Thursday, 4 March 2004

Questions (7)

Kathleen Lynch


6 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons awaiting payment of the first-time buyer’s grant at the latest date for which figures are available; the reason for the long delay in making these payments; the steps being taken to ensure that all such grants are awarded without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7140/04]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

There are 1,679 applications for payment of the first-time purchaser's new house grant being processed in my Department. There has been no undue delay in the processing of applications, having regard to the unprecedented volume of applications received in the three week period following the announcement of the termination of the scheme. Every effort is made to ensure grants are paid as soon as possible following receipt of claim for payment, with the services of five inspectors, who had retired, being retained to undertake inspections and inspectors being deployed between areas in response to fluctuating workloads.

The first-time buyer's grant was abolished shortly before the budget in 2002. I believe the cut-off point was 14 December 2002. Why have more than 1,600 grant applicants still not been paid 15 months later?

Applications are still coming in because the original date was to have been in November or December 2002. However the Deputy will recall that we gave——

How can applications still be coming in?

The applications of those taking up occupancy of houses are still being processed. We allowed an extension for those who received approval in November or December 2002.

We gave that extension a few months ago to 2 April next. In 2001 there was in excess of 10,000 applications and in 2002 there was in excess of 25,000 applications, nearly 14,000 of which came in a three-week period. The applications are being processed. The deadline for occupancy was extended from before Christmas to 2 April next and reminders are being sent to everybody to the effect that this will be the final deadline. There are 36 inspectors working on this, including people who had retired and were retained. There is tremendous work still going on. People have until 2 April to notify the Department that they are in occupation and wish to draw down the grant.

The grant should never have been abolished in the first place.