Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Ports Facilities

James Browne

Question:

60. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works has discussed, drafted or prepared plans for new properties or to acquire existing properties at or near Rosslare Harbour, County Wexford, in preparation for Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43653/18]

This question relates to Rosslare Harbour in County Wexford. I am tabling the question for Deputy Browne. Will the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform indicate if the Office of Public Works has carried out any works or prepared any plans for new properties? Has the OPW acquired any existing properties near Rosslare Harbour in preparation for Brexit? Will the Minister make a statement on the matter?

The Government's contingency planning for Brexit is being overseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is co-ordinating a whole-of-government response through several cross-departmental co-ordination structures. One focus of this contingency planning has been the adequacy of the current port and airport infrastructure and facilities post-Brexit. Physical infrastructure at Rosslare Europort, Dublin Port and Dublin Airport have been assessed to identify the requirements necessary to ensure customs controls and sanitary and phytosanitary checks can be carried out while ensuring the free flow of goods is maintained in these locations. These checks would come into force once the United Kingdom has left the European Union. They will include checks on consignments of live animals, plants, plant and animal products, foods of non-animal origin, cosmetic products and tobacco-related products.

The Office of Public Works has been working with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Department of Health and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport as well as the relevant port and airport authorities to assist in identifying any specific infrastructural requirements in the context of Brexit. As part of this assessment the requirements in Rosslare Europort have been taken into consideration. Discussions are ongoing with the chief executive of Rosslare Europort with a view to formulating a detailed action plan.

Rosslare Europort has vast unrealised potential. It is our primary roll-on, roll-off port. It is the only port or airport that has a train station. A total of 80% of the volume of goods produced here currently goes to the Continent using the UK land-bridge. If there is a hard Brexit then there will be tailbacks in the port. It needs to be developed to meet these demands. Time and again, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has failed to set out plans for the port to become a driver of the economy of Wexford and the south-eastern region. Rosslare Europort makes a profit of €2.5 million annually but it looks like a ghost town. If the profit was reinvested in the port instead of being returned to its owner, Iarnród Éireann, it would leverage approximately €15 million on the international market.

In March this year the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Moran, told my colleague, Deputy Browne, that Revenue Commissioners staff needed additional accommodation and that a suitable site had been identified. At that stage negotiations were ongoing. Can the Minister indicate what stage those preparations are at now?

I agree with Deputy Troy, and he is right to say, that in the context of what may happen with Brexit our port infrastructure, and especially Rosslare Europort, will acquire a new significance. Our port infrastructure will be even more important to how we maintain access to the Single Market. My assessment differs a little from that of Deputy Troy in the idea of Rosslare as a ghost town but I accept more needs to be done in terms of the potential for the town in future.

Deputy Troy asked about the position at the moment and the engagement of the Office of Public Works with the port. We will work to become clearer about the potential objectives of the port in future. We are now looking at the potential detail of a plan and how the State will need to support the delivery of that plan.

I am glad someone in the Government realises the potential of Rosslare Europort because certainly the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, does not. If he did, he would change the ownership model for the benefit of Rosslare Europort, which is making €2.5 million per annum.

The Minister will know this himself from his days as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. It has huge potential and that money could be used to leverage funding on the international market and improve the facilities. That is what everyone would like to see.

We are only a few short months away from Brexit. There are real concerns in both Rosslare Europort and in other ports that we are not going to have the necessary infrastructural improvements made in time. In a reply to a parliamentary question from my colleague, Deputy Michael McGrath, earlier this week, we have been told we are not going to have the significant number of Revenue officials employed by the end of March. The Minister of State, Deputy Moran, made a commitment to my colleague, Deputy Browne, earlier this year. In that respect, have those additional accommodations been acquired and will they be ready by March of next year?

All of the work we have done has been based on the central case scenario of a transition period being in place. It continues to be the negotiating objective of the European Union task force, Ireland, as well as of the United Kingdom, that a transitional period can be agreed. We will stand by and deliver on the commitments we made about when customs officers would be recruited and available. We outlined objectives for the end of the transition period and what would need to happen by next March. All of that will be delivered.

On the detailed question the Deputy has asked of the Minister of State, Deputy Moran, in respect of the accommodation in Rosslare port, I will ask the Minister of State to respond directly to the Deputy.

Housing Policy

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

61. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has assessed the impact on State finances of the reliance of Rebuilding Ireland on private tenancies to deliver social housing in view of the report on current and capital expenditure on social housing delivery mechanisms of July 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43923/18]

I find the failure of the Government's social housing policy infuriating for many reasons. The targets are never met, the human misery continues and the plan is fundamentally flawed in its reliance on the private sector. Aside from all of that, has the Minister actually looked at the insane cost if the Rebuilding Ireland policy were actually to work? Some 137,000 units that the Government hopes to deliver under that plan are going to be sourced from a private sector in which rents are going through the roof. Has the Minister worked out the crazy cost of that?

In order to ensure an effective and efficient response to urgent social housing needs, Rebuilding Ireland provides for a range of delivery mechanisms for social housing. There are a variety of objectives behind this mix including the appropriateness of support, flexibility and speed of delivery, as well as value for money for the Exchequer. The paper from my Department to which the Deputy has referred on other occasions sets out the relative cost of these delivery mechanisms based on data across six local authorities. The report is careful to acknowledge that there are factors which may vary by local authority area, for example prices within the wider housing market, the availability and cost of land and the level of demand for social housing.

There are two current expenditure-funded schemes analysed in the report, which utilise private rented tenancies to deliver speedy responses to social housing requirements. The housing assistance payment, HAP, and the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, are important components of the accelerated delivery of social housing envisaged under Rebuilding Ireland. It was noted in my Department's report that it may be more cost effective for the State to provide private tenancies in the short term to meet social housing needs where limited public land is available, where the cost of constructing social housing units is prohibitive or, more broadly, where timing is the key issue.

Following the review of Rebuilding Ireland at the end of 2017, there has been a renewed emphasis on increasing the number of social housing units through build programmes. In addition to this, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has agreed delivery targets that are appropriate for particular areas, with due regard to timing, capacity, flexibility and the cost implications highlighted in the paper from my Department.

When we trawl through the jargon, the paper to which I referred, produced by the Minister's Department, shows that 97,000 of the social housing units the Government plans to provide between now and 2021 will be provided by the private sector. Only 33,000 units will be directly built. The Department's paper actually states that in cities such as Dublin, that is going to blow a black hole in the public finances. The cost of property and rents are ratcheting up at a dramatic rate. We are going to be paying the landlords month after month, year after year, reaching up to a target of 97,000 different units that we will be leasing and renting. In Dublin, rents are now between €1,500 and €2,500 per month. One estimate suggests this could cost us €23 billion over 20 years.

Let us look at the figures for 2019. For 2019, the capital funding the State is making available is €1.1 billion to provide new social housing solutions and directly build homes, and providing €150 million of current funding to do it. The total amount of funding next year going into delivering additional units is €1.25 billion, with most of that in capital funding. In terms of social housing support, the Deputy is correct that it is a high figure for next year of €557 million, the majority of which is going into housing assistance payments.

What is the Deputy proposing that we do as an alternative for 2019? There is a great level of social housing need, of which I have as much experience as Deputy Boyd Barrett given the constituency I represent. While we are building the homes, as we are doing in O'Devaney Gardens and will be doing in Dominick Street, do we not have a responsibility to ensure that accommodation is provided by other means to our citizens who need support in getting homes? That is what we are doing and even for next year, as the Deputy can see on the basis of the figures I have shared with him, we are investing more in building new homes than we are in making use of homes that are already built for our citizens who deserve support.

HAP is precarious. It costs a fortune. People who get HAP end up back in homeless hubs. From the point of view of people, it is not good. From the point of view of the public finances and a sustainable plan, it is going to be a disaster. In 2019, the Minister is proposing 16,000 new HAP tenancies as against only 6,000 council house builds. In 2020, he is planning 13,000 new HAP tenancies and only 7,000 actual builds. In 2021, 10,000 HAP tenancies are planned and only 8,000 builds. All along the way, even if there is something of an increase in direct builds, HAP tenancies dwarf what is going to be built by a factor of three or four. It is about 100,000 of the 137,000 units. It is not going to work and is going to cost us a fortune. From every point of view, financial and social, would it not be better now to ramp up the direct construction of council housing?

From the point of view of people, to use the Deputy's prism, while we are increasing the provision of social housing for next year - as we are doing with 6,545 homes being delivered through local authority construction, Part V provision and the refurbishment of long-term voids, 1,300 units being delivered through acquisition programmes and 2,130 units being delivered by leasing - is it not right that, as we increase that output and seek to get it to the level that will in time meet the existing level of need, we also make use of stock that is already built and use those houses to provide homes to citizens who will need social housing that is being built at present?

The Government has to do that. I accept that. That is not my point.

I put it to the Deputy that over time, as our social housing output gets to the level we want it to get to - and I reiterate my view, which is the view of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, that those houses should be built directly by the State - we should also make use of homes, many of which have been delivered by the private sector, to house our citizens, who will be able to use that social housing stock in the future.

Departmental Budgets

Bernard Durkan

Question:

62. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which his Department continues to monitor all Departments, public bodies and their agents in the context of ensuring that they remain within budget; the extent to which departures from expectations have been identified and remedies thereto suggested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43909/18]

This question seeks to ascertain the extent to which the Minister's Department monitors the performance of all Government Departments and agencies with a view to identifying potential overruns in expenditure in any given year and taking corrective measures or ensuring that those Departments take corrective measures.

I thank the Deputy for his question. Managing the delivery of public services within allocations forms a key part of the responsibilities of every Minister and Department. My Department is in regular contact with all other Departments and offices to ensure that expenditure is being managed within the overall budgetary parameters. The drawdown of funds from the Exchequer is reported on each month against expenditure profiles in the fiscal monitor published by the Department of Finance. However, given the scale of Government expenditure, which is €61.8 billion, and the cash basis of Government accounting, the need for Supplementary Estimates can arise for a number of reasons, including policy decisions, timing issues and overspends. They are a budgetary tool that allows for the proper alignment of funding allocations within planned expenditure. They can only be allowed where they can be accommodated within the overall budgetary parameters. As set out in the most recent budgetary monitor, total gross voted expenditure at the end of September was €44.8 billion, which was broadly on profile. Net voted expenditure of €36.04 billion was €45 million below profile with net voted spending in 14 out of 17 Vote groups being below profile. As outlined in the fiscal monitor, current spending is 0.6% ahead of profile, with the main driver of this variance being health expenditure.

As outlined in Expenditure Report 2019, as a result of policy decisions, including in relation to the provision of a 100% Christmas bonus to social welfare recipients, additional capital for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and expenditure pressures in the Department of Health, the gross voted expenditure outturn for the year is now estimated at €62.8 billion. This is a change of €1 billion with the key element being the change in the Department of Health.

As I speak, the Joint Committee on Health is discussing the same issue relating to that Department and others. I see two issues. One is the degree to which budgeting projections are accurate. If they are not accurate, are there not contingencies? If not, why not? I would not regard it as good policy to find that individual Departments or their subordinate bodies were running shy of what was anticipated at the beginning of the year in one way or another, either short or ahead of expenditure. I ask the Minister if any specific action is being taken to ensure that all Departments either project accurately or remain within budget.

Every effort is made to ensure that we have credible Estimates that I can present to the Oireachtas at the end of each year. A huge amount of engagement happens with all Departments about this. With a small number of exceptions, the Estimates put forward to the Oireachtas for Departments tend to be either exactly met or, at times, come under profile. I know this is the subject of engagement within the Joint Committee on Health and I acknowledge that for the Department of Health this year, the difference between projected and actual expenditure is very different to what it was last year. This is not a matter that we can normalise moving into next year and that is why we have made such efforts to put in place such a large increase in health expenditure for 2019. As the Deputy is aware, the projected Estimate for health for next year takes much of the expenditure for this year, puts it into the base and builds on that again to deal with all the service needs and overhead costs.

I thank the Minister for the reply. Having been a member of a health board, quite a long time ago, I have been conscious of the overruns in the health area for many areas. The difficulty is that it has to be possible, at some stage, to identify precisely what the budget should be and then to be able to identify precisely the areas in which an overrun occurs, not only in the Department of Health but in all Departments. I appreciate that capital projects may unexpectedly impact on budgets. If a Department becomes accustomed to an overrun cushion in any given year, is there not a tendency to use that as a means of extending expenditure, notwithstanding that it already had a budget and was supposed to work within it?

It is true to say that a number of Departments are consistently under profile as well as consistently over profile, with the Department of Health being the biggest. With regard to the health budget, the Minister said he has increased expenditure for next year to ensure that does not happen again. That is welcome. He is plugging the hole. How much of that was recurring spending? I am concerned that we have €1 billion of an increase in the health budget for next year and much of that was based on the windfall that we got from corporation receipts. If that is not the case, maybe the Minister can clarify that. I am concerned that we may not have those windfalls next year. It is not prudent to use once-off windfalls to plug a hole in recurring spending every year. Will the Minister confirm levels of recurring spending?

I will deal with each Deputy in turn. Deputy Durkan has acknowledged the pressures that can develop within a number of Departments, including the Department of Health, for budget overruns. The Minister, Deputy Harris, and I have worked very hard to put in place an Estimate for next year which reflects the learning we have had about challenges that have occurred during 2018. The way we have done this relates to a point that Deputy O'Brien has just put to me. We have looked at levels of expenditure for this year, particularly with regard to recruitment, which we believe will continue into 2019. We have tried to fund that in a new way. It has meant that the current expenditure settlements that other Departments have received have had to take account of that because we have to make choices. With regard to what Deputy O'Brien said, additional tax take for 2018 has contributed to dealing with the difficulty for this year but I am mindful of the point he has made about reliance on corporation tax next year. This is the reason why I have not assumed that nearly €700 million of the corporation tax collection that we received in 2018 will be available in 2019. I have taken that out of my figures. That €700 million is roughly equivalent to the additional revenue raised by, for example, changing VAT in the hospitality sector and other tax measures that I put in place to try to avoid the overreliance that the Deputy is warning against.

Garda Station Refurbishment

Robert Troy

Question:

63. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will advance the necessary funding to upgrade Mullingar Garda station. [43703/18]

There are serious capacity issues in Mullingar Garda station. I will give the Minister of State the opportunity to outline how he may be able to help it acquire the necessary funding to address those capacity issues.

I thank the Deputy for raising this question. In order to advance the necessary funding an exercise has to be completed by the Garda estate management, the Office of Public Works and the Department of Justice and Equality. Regarding the current accommodation shortage issues, there are two options to be explored further. One involves alternative accommodation to be sourced in a suitable property in the area of the existing station for consideration by all parties involved. The availability and suitability of properties will be explored by the Garda estate management and the Office of Public Works management service. A new extension to the back of the existing station is to be considered to determine how much extra space could be made available by building on the site. Following further exploration of the options, we will be able to determine whether the accommodation issues of the station can be resolved in one location.

I am slightly disappointed with the Minister of State's reply. In January of this year the station lost its conference room. It was redesignated as a regional cybercomputer examination room. Even though the redesignation happened in January of last year, the posts have yet to be advertised. I accept that is not the Minister of State's responsibility but is a justice issue. The loss of that conference room means that training is now taking place in hired hotel rooms in the town. IT training is taking place in the Army barracks in Athlone, which means subsistence and travel payments are made to the gardaí who must travel to the location. We have a community policing unit which comprises of one sergeant, six gardaí and a clerical officer who are working out of a prisoner interview room. We expect our sergeant with responsibility for community policing and six gardaí to work from the room where prisoners are interviewed. A child protection unit is due to be established but it cannot be because no office is available for it. Proposals have been submitted as to how this could be addressed. The only issue to be dealt with is for those proposals to receive approval from the OPW to advance, and that will address the serious capacity issues in Mullingar Garda station.

I am fully aware of the issues regarding Mullingar Garda station. I can assure the Deputy I am working closely with the different Departments within my own area and I am working with the Minister, Deputy Flanagan. I advise the Deputy that people from the architectural service visited the station on 9 October 2018. It was clearly set out by it what is required, and what is being sought, in the Garda station. We are exploring two options and based on the outcome of that work, I would say we will have good news on what is to happen in Mullingar Garda station in the not too distant future.

I thank the Minister of State for his brevity.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. The two options under consideration are acquiring alternative accommodation and building onto the station. There is the possibility of putting a second-storey prefab on the existing prefab at the back of the station and there is also the possibility of building up over the cells in the station. As I outlined, the lack of space is impeding the members of the Garda in doing their work. They are protecting the people day in, day out and deserve a work environment that is fit for purpose. I appreciate the Minister of State stating the process involved will be accelerated and that he will have good news in the not-too-distant future. I ask that the process involved be accelerated, as it has been ongoing for a long time, and that the Minister of State revert to me at the earliest opportunity with the OPW's preferred route and a clear timeframe for delivery.

Since I took up ministerial office a year and a half ago, a number of issues regarding the Garda were outlined. I for one know exactly the conditions under which some gardáí work. The Government has set out to reopen six pilot projects and they are now on the way.

They are not opened.

The works have started-----

-----on the reopening of three headquarters. Works are taking place on planning with respect to the public private partnerships. I am fully aware of what the Government has committed to and the conditions under which gardaí are working. I am working closely with the gardaí in Mullingar to address their needs. The Deputy will be aware we faced a similar problem in the Longford constituency area. We put our money where our mouths are and invested money in that area. We now have a building in Athlone. We are also looking at Ballymahon and are closely monitoring what is happening there. The Deputy wants me to say today that this is going to happen. We are exploring two options and as soon as there is an outcome from that process-----

Give me a timeframe.

The Deputy has been long enough in the House to know that one cannot simply flick one's fingers and have something happen overnight.

I am not asking for it to happen overnight. I am just asking for a timeframe.

We have to explore the options and I will personally revert to the Deputy when I get the outcome of that process.

I am sure the constituency will be well looked after with the work of the Minister of State and the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 64 to 69, inclusive, replied to with Written Answers.

We will move on to Question No. 70 in the name of Deputy Troy.

Flood Risk Insurance Cover Provision

Robert Troy

Question:

70. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress being made with regard to the provision of insurance in areas in which flood defences have been erected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43701/18]

This question relates to the provision of insurance cover in areas that were prone to flooding but where flood defences have now been put in place. There are areas which have flood defence mechanisms in place that are still finding it extremely difficult to get insurance cover. What is the Department doing to ensure this will no longer be the case?

I thank the Deputy for raising this question. The Government’s strategy is that as the return on its investment on flood defence schemes in the most at-risk communities, households and businesses should be able to access flood insurance. The provision of insurance cover, the level of premiums charged and the policy terms applied are a matter for individual insurers.

The Deputy will acknowledge that the Office of Public Works has no responsibility for oversight or regulation of the insurance industry in relation to flood risk insurance, or to insurance matters generally. The Office of Public Works has a very specific role in the exchange of information with the insurance industry on completed flood defence schemes to an agreed standard of protection desired by the industry.

A memorandum of understanding agreed on 24 March 2014 between the Office of Public Works with Insurance Ireland, the representative body for the insurance companies in Ireland, has a specific focus on agreeing a basis on which information can be provided to the insurance industry on flood relief schemes completed by the OPW. It is important to note that the memorandum requires that while insurers take full account of information provided by the OPW on completed flood defence schemes, it does not guarantee the availability of flood risk cover in the locations for which information has been provided by the OPW. Since that time, the level of flood insurance cover for homes and small businesses for areas protected by OPW flood defence schemes has on average increased from 77% to 82%.

The Minister of State will be acutely aware of the devastation caused by flooding to family homes and businesses. I certainly could take lectures from him as opposed to giving him any advice in that regard. When people go through the trauma of having to move out of their house, having availed of cashing in their insurance policy, they will not get insurance cover again for as long as that house or business remains in an area that is on a flood plain or liable to flooding. We would agree on that. However, where good work has been done by the Minister of State's Department or local county councils and flood defences have been put in place which alleviate the risk of any future flooding, it is simply not good enough that people in houses in areas where that work has been undertaken, at a large expense to the State, continue to be refused house insurance. They are living in their homes and the very minimum they can expect is to have the protection of a house insurance policy. When can we expect the Government to ensure that in every area where flood defence mechanisms have been put in place, people will be able to avail of a house insurance policy?

I acknowledge what the Deputy said about the good work my Department and the local authorities do, and I also recognise that. Earlier this year thanks to my colleague on my right, the Minister for Finance, I secured €1 billion for the protection of the people's property, 95% of whom will have their property protected as a result of putting in place of flood defences over the next ten years.

Where we have installed defences, we have passed on that information to the insurance companies. Coverage has increased from 77% to 82%, which is a major improvement on where we were. Insurers are now acknowledging work that has been done by insuring people.

I was down the country yesterday. Everywhere I go, people ask me to let their schemes start so that they can be protected and that they will worry about insurance afterwards. That is not the answer that some want to hear, but protecting these people is my priority. I have worked with Insurance Ireland and provided it with information to try to make sure that it picks up on the work we are doing and insure the people in question.

The simple point is that 18% of households where works have been completed still cannot avail of home or business insurance. For the most part, the family home is people's pride and joy and the largest cash outlay they will ever make. If anything were to happen to it, they would not have the capacity to replace it.

Must legislation be introduced to address what insurance companies are doing? I acknowledge the increase in coverage to 82%, but that leaves 18% without insurance. Are there figures for the number of houses and people who cannot avail of insurance? We are here to ensure that everyone can benefit from the improvements, not just a select few. While I acknowledge the work that has been done, how can we ensure the households that are unable to avail of home insurance can do so in future, given the works that have been done?

I acknowledge the Deputy's comments, but I must also acknowledge the work that has been done and the increase in insurance coverage. Everyone wants to beat insurers with a stick, but after working with them and giving them the information they require, they are now stepping up to the mark. I would like to see it happen faster, but I must also acknowledge that, by working with them, we are getting through the problem the Deputy outlined. Where we have built defences and people have gone back to insurance companies through their local authorities and the OPW, they are getting insurance.

Except the 18% who are not.

Question No. 71 replied to with Written Answers.

Health Services Funding

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

72. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on his Department's invigilation of the relationship between Vote 38 and the HSE budget; the efforts being made to provide all necessary expenditures for primary and acute healthcare in view of repeated annual underforecasting of health expenditures; his views on the need for annual Supplementary Estimates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43865/18]

Early this year, following an interesting briefing from Fr. Seán Healy and Social Justice Ireland, the Committee on Budgetary Oversight identified the possibility of a serious discrepancy between voted health expenditure and what the HSE's national service plan was trying to achieve. That has turned out to be the case, with Supplementary Estimates required for the Departments of Health and Justice and Equality once again. The Minister was a member of the Government in 2015 when it effectively disestablished the HSE Vote by taking it back within the Department of Health. Since then, the Government has not been managing it.

I thank the Deputy, but he had 30 seconds and has now spoken for over a minute.

The Considine report identified these problems ten years ago, but nothing has happened.

Managing expenditure within the overall budgetary parameters is a key factor in ensuring that our budgetary targets are delivered. As I said in reply to Deputy Durkan, the key responsibility sits with each Minister and Department.

Regarding the health budget, spending on our health services is at a record level. In 2017, OECD data placed Ireland fifth in terms of spend per capita among the EU 28. As Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I have made the resourcing of healthcare a key priority. This year, I will be allocating an additional €700 million by way of a Supplementary Estimate, bringing the total increase in investment in 2018 to €1.2 billion. In addition, I have announced a further increase of €1.05 billion in health funding for 2019, bringing the total allocation for 2019 to €17 billion. This brings the increased investment in health over the past two years to a total of €2.25 billion, or 15%.

The Government will continue to support the Minister for Health in managing one of the most important and complex sectors of our society and economy. As the Deputy will be aware, there are always key challenges to be addressed in the health sector. The Dáil has provided Supplementary Estimates in many years, with this year being no different, albeit of a high level.

We want to provide as much as possible for people who are sick and vulnerable, in particular elderly citizens. As our economic and budgetary circumstances allow, I will continue to invest more in our health services because it is the right thing to do. As the Taoiseach stated yesterday, we need to tie this higher level of investment to a higher level of return.

I disagreed with the Taoiseach. Reverting to our discussion about consultants, many of them have told me that they would be prepared to pay a higher personal tax rate if it was hypothecated to health spending. While we need more resources, the nub of the issue is that the Minister is not accounting to the House, as per his remit, for the difference between the national service plan and Vote 38. There has been serious criticism from our two key watchdogs. For example, Mr. Seamus Coffey of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has stated that the difference between the plan and the health Vote's spending drift is cumulative and long lasting. As the Minister stated, we are heading towards a figure of more than €2 billion in unplanned expenditure in respect of recent years. Even more damning is the report of our outstanding PBO entitled "The HSE National Service Plan and its Relationship with the Health Vote". While it acknowledges that the relationship is complex and there is a certain level of regular reporting, there seems to be a lack of seriousness in the Minister's Department about managing the health Vote.

I thank the Deputy, but he will have another minute.

I am accountable to the House for this. I regularly answer health expenditure questions in the House and at the Deputy's committee. Had I not provided the additional funding required by the Department of Health this year and that then resulted in dramatic changes in our hospitals and primary care centres, the Deputy would be the first Member-----

-----to walk into the Chamber and condemn me for not taking action.

I want the Minister to be honest.

The Deputy cannot have it both ways.

I do not want it both ways; I want it one way.

The Deputy cannot, on the one hand, raise concerns about me providing an additional level of investment and, on the other, be the first Member to walk into the Chamber and condemn me if I do not provide that investment.

I would, of course.

What I am asking for is honesty. This Dáil's establishment of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight and the PBO will stand the test of time, as will the Sláintecare committee, which should probably be sitting continuously. We want the Government to implement Sláintecare and to be honest about it. I suggested a 43% top tax rate on salaries in excess of €120,000 or €130,000.

Measures could be taken to get the Vote together. The conclusions in the PBO's report are damning of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's management of the health Vote. It seems that alignment of the national service plan and the Vote is impossible. The money that is voted and the plan's expenditure elements do not correspond. There is a lacuna, which the Minister should address on behalf of the people. Regardless of whether the health Vote needs to increase to €40 billion or whatever level is necessary, it should be accounted for to us properly.

It is accounted for properly. As we speak, the HSE officials are before the Joint Committee on Health dealing with this matter. The Minister, Deputy Harris, appears before the committee regularly to deal with related issues. I deal with questions on it regularly, principally from the Deputy.

It is only fair to acknowledge that his pre-budget submission addressed how additional resources would be generated.

I acknowledge that. As the Deputy knows, my view is that some of the measures he is looking to implement would have very damaging effects on jobs and incomes in our society. That in turn would affect our ability to put in place the kind of investment that is needed in our health services.

Particularly as we move into 2019, we need to put a structure in place to ensure that the kind of difficulty that developed this year does not happen in the same way next year. The Minister for Health and I are committed to doing that. In that regard, I particularly welcome the fact that we have appointed an executive chairperson for the HSE and I look forward to working with him on this issue.

We will move to the next question, Question No. 78.

Is this the same as Question No. 70? Then we will move on.

Does the Acting Chairman refer to Question No. 78?

I thought Question No. 78 was a different question.

No other Deputies are present.

I am here for Question No. 80.

I will allow the Deputy to raise it if he wishes.

Questions Nos. 73 to 77, inclusive, replied to with Written Answers.

Departmental Expenditure

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

78. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on his departmental spending profiles up to the end of September 2018 in gross voted capital expenditure under Budget 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43864/18]

I wish to ask the Minister about the gross Votes. Several Deputies noted that spending was under profile, particularly the Votes for housing and environment. That was certainly evident in the last report the Minister gave us. It seems incongruous that capital expenditure is running under profile in areas like housing and health. I welcome the size of the capital budget and that we are beginning at long last to address deficient infrastructure.

I want this done quickly, because I want to let Deputy Ó Cuív in with a final question.

As set out in the Revised Estimates for 2018, the capital allocation for my Department’s Vote is €5.2 million in 2018. In addition, Vote 39 for the Office of Government Procurement, which is a division of my Department, has a capital allocation of almost €1 million in 2018.

The purpose of capital investment undertaken by my Department, including the Office of Government Procurement, OGP, is to deliver greater effectiveness and efficiency across the Civil Service and public service. The main areas of spend in my Department are the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, OGCIO, the Civil Service learning management system and ICT projects in the OGP. The OGCIO is the largest area of capital spend and this supports investment in ICT as part of the implementation of the public service ICT strategy, including the roll-out of the build to share programme and the eGovernment strategy.

While some of the relevant subheads in Vote 11 were under profile at the end of the third quarter of 2018, all are expected to consume their full capital allocations by the end of the year. There have been some delays on capital projects within the OGP and the indications are that there will be some savings on that Vote’s capital allocation of just under €1 million in 2018.

This information sets out the detailed position in respect of my own Department’s capital expenditure. The position in respect of other Department’s capital profiles will be available to the Deputy from other Ministers.

I am particularly interested in the overall profile across the Government. I thought a key part of Deputy Donohoe's remit as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform was to keep track of what is happening in those areas. My constituents are amazed that there is capital funding in different Departments which is not utilised, whether it relates to housing, communications or whatever. I thank the Minister for the information on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform itself, the IT structures and other matters, but there is concern that the House votes this expenditure and it simply does not happen. A key role of the Minister is to ensure that we get on with our infrastructure investment urgently, particularly the provision of social housing.

The Deputy's exact question referred to my departmental spending profiles. He asked me about my Department.

The Minister's staff asked me-----

Deputy Broughan asked about my Department and I answered the question on my Department. I take the Deputy's broader point. As I said earlier in response to other Deputies, I have responsibility for the Government's overall capital expenditure. Something different about capital expenditure this year is the fact that the capital profiles for all Departments were announced earlier in the year as part of Project Ireland 2040. That means that all Departments had clarity before they normally would on what their capital spending profiles for this year and next year will be. I believe we will see a change from the capital underspends that have characterised other years in many Departments. In particular the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is demonstrating that this year.

Garda Accommodation

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

79. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to provide accommodation for the west Cork protective services unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43883/18]

An Garda Síochána requested the Office of Public Works, OPW, to source additional accommodation in Bandon for a number of divisional teams which are being established in that area, namely, court presenters, duty and rostering management and protective services units. The OPW is liaising with An Garda Síochána to source a property solution to accommodate these units based on the brief of requirements received from the Garda, including both a review of existing State-owned properties in the area and a review of the wider local property market.

Representatives of the Office of Public Works and An Garda Síochána have visited those sites under active consideration. The OPW is now finalising a property assessment report, which identifies the available options. This will issue to An Garda Síochána for consideration shortly.

This protective services unit has been planned for members of the Garda in the area for some time. They have been very keen to get that centre of excellence up and running for west Cork and to provide the best possible service for people in the region. There have been different inquiries into different sites, but it has been dragging on for quite some time. There are also questions about whether it will remain in Bandon or move to Macroom, where a new Garda station is being planned. I ask the Minister to clarify that. The timeline is very important because it has been going on for so long. We would like to see it advanced as quickly as possible so that the best service possible is available in the west Cork region, a huge region going from the coast around to north Cork, working closely with Tusla. Is it envisaged that they would both be in the same facility? How quickly can a decision be made on that?

As the Deputy is aware, the key issue that has confronted the OPW in dealing with this is the availability of properties to meet the different needs to which he has referred. I have been informed that this work began in November of last year and a full search of local property in Bandon took place to ensure that the various needs he has described are met. It appears at the moment that no such property is available. The district office staff members of the OPW were requested to commence an occupancy survey of the State-owned Garda station site itself, to see if it would be possible to extend those premises or make use of land there. This work is currently under way and a feasibility study is due to be carried out.

It was found that no other State-owned properties were available. A review of that is under way and local landlords and agents have been contacted. The OPW district office is now carrying out an architectural inspection of six different properties to see if it is possible to make use of them. There appears to be a lot of work under way in this regard. I acknowledge it is a matter that the Deputy wants to see resolved. It is now at the stage of visits to sites by fire officers. I hope one of these properties will yield a site suitable for the work to which the Deputy refers.

I thank the Minister for clarifying that. There is a great need to have it and I recognise considerable background work is being done on that. The Minister has indicated that there are a number of sites being considered. Are all of these sites Bandon based? Is the Minister also looking at the possibility of having it in Macroom, where it is proposed to build a new station? Perhaps the Minister could clarify where the various sites are, if they are Bandon based, and if there is a timeline laid down for that decision.

On the particular question regarding the properties being Bandon or locally based, I am afraid I do not have the answer to that question available to me now. I will, however, ask the Office of Public Works, OPW, to respond directly to Deputy Moynihan on the matter.

The latest timeline I have refers to the work now under way by the OPW fire officer in assessing the safety of various sites. I understand the latest report issued on 4 October, which is less than a fortnight ago. The next stage is a property assessment report, PAR, that will look at all the different options, the costs and the timeframes for each of those.

The main point of the question related to where Bandon stands in this regard and I will ask the OPW to revert back to the Deputy on that.

Sin deireadh le ceisteanna chuig an Aire Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Áthchóirithe. Rachaimid ar aghaidh chuig an chéad píosa gnó eile, Ceisteanna ó na Ceannairí.