government agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Mr. W. Penrose):

In general, decisions made by public bodies, including housing authorities, can be referred to the Office of the Ombudsman.

In relation to tenancies under the Rental Accommodation Scheme, all such tenancies are residential tenancy agreements governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.  Where disputes arise between the landlord and the tenant each has recourse to refer the matter to the Private Residential Tenancies Board under the provisions of the Act.

How will the household charge be implemented – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 524 of 14 September 2011, if any decisions has been made on the way household charge will be implemented.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Further to the reply to Question No. 524 of 14 September 2011, the legislation to underpin the household charge will contain the precise details of the charge and will be published and brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas shortly.

It is intended that the legislation will provide that the household charge will be administered on a self assessment basis and it will be a matter for owners of residential property to register and pay the charge by the due date.  In the event of non payment, penalties will apply and unpaid household charges will remain as a charge against the property concerned

I recognise that the charge, although modest at €100, represents an additional cost for homeowners and it is proposed to facilitate homeowners by allowing it to be paid in four instalments.

Similar to the charge on non-principal private residences, an online system is being developed by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) to enable homeowners pay the household charge by credit card/debit card.   In addition, homeowners will be able to make payments by cheque, postal order, etc through the post to the LGMA.  A bureau will be established in the LGMA to administer the charge on a shared service/agency basis for all local authorities.

Maintenance of public toilet facilities – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the provisions in place to ensure all public toilets are in working order and well maintained and if there are any proposals to increase the number of public toilet facilities.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Section 67 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that a local authority may take such measures, engage in such activities or do such things (including the incurring of expenditure) as it considers necessary or desirable to promote the interests of the local community in relation to matters, including inter-alia, the public use of amenities such as sanitary accommodation.

It is a matter for each local authority to determine the extent to which these facilities should be provided and to allocate resources accordingly.

Gardaí abroad unable to vote in Presidential election – 20th September 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason gardai serving on UN or EU missions abroad are unable to vote in the presidential election.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Electoral law provides for postal voting for specified categories of persons, including members of the Defence Forces and Irish Diplomats serving abroad. I will consider extending the categories of voters for which such arrangements should be put in place to Gardaí serving abroad in the context of any future amendments to electoral law.

Criteria to determine the rate of property tax – 14th September 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will indicate the criteria that will be used to determine the amount of property tax to be paid when the measure comes into effect.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

I presume the Question refers to the household charge.

The EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland commits the Government to the introduction of a property tax for 2012.  The Programme reflects the need, in the context of the State’s overall financial position, to put the funding of locally delivered services on a sound financial footing, improve accountability and better align the cost of providing services with the demand for such services.

In light of the complex issues involved, a property tax, requiring a comprehensive property valuation system, would take time to introduce and accordingly, to meet the requirements in the EU/IMF Programme, the Government has decided to introduce a household charge in 2012.  The household charge is an interim measure and proposals for a full property tax will be considered by the Government in due course.

The charge will be set at €100 and will apply to the majority of the households in the country, subject to a limited number of exemptions and waivers.  It is expected to raise some €160 million and it is the intention that the revenues from the charge will support the provision of local services. Internationally, local services are administered by local authorities and financed by local service charges. In Ireland, local authorities are responsible for, among other services, fire and emergency services, maintenance and cleaning of streets, street lighting, public parks, waste services, libraries, open spaces and leisure facilities, etc.

Legislation to underpin the household charge will be brought before the Oireachtas shortly.

Permission for Gardaí to enter a building with a sounding alarm – 7th July 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce regulations or laws to allow Gardaí enter a premises in which an alarm has been sounding continuously to deactivate said alarm.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to address noise pollution through the introduction of fixed payment notices (also known as on the spot fines) and provision for mediation between neighbours.  The development of new noise legislation by my Department will be considered in the context of this commitment. As indicated in the Government Legislation Programme published on 5 April 2011, it is not possible at this time to indicate when the legislation will be published.

The current position is that all external alarms installed on premises after 1 August 2006 must comply with the current Irish Standard – IS EN50131. This standard specifies a maximum duration of 15 minutes for the sounding of external alarms on buildings.

Construction of a sewerage plant in Arklow – 7th July 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if progress has been made regarding the construction of a sewerage treatment plant in Arklow, County Wicklow.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010 – 2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Wicklow.  Three contracts under the Arklow Sewerage Scheme are included in the Programme amongst the list of contracts in the county to start in the period 2010 – 2012.

The major contract relates to the proposed wastewater treatment plant.  I understand that the unsuccessful applicant to the High Court for a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant approval for the wastewater treatment plant was given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and has exercised that option.   The hearing was held on 2 December 2009 and the Council is awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in the matter.   Further progress on this element of the scheme together with the contract for the Northern and Southern Interceptor Network will be dependent on the decision of the Court.

The planning of the proposed contract for the upgrade of South Green and Harbour Road Network is under consideration by the Council.

Class of property that falls under waiver for commercial rates – 30th June 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 130 of 16 June 2011, the classes of property that fall under the waiver scheme for commercial rates under the provisions of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970, as referred to in the second part of his answer of 16 June 2011; if he or his predecessor have consented to any such schemes in the past seven years and if he has considered extending this scheme to classes or stages of business activity, for example, new businesses employing less than ten persons.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Local Government (Rates) Act 1970 does not specify the classes of property and of ratepayers that may be included in a rate waiver scheme.  Such a scheme is made by a local authority as a reserved function and considerations as to the specified class or classes of property and of ratepayers to be included in the scheme are matters for the local authority.  The making of such a scheme is subject to my consent as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

No rates waiver schemes have been consented to in the past seven years.

I recognise that these are difficult economic times for many businesses and I will continue to keep all matters relating to rates under regular consideration in my Department.

Publication of information relating to the Dormant Accounts Board – 30th June 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 66 of 26 May 2011, if the legislation presently being prepared that relates to the dissolution of the Dormant Accounts Board is scheduled for publication during the summer session or if he intends to publish at a later date in the lifetime of the 31st Dáil; when money within the account will be available for disbursement; if he can explain past application procedures and if community projects are entitled to allocation under part 6 of the Acts, including capital schemes.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2011 is at an advanced stage of preparation and remains on schedule for publication during the current parliamentary session.

The Dormant Accounts budget for my Department for 2011 is fully committed to existing projects, and my priority must be to ensure that legal contractual commitments are met.

Under past application procedures, the Government made decisions on spending from the Fund, with three Interdepartmental Committees established to oversee the disability, educational disadvantage and social and economic disadvantage categories of Dormant Accounts Funding. Applications received in response to an invitation under section 43 of the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2005 were assessed in accordance with published criteria and the results of the assessments were reported to the Minister.

Following receipt of the results of each assessment and on agreement by the relevant Interdepartmental Committee, the Minister must submit to Government a list of the measures and projects recommended for disbursement from the account and the amounts proposed to be disbursed. The list of approved measures and projects and the amounts to be disbursed is laid before each house of the Oireachtas and is made publicly available.

Community projects are eligible for funding under Part 6 of the 2005 Act, including capital schemes; there are currently no measures open for application under the Dormant Accounts Fund.

Who will qualify for a free water allowance – 23rd June 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way he will determine the free water allowance to be granted to each household before such time as conservation charges are incurred.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

The Progamme for Government provides for the introduction of a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water.  The objective is to install water meters in households and move to a charging system based on usage above a free allowance. My Department is currently preparing a strategy to implement these proposals, including the level of the free allowance and the potential impacts on vulnerable groups. Further details will be made available when the Government has considered the proposals.

Properties that are exempt from commercial rates – 16th June 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the classes of property that may fall under the waiver scheme for commercial rates under the provisions of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970 and if he has considered extending this scheme to classes or stages of business activity.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001.  The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.

Under the provisions of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970, a rating authority may make and carry out a scheme providing for the waiver by the authority of all or a portion of commercial rates due by ratepayers in respect of a specified class or classes of property.  The making of such a scheme is subject to my consent as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Waiver scheme for commercial rates – 16th June 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the classes of property that may fall under the waiver scheme for commercial rates under the provisions of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970 and if he has considered extending this scheme to classes or stages of business activity.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001.  The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.

Under the provisions of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970, a rating authority may make and carry out a scheme providing for the waiver by the authority of all or a portion of commercial rates due by ratepayers in respect of a specified class or classes of property.  The making of such a scheme is subject to my consent as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Potential waiver scheme for new business owners – 9th June 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has considered the introduction of a waiver scheme, or deferred payment scheme, in relation to council rates for start up businesses employing less than ten persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001.  The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.

Under the provisions of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970, a rating authority may make and carry out a scheme providing for the waiver by the authority of all or a portion of commercial rates due by ratepayers in respect of a specified class or classes of property.  The making of such a scheme is subject to my consent as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

There is currently no legal provision to introduce a national waiver scheme for rates. While matters relating to rates are kept under regular consideration in my Department, I have no immediate plans to bring forward legislative amendment in this area.

Guidance for rate payers in arrears – 21st April 2011,

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to give a policy direction to City and County Council managers regarding the pursuit of rate payers who are in arrears with their payments but who are making regular payments, or portions thereof, to the best of their ability, and in doing so are both keeping their businesses in operation with all the resultant benefits accruing to the wider economy while also recognising and maintaining their financial commitments to the Council and to the State.

Reply

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Phil Hogan):

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001.  I have no direct involvement in the collection of rates, which is a matter for each individual local authority.

Every effort is being made by my Department and the agencies under its aegis to progress these redeployments in line with the agreed procedures.