Topical Issue Debate

Waste Disposal

I welcome the opportunity to raise this extremely important issue. The tyre industry accepts that it must comply with duty of care obligations and protect the environment. All tyres collected, recycled or repossessed should be disposed of or reused in an environmentally friendly manner using acceptable methods, whether recycled or used as fuel in cement kilns. The proposal by the Department will have serious consequences for the tyre industry, including potential job losses. Contrary to the Department's ambition for the new scheme, it could be destructive to the environment because it will drive suppliers to stockpile used tyres before illegally dumping them.

Under the proposal, the cost of disposing of tyres will increase by in excess of 200%. Under the current self-compliant system, tyre wholesalers and retailers are required to dispose of waste tyres via licensed collectors. The average cost of disposing of a tyre is €1, which is not passed on to customers. Under the new scheme, a full producer responsible initiative will apply and Repak and WEEE Ireland will be appointed as the monopoly collectors and recyclers for the entire industry and an across-the-board green tax will be imposed on tyres to cover the costs of recycling.

The Minister circulated a letter to the industry in which he referred to the "formalisation" of the existing charge. This is factually incorrect because the current charge of €1 is dictated by market forces and competition for the collection and disposal of used tyres. Under the new scheme, the charge will increase to €3 for a car tyre, €15 for a truck tyre and €20 for a tyre used in agricultural vehicles. The trebling of the cost of disposing of tyre waste amounts to another stealth tax on hard-pressed families. Moreover, the charges are only fixed for a period of two years, after which the European average will dictate the charge.

Given the nature of the haulage industry, businesses which dispatch vehicles across the Border or to the United Kingdom and other European countries will have tyres replaced in other jurisdictions where the charge does not apply. The tyre industry informs me that, under the new scheme, it will cost an additional €200 to change a set of truck tyres. It will be just as convenient for haulage companies to purchase tyres in Britain or on the Continent as it will be to replace them here. This will have a detrimental impact on tyre retailers who employ in excess of 200 people in my home town. This is a good industry providing good employment and it will be detrimentally affected by the new measures.

The new scheme will also have a detrimental impact on the environment as the substantial increase in the cost of tyre disposal will result in service providers stockpiling tyres. They will then be transferred to people who will not dispose of them in an environmentally friendly manner. The Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, alluded to one such example, the burning of tyres at Hallowe'en, in an earlier conversation with me.

The tyre industry acknowledges that the current system is not fit for purpose and needs to be strengthened. If the Minister had been present - I acknowledge that I received a call from his office to apologise in advance for his absence - I would have asked him to engage with the industry to ensure any new scheme was fit for purpose, would not have a detrimental effect on the industry and would not cost consumers more or place jobs at risk.

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, is overseas and the Minister of State at the Department, Deputy Paudie Coffey, was unable to come to the House owing to a family bereavement. I apologise on behalf of both Ministers for their absence.

I am pleased to provide an update on the establishment of a producer responsibility initiative, PRI, for waste tyres. As part of the review of the producer responsibility initiative, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government commissioned a major review of the waste tyre sector. Published in November 2013, this report concluded that the current system is not functioning as intended, with a lack of basic information, poor structure and poor environmental outcomes in the form of large stockpiles of waste tyres, and a substantial proportion of waste tyres unaccounted for. In addition, the taxpayer often pays twice for the treatment of waste tyres, first, through the application of an existing fee at the point of purchase and, second, to support local authority clean-up operations when waste tyres are dumped. The report also identified significant non-compliance among those with responsibilities under the current waste tyre regulations.

To address these significant shortcomings, the Department has been working, in full consultation with all parts of the tyre industry, to assist it in putting in place a system of producer responsibility, in line with similar systems that apply to other sectors, to provide for the collection, sorting and management of the waste they produce in an environmentally sound and effective manner. This is in line with the polluter pays principle, a firmly established feature of both European and domestic waste policy and legislation. The implementation of the new scheme will require an overhaul of existing structures, which the Government believes can be achieved without either distorting the tyre market in lreland, encouraging customers to buy tyres outside the jurisdiction or causing widespread job losses in the sector. Moreover, such a scheme can be established without introducing new costs and instead by effectively formalising the existing charge that is already applied to almost all tyre purchases.

Arising from the work of the tyres working group, the Department received proposals for the future management of waste tyres from the Independent Tyre Wholesalers & Retailers Association, ITWRA, and the Irish Tyre Industry Association, ITIA. Having considered these proposals in detail, the Minister recently informed all sections of the tyre industry of his decision to establish a full producer responsibility initiative scheme for waste tyres.

The initiative will comprise a number of features.

There will be single compliance scheme for end-of-life tyres to be operated by Repak, the option to "self-comply" under the regulations will be ended and the existing recycling charge will be formalised into a visible environmental management charge to protect the consumer and to put an end to the taxpayer being obliged to pay on the double. The level of this charge will be set by the Department and reviewed in two years. As part of the detailed design of the scheme, the Department is considering, in consultation with the tyre and waste industry, whether the funding model is predicated upon a front-loaded or back-loaded model. In addition, there will be a full audit, registration and reporting component, a so-called "black box", with a role for the WEEE Register Society. The new regime, including enforcement and compliance measures, is to be underpinned by a robust legislative base, including fixed penalty notices for certain breaches.

I thank the Minister of State. While I accept this is not his direct responsibility, I ask him to bring back to the Minister the points I intend to raise. The Minister of State referred to the extensive consultation the Department is having with the industry. However, the representative body that represents more than 90% of the service providers, the Independent Tyre Wholesalers and Retailers Association, has pulled out of the negotiations. The association has pulled out of the consultation agreement because it believes it is mere window-dressing and the Department is not listening to any of the proposals it is making. The association itself acknowledges and recognises there are shortcomings within the existing system. However, the association does not believe that it is necessary to throw out the baby with the bath-water. It does not believe that one must give a monopoly to one particular group, namely, Repak and WEEE, to look after the disposal of tyres. Ultimately, all Members are aware that where there is a monopoly and where prices are guaranteed, what happens is that the price rises continually. Moreover, it will have a devastating impact on and consequences for employment within the sector.

As I already have stated, there may be compliance problems with the system that is in place at present but they arise more from the lack of enforcement of the current legislation than from a problem with the system itself. The monitoring of tyres can be improved without giving a market monopoly to Repak. The Minister should give consideration to strengthening the current system to allow competition among licensed contractors and to imposing stronger sanctions for non-compliance. In the case of people who do not comply with the existing system, sanctions should be introduced because at present, there are none and there is no incentive for people to comply. The introduction of sanctions would ensure that people who were non-compliant would be obliged to shape up fairly quickly or else they no longer would be in business. Moreover, mandatory registration should be introduced to ensure compliance by having all collectors monitored. This system is in place in the United Kingdom and Germany. Germany possibly has the largest tyre industry in Europe and if it is good enough there, it can be good enough here in Ireland.

Other Members of the House have requested the Minister, Deputy Kelly, to reopen engagement with the largest representative of the tyre industry and I ask the Minister of State to revert to the Minister, Deputy Kelly, and ask him to consider this again. Members do not wish to see the imposition of a further stealth tax on already hard-pressed consumers. They do not wish to have people forced into the shadow economy or the black market, in which tyres will be stockpiled and disposed of irregularly. They certainly do not seek to have an industry that currently is providing good employment lose those jobs within a number of years because people no longer get their tyres in Ireland but instead get them in Northern Ireland or across the sea in the United Kingdom, where cheaper tyres can be acquired.

I will bring back the points made by the Deputy to the Minister, Deputy Kelly. I should point out that the tyre working group met on 2 March last to begin the process of the implementation of the tyre producer responsibility initiative. All parts of the tyre industry, including retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and importers, are represented at the group, which also includes representatives of the National Transfrontier Shipment Office, the Environmental Protection Agency, local authorities and the Department of Environment in Northern Ireland, where similar arrangements ultimately may be introduced. While the Independent Tyre Wholesalers and Retailers Association chose not to attend recent meetings, it is hoped it will attend future meetings of the group, as well as various subgroups, and make its contribution to the important detailed design stage now reached. The tyre working group is conscious of the need to keep the wider sector informed of its work and of the charges that are planned to address some misleading and inaccurate information circulating within the sector that is exaggerating significantly the impact of the proposed change. It is the intention of the group to issue a regular newsletter to the sector giving updates on the current position. The first such newsletter was published on 11 March and was circulated to approximately 2,500 subscribers through its e-newsletter. There will be ongoing consultation with the sector and once the new tyre tariff regulations are available, there also will be further consultation with the sector.

Twenty of the 28 member states manage tyres through a system based on the principle of producers' responsibility. The Government intends to build on the learning experience of those schemes. The tyre industry in Europe has been highly successful in dealing with the problem of waste tyres and currently is achieving a recovery rate of 95%. This should be Ireland's aim to be part of the overall transition to a more resource-efficient circular economy. I thank Deputy Troy for raising the matter.

Mortgage to Rent Scheme Eligibility

While the Minister, Deputy Kelly, is unavoidably absent, the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, has intimate knowledge of this problem with social housing issues and arrears. Young Irish families throughout the country have suffered the disastrous effects of what has been a perfect financial storm. First, there was a massive banking collapse and the deepest recession in living memory, which was savage by any standards. It has ruined many lives and businesses and has wrought terrible devastation. Uniquely to Ireland's situation, we have a pooled currency, which means the natural process of inflation eating away at debt was not available to help the people. People borrowed in euro and must repay in the same currency, which has the lowest inflation rates in the world. To make matters worse, we have had the harshest laws in the western world in respect of debt. The result was and is that hundreds of thousands of people had no way out other than emigration or begging for mercy from banks and creditors. This begging has gone on for almost eight years now and still, the entire economy is shackled by unsustainable debts. This has not been not good for people or the banks and certainly has not been good for Ireland. All this was due to change in 2012 with the enactment of the new insolvency laws but only a tiny number of deals have been done. The process needs an injection of reality and it needs it quickly.

Two weeks ago, I introduced draft legislation before the Oireachtas proposing that the bankruptcy period be reduced to one year. There is a misconception abroad that the period is three years but one should consider section 157 of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 and its insertion of section 85D(1), section 85D(2) and section 85D(3) into the Bankruptcy Act 1988. In law, at any time during the term of adjudication of three years, the credit institution can apply to the courts for an instalment order by way of variation for a period not greater than five years. As a result, if a person earns an additional €10, that enables banks to act. Consequently, it can go on for eight years and Members should not fool themselves in that regard. This is why I proposed that reduction.

I believe that after eight years, people have the right to move on. How it is justifiable to keep people tied up with debts they can never repay for so long? It does not happen in the jurisdictions of our nearest neighbours in England or Northern Ireland or in the United States. Moreover, I note the United Kingdom and United States were two of the economies that rebounded fastest from the recession. They have not collapsed, the sky has not fallen in because they have had in place a one-year bankruptcy rule. A quick bankruptcy term will give thousands of citizens a way in which to be free of unmanageable debt and will give them the opportunity to get on with their lives. More importantly, however, it will force the banks to do deals they should have done years ago. This will be good for everybody, including the banks. I also proposed that if the official assignee does not dispose of the family home in a bankruptcy case within three years of adjudication, ownership of such a home would revert back to the bankrupt. This is in line with the position in the North of Ireland and stops the official assignee from seeking money from people who simply wish to pay their mortgage and get on with their lives. The assignee has stated that he or she does not wish to sell the family home and that is proper. If people have all their unsecured debt written off and can pay even a restructured mortgage, then I believe they should be given every chance to get on with their lives.

However, what about the 50,000 people who have no solution? My colleague Ross Maguire has frequently stated the mortgage debt crisis in Ireland can be divided into three categories. The first category is comprised of the self-fixers, that is, those people who now are getting back on their feet as the economy improves. They have the time and the income to be able to meet their debts without need for outside intervention. The second category is comprised of people who need help. The insolvency system, driven on by a new bankruptcy term meaning that people can be out of bankruptcy within a single year, should mean that tens of thousands of citizens can be helped back to recovery. The banks have a role here to offer long-term and sustainable deals. However, there is a third category for which there is no obvious solution. I refer to the up to 50,000 homes where there is not enough income to sustain a mortgage and where the debt is too much to be repaid. As Minister of State with responsibility for housing, I introduced a mortgage-to-rent scheme that was designed for those people who could not afford either the mortgage or a restructured mortgage. The idea was that the owner would surrender the home to the bank, which the bank would then sell to a housing association, which in turn would lease it back to the former owner.

However, only a very small number of deals have been done under the scheme and quite simply, an industrial solution to the problem is needed.

Fiddling around at the edges cannot solve this problem because the scale is far too big. Two ways of doing this can be explored - first, through a refocused and recast mortgage-to-rent scheme involving local authorities or, second, through approved housing bodies. Both ways would ensure that families with unsustainable loans or mortgages remain in the home and continue to pay the appropriate rent. All those would have their mortgages deemed unsustainable under the mortgage arrears resolution process or MARP process, and would clearly have agreed to surrender the house.

It is also good for social stability and would ensure that no major disruption is inflicted through families having to move elsewhere. Family life, including schools, would be disrupted by relocation. Currently, the home must be in negative equity and a householder be deemed eligible for social housing in accordance with the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. There is also a limitation on the valuation of property in Dublin and across the country. It is clear that those conditions must be changed. The income threshold must be increased to a realistic level, by at least 20%, and likewise with the valuation threshold in order to accommodate the maximum number of people and protect people in their homes.

The mortgage-to-lease programme might also be a solution.

Under such a programme, a public private partnership could provide social housing throughout the country. A pension fund or other investors seeking a safe, long-term investment would purchase these non-performing loans from banks, leaving the banks free to get on with future lending to first-time buyers and small businesses.

I must ask the Deputy to wrap up.

Yes, I am just finishing.

The new programme would mean that people would surrender their homes to the new owners in exchange for an immediate and unconditional debt write-off. The former owners would then be offered long-term leases should they wish to stay in their homes. The State can help people to pay their rent if their income is not enough and gradually people could recover knowing that their homes are safe.

It is time we re-examined this whole scheme to ensure that people who are meant to be looked after are accommodated in an appropriate fashion.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The work he has done on the Private Members' Bill concerning bankruptcy has much merit. I look forward to the Government's proposals being published shortly after Easter. I always appreciate Deputy Penrose's insight on housing because he obviously has quite an amount of experience in this area.

There are currently two mortgage-to-rent schemes in operation through the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. A scheme exists whereby a local authority can acquire ownership of properties with unsustainable local authority mortgages, thus enabling the household to remain in their home as a social housing tenant - that is, the local authority mortgage-to-rent scheme.

The other scheme provides for an approved housing body, AHB, to acquire ownership of a property with an unsustainable private mortgage, which also enables the householder to remain in their home as a social housing tenant. It is the latter scheme, AHB mortgage-to-rent, to which the Deputy is referring. This scheme is designed to assist families with income difficulties whose mortgages are unsustainable, and where there is little or no prospect of a significant change in circumstances in the foreseeable future.

To be eligible for the approved housing body mortgage-to-rent scheme, a householder must have had their mortgage position deemed unsustainable under the mortgage arrears resolution process, agree to the voluntary surrender of their home, be in negative equity, and be deemed eligible for social housing in accordance with section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. The Deputy has already outlined those conditions.

In addition, in order for a property to be considered under the AHB mortgage-to-rent scheme it must be purchased by an approved housing body for less than €220,000 per property in the greater Dublin area and €180,000 per property in the rest of the country. These limits were determined by a working group taking account of available market data, including the current social housing acquisition limits. The Minister, Deputy Kelly, considers that they continue to be reasonable in respect of the income bracket that is targeted by the scheme.

While progress is now being made on this scheme, it has been acknowledged that take-up of the scheme overall has been slow. In recognition of this, and in an effort to increase the numbers delivered under the scheme, a new protocol between all parties in the process has already been agreed and came into operation in 2014.

The protocol includes such measures as the provision of a single independent valuation for the purpose of agreeing the purchase price. The valuation and condition surveys are now carried out earlier in the process to give more certainty to all parties in the process including the borrower. The new protocol is endeavouring to ensure that as much certainty is being provided as early as possible in the process to minimise uncertainty and late withdrawals from the scheme.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. The problem, however, is the resource limitation by the Government and that is why the mortgage-to-rent scheme might not work. That is also why the mortgage-to-lease scheme might be a solution, not as an alternative but by operating in tandem with a mortgage-to-rent scheme. We would hope that, in time, many people in the mortgage-to-lease scheme may be able to repurchase their homes. They should be given a share in any price increase during the programme. For example, a couple might have a mortgage of €300,000 which they cannot pay, while the property is now only worth €100,000. If they agree to surrender their home and have the right to rent the property back at a controlled rent over seven years or more, in that time hopefully people's circumstances will improve. They can then exercise an option to repurchase the property at the current market price in seven years time at €200,000. The cost to those people would be €150,000 as the price increased by 50% during the programme.

The bottom line is that such people would then have a sustainable mortgage, which they could afford. They would not have to leave their homes. If they had to leave their homes, they would need social housing, yet we know there is a huge shortage of social housing throughout the country. For those who cannot afford the entire rent, there will be a rent supplement so the programme works for them also.

There are also people whose circumstances are so impaired that they cannot afford to rent at all, so they will need social housing. That is where the significant social housing programme, promised by the Minister, can play a role. The Labour Party has always played a role in the provision of social housing.

In the mortgage-to-lease programme, the new owners would create a social fund by leasing the properties to local authorities on long-term or perpetual leases. Local authorities can then house those people in their own homes. The new owners would get long-term, low-yielding returns backed by local authorities. There would be a huge demand for this scheme.

This week, Irish Government bonds were issued at negative equity, meaning that one has to pay the Irish State to have them take one's money. At this time of ultra-low interest rates, there is a great opportunity to develop a massive public private social housing model. In time, this can be expanded. There has never been a better time to roll out a massive social housing programme nationwide.

If people's circumstances improve they should be given an opportunity to exit the social programme, pay their own rent and go on to re-acquire the property. It is about feeding into a positive cycle and accepting the universal truth that where people are given a real chance, they will step up to the plate and succeed.

For too long Irish families have had to bear the burdens of past mistakes made by others. Those self-same families put their shoulders to the wheel during our darkest economic days and especially for the past seven years. Now is the time to give them a break so that they too can enjoy recovery and, by their own efforts, expand and enhance the recovery for the nation as a whole. Things can only grow when they are allowed to grow. We must give our people the opportunity to recover. That is our challenge. It is time to move on, be innovative and to recast and remodel those schemes, so as to ensure that the maximum number of people can avail of them. In that way, they can ensure the security of their own homes in an affordable way, so they will not have to be relocated. By way of rent or lease, they can thus continue seamlessly in the same environment where their children can attend school. It is good for society and the morale of those concerned. We must grasp this nettle once and for all in order to offer a solution. This is the last piece of the jigsaw that must be addressed so that people can be put on the road to sustainability.

The operation of the scheme is closely monitored on an ongoing basis by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Housing agencies are regularly contacted by the approved housing bodies and financial institutions. To date, a total of 2,762 cases have been submitted under the approved housing body mortgage to rent scheme. Of these, 1,897 were deemed ineligible or terminated during the process. Of the remaining 865 cases submitted, 88 have now been completed. In a further 42 cases, agreement on the sale could not be agreed. Some 169 are currently with the lenders, while the remaining 566 are being actively progressed.

The Minister has said that he is keeping the scheme under constant review. Any improvements within the scheme should be moved forward speedily.

I thank the Deputy for having raised this issue today.

Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme

At the outset, I want to express my dissatisfaction with the shambles that today's sitting is turning out to be. Given that this Parliament sits for so few days in the year, and only three days per week, it really is a disgrace that the Government could not organise itself to have business today. Effectively, the House went into recess this morning and there is this minor session this afternoon which will be finishing up in the next few minutes. That does nothing at all to improve the standing of politics. It seriously undermines it.

It is a very far cry from the new politics we were promised. In addition, it is really disappointing that, when matters are raised in the Topical Issues debate, a Minister does not come to respond. Given the fact that there are three Ministers in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, it is not acceptable that not one of them is available to come this afternoon.

The matter I am raising relates to the decision to reverse a lot of the progress made at community level in recent years. I am asking that consideration be given to rethinking the recent decisions in respect of the social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, scheme. It is clear that the scheme is a continuation of the general squeezing of the community sector that has been happening in an unrelenting way in recent years. I know that the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, will be very familiar with this, given the constituency he represents. In recent years there has been a positively hostile attitude on the part of the Government to the community sector. It is most pronounced in the case of Fine Gael Members in the constant undermining, cutting of the funding for and talking down of the community sector. In the context of all the cuts in people's incomes, local and child care services, the community sector is the glue that keeps disadvantaged communities together. When that sector is being undermined by the Government, it is a recipe for disaster and huge social alienation of large numbers of people. That is what I believe we are seeing. It is unfortunate that the Labour Party has not been prepared to stand up to that attitude within the Government or stand up for the communities it is supposed to protect.

The SICAP process has reduced the number of partnerships in the Dublin area. There were seven and the proposal is to reduce that number to five, with no rationale for doing so. Most particularly, I am concerned about the implications of that decision in my constituency where, effectively, the Ballymun-Whitehall area partnership is being abolished. Some of the work it did is being taken over by the Tolka area partnership. Ballymun includes two of the top most disadvantaged electoral divisions, which gives a flavour of the issue. We all know that Ballymun is a huge area with a huge population of 16,000 and very significant social problems. On no level does it make any sense to close down the partnership that is doing so much important work in the area, in working with other agencies, in terms of community development, enterprise and child care. It has done a fantastic job in the past 24 years and now the Government, it seems for inexplicable reasons, is closing it down with no regard to the implications for the community or the staff concerned who have not been told anything about where they stand or whether they will have jobs in a few months time. The decision has been taken and it is very damaging and will have significant implications. At this late stage, I am asking the Minister to give some consideration to restoring the separate partnership which served the Ballymun-Whitehall area so well for so long.

The decision to cut overall funding by over 11% - it represents about €200,000 being taken away from a very disadvantaged area - having regard to all of the cuts that have taken place in recent years, will inevitably lead to huge problems in the area and exacerbate existing ones. I ask the Minister to reconsider this decision and restore the much-needed funding that has been taken away.

At the beginning of taking these three Topical Issues matters, I outlined that the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly was abroad on business. The Minister of State, Deputy Paudie Coffey, could not make it because of a family bereavement. The option was available under Standing Orders for the Deputy to defer the Topical Issue until the Minister was available and it would have been taken next week as the first Topical Issue to be discussed. I do not accept the Deputy's criticism of the Ministers. She is much wiser when it comes to the Standing Orders of the House than I am, but as a backbencher, I often exercised the opportunity to defer when I wanted to debate a particular issue with the Minister responsible. Nor do I take for one minute the criticism about what happened on the Order of Business this week. The debate had been organised with the agreement of the Whips and the time slots were not filled by Opposition party speakers. The Government did what was it was requested to do by the Opposition. Unfortunately, we cannot control whether Members will take time slots.

On a point of order, may I have a reply to the matter raised?

Did the Deputy raise the first three issues or not? Do I not have a right to respond to them? I have done so.

The Minister of State should reply to the item raised.

I replied to the Deputy. Sometimes she accuses people of not replying, but I have.

The Minister of State only has four minutes in which to reply.

The proposals outlined in Putting People First - Action Programme for Effective Local Government seek to position local government as:

The primary vehicle of governance and public service at local level — leading economic, social and community development, delivering efficient and good value services, and representing citizens and local communities effectively and accountably.

As part of the programme of reform of local government, local community development committees, LCDCs, have been established in all local authority areas.

These committees, comprising public-private socioeconomic interests, will have responsibility for local and community development programmes on an area basis, including the social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP. They will develop, co-ordinate and implement a more coherent and integrated approach to local and community development than heretofore, with the aim of reducing duplication and overlap and optimising the use of available resources for the benefit of citizens and communities.

In accordance with the public spending code, legal advice, good practice internationally and in order to ensure the optimum delivery of services to all clients, the SICAP programme was subject to a public procurement process which is in its final stages. In stage one joint applications were encouraged and organisations of varying sizes, for example, smaller organisations working in consortiums with larger organisations, were invited to submit joint applications. The closing date for stage two, invitation to tender, was 19 December 2014. Tenderers have been informed of the outcome of their tender and local and community development committees are in the process of establishing contracts with the successful tenderers.

Following contract signature, Pobal will publish a contract award notice in the Official Journal of the EU and on the eTenders website. LCDCs have managed and implemented stage two of the SICAP tendering process. In some areas the decision was taken by the LCDC to divide the lot into smaller units; that was a decision of the LCDC in each case. The LCDC is independent of the local authority in the performance of its functions. This independence is provided for explicitly in sections 49A(2) and 128B(8) of the Local Government Act 2001. Any decision made by an LCDC when carrying out its functions is solely a matter for that LCDC.

The primary focus of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is to ensure the front-line services being supported, particularly those focused on the needs of the most socially deprived communities, are protected, given the need to ensure best value from the scarce resources available. The Department is confident that the new programme will continue to provide key supports for those most in need in communities in all local authority areas throughout the country, including those in the Dublin City Council area.

I thank the Minister of State. I was not prepared to defer this matter to some indefinite future date as there is urgency attached to it.

It would not have been indefinite; it would actually be the first item to be taken next week.

It would have been indefinite.

It would not have been.

I am asking the Minister of State to do three things. Will he relay my concerns to the Minister?

Everybody representing the Ballymun area, those involved there at community level and I are shocked and dismayed by this decision and cannot understand why it was made. It makes no sense on any level. I ask the Minister of State to convey these views to the Minister.

I also ask the Minister of State to meet the three Deputies from Dublin North-West and representatives of the Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership next week for a short meeting. It could be held in Leinster House at any point to facilitate the Minister. In addition, I ask the Minister of State to request the Minister to reverse for this year the cut of €200,000, which affects an area of considerable deprivation that has already suffered very significant cuts in recent years. It is only if this happens that we will have any hope of repairing the damage that could be done by the move to eliminate the partnership and of ensuring some of the activities will continue.

I have made three specific requests and I ask the Minister of State to convey them to the Minister. The first concerns the significant dissatisfaction and dismay locally over the decision. The second is for a meeting with the Minister next week and the third is to restore the funding that has been cut for this year and without which there will be devastating effects in the Ballymun-Whitehall area.

I am confident that the Minister will be reviewing the debate on this issue. I will convey to him the three points the Deputy has outlined as soon as he returns from business overseas. The primary aim is to ensure that resources are allocated in the fairest possible way and to make the maximum contribution to tackle disadvantage, create jobs and promote economic recovery. Coming from an area that has partnerships, I believe it is important that resources be targeted in the fairest possible way. I thank the Deputy for raising the issue.

The Dáil adjourned at 2.45 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Friday, 27 March 2015.