Adjournment Debate. - Ballymun (Dublin) Living Conditions.

I should like to thank the Chair for giving me permission to raise this matter and to indicate that I propose, with the agreement of the House, to share my time with Deputies Flaherty and Michael Barrett.

In September 1987 the people of Ballymun came together with the statutory organisations, local community organisations and the TDs for the area, to establish a task force. The purpose of the task force was not to produce another report about Ballymun, of which there were more than enough, telling us what was wrong. The idea was to draw together the wisdom of those reports and the experience of the people of the area to produce an action programme for the Ballymun area which would lead to a renewal of the area. They worked so well and so hard together that within six months they had an interim report and proposals to present to the Minister for the Environment. The Minister duly endorsed them and promised to provide funds to the tune of £4.5 million. Subsequently that sum of money was reduced for the year 1989 to £0.345 million. We did not make too much of a fuss about that because we knew that the £4.5 million could not be spent in one year.

We were pleased with the Minister's commitment within six months of the report of the task force, indeed, the people of the area were pleased with the Minister's commitment. The Minister visited the area and the assistant city manager for Dublin Corporation declared that this was a new dawn for Ballymun. We were delighted with the decision and the people of the area waited each day for the work to start but as we approach the end of February 1990 work has not started.

The task force have followed the conditions laid down by the Minister with regard to consultation and the involvement of local people and local organisations. They followed their requirements in regard to trying to get in place a local maintenance structure for the area. They are at a loss to know why this necessary work to revive the Ballymun estate has not yet started. We were told that the first phase would start by July 1988. That was deferred to the autumn of 1988 and then we were told it would start in early 1989. That was deferred to the middle of 1989 and then to the end of 1989. Finally, tenders were sought for the work and although the officials of Dublin Corporation have a negotiated tendering procedure, the Department insisted on public tendering. Apparently that failed. The two companies which applied were told that they were uncompetitive. The whole business has now gone back into the melting pot.

On 29 January the corporation were informed that within a matter of days permission would be granted by the Department for the corporation to retender the work. Three weeks later the corporation still did not have sanction from the Department for the tendering of the work. I might well be forgiven for saying, what more can one expect because bureaucracy tends to work in a certain way and it is very hard to force it to work any faster than it is accustomed to working, but more than two years is too long for the people of Ballymun. They were led to believe from the start that once they got together this work would get under way.

I am appealing to the Minister to give permission tonight or tomorrow morning to the corporation to issue the tender documents for the contracts. There are two sections to the contract and this seems to be creating a problem for the Department. There is surplus remedial work to be done as well as restructuring work to be done and apparently the Department have insisted that the two must be brought together in order to have some illusory savings. As far as we can gather there are no savings involved. If the Department continue to insist on these two items being kept together it will be October at least before work starts in Ballymun. There is considerable annoyance and frustration in Ballymun at the way this matter has been delayed, not by the people in the area, not by the corporation, but by the Department of the Environment.

I am tonight pleading with the Minister to give permission for these contracts to be put out to tender so that the people of Ballymun can see something actually happening and some result for all the hard work they have put into producing a plan for Ballymun over the past two and a half years.

Deputy Flaherty rose.

I had no intimation that anyone else was involved in this debate.

As you were changing seats with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle I indicated I wished to share some of my time with Deputy Flaherty, and Deputy Barrett also if he wished to avail of it.

Did the Deputy indicate that at the commencement?

I take it the agreement of the House was forthcoming for that?

I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, and Deputy De Rossa for allowing me and my colleague from the area to share his time. The development of the task force in Ballymun was a unique experience. It was a unique joining together of State bodies, community bodies, public representatives, the health board and the local authority in a way I had never experienced in any other project in the city in my ten years in local politics. It led to great hope for Ballymun and that tremendous expectation built up confidence.

The extent of the delay outlined by Deputy De Rossa has left a constituency of people who need a great deal of support very frustrated, very angry and very confused. They can understand on paper some of the technical explanations but are really fearful that the commitments entered into will not be honoured.

Without going into history, what is required of the Minister to renew this faith is some action — some earthmoving equipment in Ballymun before the end of May. The community met and said they would give the Minister six more months from the beginning of January to prove to them that there is some substance to all the promises that have been made.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy but I must say that some two minutes now remain of the time available to the Deputies named.

Does Deputy Barrett wish to avail of some of the time?

It is extremely important that that time scale should be met by the Minister. What is needed from him is an instruction to his Department that the maximum flexibility in the handling of the tenders be given to Dublin Corporation. If, as Deputy De Rossa has said, the two tenders are rolled in together the relatively minor contract that could realistically get under way by May would be tied up with the other which cannot realistically get under way until the end of the year and this would, again, lead to frustration. The danger is that the wonderful co-ordination that has been built up and the network of local involvement will break up, will dissipate, and it will be extremely difficult to build up again because they will not believe the promises that have been made and dishonoured so often. It is extremely important that we see something on the ground very soon.

I would like to thank Deputy De Rossa for offering me some of his time and, indeed, the Minister for giving me a few minutes of his time. I will be very brief. I would like to say, like the other Deputies, that I am disappointed this work has not started before now. I am just as disappointed as the other people but, perhaps, I understand the situation more than the other Deputies. I want to say again that at all times I have stood up to defend the Minister not alone in this House but in other places and I compliment him for his response at the outset to the Ballymun task force. He met them on three occasions. On the third occasion he went to Ballymun to the final meeting. He came at my request to do a tour of Ballymun. I do not think there is any other Minister in this or in any other Government who has done anything like that before and I compliment him for that at the start.

There were two sections of work to be done — external works and refurbishment. I understand that the main reason for the delay is the fact that an inflationary tender was sent to the Department of the Environment. The officials there estimated that it was more than double the cost of what the estimate should be. Should we say the officials in the Department of the Environment were wrong not to accept that tender? Had they accepted it no money would be left for the remainder of the work. I am anxious that all the work be done, both the external works and the refurbishment work. The officials in the Department of the Environment went back to Dublin Corporation officials and told them they wanted a tender. I understand they wanted a tender for both works where the main contractor would sub-contract out the external works in a tender that would be far less than what had been tendered previously. That is the situation. I hope that very shortly the matter will be resolved for all of us. I know many people are disappointed that the work has not started before now. People have not helped by going to the press and the television and making statements.

It has not helped the situation.

We probably would not be here tonight if it did not.

It is a different matter. The Deputy quite rightly asked to have it raised on the Adjournment. As late as last week there was another programme on Ballymun refurbishment. As I said at a meeting of the Dublin Corporation, there are other refurbishment schemes throughout the city which did not have all this publicity.

The Minister will be able to explain to us in a few minutes whether I am right or wrong but that is what I have understood. I have been told by senior officials in the housing department of Dublin Corporation that the officials in the Department of the Environment could not accept the tender because it was far in excess of what it should be. I thank the Minister for giving me some of his time to say a few words.

First, I thank those who contributed. I would like to make it clear that the management and, of course, the maintenance of housing estates is the responsibility of Dublin Corporation. The planning and implementation of the refurbishment programme for the Ballymun flats complex are also matters for the corporation. The programme was drawn up in close co-operation with the tenants of the estate and it has the full backing of the local community. No one could be more anxious then myself to see it go ahead. I have a firm commitment to the refurbishment of Ballymun and I want the job done. It is a matter of considerable disappointment to me personally that the work has not yet started. The money is available to do the job.

In October last the corporation sought my approval to the acceptance of a tender for phase 1A of the project. At this stage I think it is only right to say that the quotations obtained by means of the limited tendering procedure used by the corporation for the carrying out of this relatively small initial phase were a cause of serious concern to me. Indeed, despite reductions negotiated by the corporation, who also considered the quotation as being very high, the sum involved was some 75 per cent greater than the corporation's earlier estimate of the cost of the work. This development has grave implications for the cost of the overall refurbishment programme for Ballymun which, at the outset, was estimated at over £50 million.

Following correspondence and discussions with the corporation I informed them on 20 December that because of the unacceptably high cost I was unable to approve the proposal to accept the tender. At the same time, and in order to avoid further delays, I approved the completion of the contract documentation for the entire phase — that is phase 1 — at an estimated cost of some £6 million, including the works included in phase 1A. The documentation has not yet been received from the corporation.

In the meantime, the corporation have again sought to reactivate phase 1A while the tender documentation for the entire phase 1 is being prepared. The money is available to pay for the total phase 1A once the documentation is received from the corporation. Their proposal to seek open competitive tendering based on a performance specification for the work is being examined and I will be in a position to notify them of my decision in the matter within the next few days. I am disappointed that the documentation for the entire phase 1 is not yet available but I can assure all the Deputies who have contributed and those members of the local community who have put so much work into the project that this documentation will be dealt with as quickly as possible as soon as it is received from the corporation.

I have previously made it clear that as an integral part of the remedial scheme the corporation will have to put in place the management and maintenance procedures which will ensure that expenditure under schemes will produce worth-while and lasting improvements to conditions in the estate. On 13 November last I received from the corporation an outline of their proposals in this regard but I am still awaiting the final details. This matter has been raised here on a number of occasions; the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Tunney, has been in touch with me on a number of occasions and Deputy Michael Barrett waylays me every week about this project. I want to say to the Deputy and to his colleagues that no delay is being put in place by me or my Department to keep this project from going ahead. I want the phase 1 documentation to be ldoged in my office as early as possible. I will consider phase 1A in the next few days.

I have to emphasise that responsibility for maintenance and improvement of their dwelling rests with the housing authorities. In no way should the remedial works scheme be seen as a substitute for a properly planned and implemented housing maintenance and management programme. It is designed to assist authorities to tackle designated major housing refurbishment projects and as part of their initiatives to secure improvements in this area. I will shortly be notifying the corporation of their 1990 allocation under the remedial works scheme. So far the corporation have received some £8 million under the scheme to apportion to their various approved projects. The expectations of Ballymun will be satisfied and the Minister's promise in this matter will be honoured.