Fire Safety

Questions (508)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

508. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm that a risk assessment was undertaken to substantiate the new Critical Attendance Standard Policies within the Keeping Communities Safe Policy Document; if he will confirm that a copy of the risk assessment will be made publicly available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8314/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I have recently published Keeping Communities Safe (KCS) as national policy for the future direction of fire services in Ireland. KCS was developed by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in my Department. The document was prepared through a collaborative process, which included consultation with stakeholders, and it was recommended for adoption as national policy by the Management Board of the Directorate.

It is important that there is a common understanding in relation to terminology in risk management, and relevant definitions are set out in KCS. In particular, the term “Risk Assessment as used in KCS is one stage of the risk management process. The National Directorate prepared a series of Task Analyses to show how an initial crew of five may be used safely to undertake tasks normally associated with a range of fire scenarios. The Task Analysis for the Domestic Dwelling fire situation was circulated during the development stage.

Under Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work legislation, the phrase ‘risk assessment’ has a particular meaning, and requires employers to carry out risk assessments of their work activities. Guidance on relevant aspects of risk assessment for fire services, and meeting this legislative requirement, is provided in the Fire Services Ancillary Safety Statement (generic risk assessments), in the Fire Service National Incident Command System (dynamic risk assessments) and Fire Service Standard Operational Guidance (SOGs) (specific situational risk assessments). Individual fire services will prepare any additional risk assessments, based on the Task Analyses referred to above, which may be necessary to comply with their statutory responsibilities as employers on foot of changes arising from implementation of KCS. The KCS document is available on my Department’s web site at www.environ.ie.

Housing Adaptation Grant Funding

Questions (509)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

509. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is possible for local authorities to recoup 100% of the grant aid made available to voluntary housing associations under the housing adaptation grant for people with a disability scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8343/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability, introduced on 1 November 2007, are funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department, together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. The detailed administration of the grant schemes, including the assessment and approval of applications and the payment of grants to individual applicants, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

The local authority own resources contribution to grant payments apply equally to all grant recipients, including tenants of Approved Housing Bodies.

Fire Safety

Questions (510)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

510. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will engage with union representatives to discuss their concerns regarding the Keeping Communities Safe document and the impact this will have on firefighter safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8351/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I have recently published Keeping Communities Safe (KCS) as national policy for the future direction of fire services in Ireland. KCS was developed by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in my Department through a collaborative process, which included consultation with stakeholders, and it was recommended for adoption as national policy by the Management Board of the Directorate. There was extensive consultation with stakeholders, including recognised staff representative organisations (SIPTU and IMPACT). The unions have five and two nominees respectively on the National Directorate’s Consultative Committee. Specific meetings were held with SIPTU during the consultative process to discuss aspects of their submission on early drafts of the document.

Specifically on fire-fighter safety, KCS recognises the importance of the twin duties on fire authorities under the Fire Services and Safety, Health and Welfare at Work legislation. A Fire Services Safety Management System (SMS) support document is being developed as part of the KCS implementation process to ensure that occupational health and safety in fire services is fully aligned with recently adopted local government SMS policy. This follows fire service initiatives which have been developed and implemented in recent years which include the Ancillary Safety Statement Template for Fire Services, the National Incident Command System, Guidance on the Use of Breathing Apparatus and Compartment Fire Behaviour training and assessment, as well as an extensive suite of Standard Operating Guidelines. Under Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, employers are required to carry out risk assessments of their work activities. Individual fire services will prepare any additional risk assessments which may be necessary to comply with their statutory responsibilities as employers on foot of changes arising from implementation of KCS. The document is available on my Department’s website at www.environ.ie.

Prompt Payments

Questions (511)

Alan Farrell

Question:

511. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to ensure that all local authority bodies achieve 100% compliance to pay outstanding bills and invoices within 15 days in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8428/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Payment of invoices by my Department is governed by the Prompt Payment of Accounts Act 1997. The legislation provides for the payment of interest on valid invoices that are unpaid after 30 days from the date of receipt. In June 2009, the Government introduced a further non-statutory requirement to reduce the payment period by Departments to 15 days. The EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland contains a commitment to extend the voluntary 15 day rule relating to prompt payments to local authorities. The commitment has effect in respect of all valid invoices received on or after 1 July 2011.

Information in respect of the timing of payments by my Department, relevant agencies and local authorities is available on my Department’s website at http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications

The payment of suppliers, consistent with proper financial procedures, is a matter for the local authority concerned.

Property Taxation Collection

Questions (512)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

512. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if moneys collected from the local property tax will be ring-fenced for each local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8437/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The introduction of the Local Property Tax will provide a more sustainable funding model for local government, devolve greater responsibility for financial decisions to the local level, and help renew the relationship between the citizen and his or her local authority. In distributing Local Property Tax income to local authorities through the Local Government Fund, I will seek to ensure that a significant proportion of the tax is retained in the local authority area in which it is collected in order to fund essential local services in our communities.

Currently, general purpose grants from the local government fund are structured to bring about equalisation over time: that is, a position of balance where the financial needs of local authorities are met by their resources and they are able to provide an appropriate level of service to their customers. Local authority cost and income bases vary significantly from one another and calculating an appropriate distribution of these grants is complex. A number of factors are taken into account including the overall funding available for this purpose, the estimated cost to each authority of providing a reasonable level of services to their customers, the income each authority should generate from local sources and the necessity to provide each authority with a baseline allocation that will support its financial stability.

In time, local authorities may vary the local rate of the Local Property Tax. This function will strengthen local authority accountability to local taxpayers. The tax will alter the relationship between the citizen and his or her local authority in a way which will be altogether beneficial for good governance. As noted in the Action Plan for Effective Local Government, Putting People First, if local elected members have relatively little responsibility for raising revenue, their rigorousness in prioritising its allocation, overseeing its efficient use and stewardship, and oversight in relation to the performance and management of local authority operations, generally, is likely to be diminished.

Currently, local authorities vary in their degree of dependence on the local government fund. Differences in population densities and settlement patterns will, of course, have an impact on the extent to which a given local authority will be funded by the Local Property Tax. In accounting terms, the gearing of funding from local authority to local authority will differ and, as such, equalisation measures may be needed to address such variations.

Local Authority Housing Maintenance

Questions (513)

Jack Wall

Question:

513. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding a request from Athy Town Council, County Kildare regarding a housing repair (details supplied). [8510/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In June 2012, my Department invited each city and county council to submit proposals for the purchase or construction of new social housing units over the period 2012-2014. Kildare County Council submitted six proposals in relation to the purchase of houses at four locations within the county and the construction of 13 housing units at Athgarvan Road, Newbridge. Approval issued in July 2012 for the purchase of 4 housing units at a cost of €600,00 and the construction of 13 units in Newbridge at a cost of €2,050,000.

A proposal by Athy Town Council, submitted on 3 September 2012, to purchase and refurbish 10 houses at various locations within the town at a cost of €841,000 was received too late for consideration under the 2012 call for proposals. It will be a matter for Kildare County Council to resubmit the proposal under any future call for proposals for the purchase and refurbishment of properties.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (514)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

514. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the measures which will be promoted during the Irish Presidency of the European Union to promote policies to keep the EU towards meeting its declared carbon reduction targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8591/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 174 of 5 February 2013.

Under the Climate and Energy Package, adopted by the European Council in December 2008, the main elements of policy and legislation are already in place to enable the EU to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2020. However, two legislative proposals in relation to CO2 emissions from cars and vans need to be concluded in order to underpin the achievement of 2020 targets in those areas and I am prioritising the securing of First Reading Agreements with the European Parliament on these dossiers by the end of our Presidency. The Irish Presidency will also be giving significant attention to a proposed Regulation on Fluorinated Gases, covering a range of gases with very significant global warming potential, with a view to preparing a Progress Report to be passed to the Lithuanian Presidency on 1 July.

It is also essential that priority attention is given to the policies necessary to progress the decarbonisation agenda post-2020. In that regard, I have proposed the immediate post-2020 period as the subject for discussion at an informal joint meeting of the EU Environment and Energy Councils in Dublin in April.

Regeneration Projects Funding

Questions (515, 516)

James Bannon

Question:

515. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on funding for a regeneration project (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8621/13]

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James Bannon

Question:

516. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on funding for the regeneration plan for Granard, County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8622/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 515 and 516 together.

So far, my Department has not received any formal proposals from Longford County Council with regard to the proposed regeneration project at Granard, Co. Longford. I understand, however, that the Council is currently preparing a masterplan for the regeneration of certain areas in Granard including the Colmkille Terrace and Redmond Terrace areas.

Under Section 78 of the Local Government Act 2001, the provision of premises and facilities in the public library service is a matter for each local authority in its capacity as a library authority. I refer to the reply to Question No. 485 on today’s order paper in respect of public library developments in Longford.

Commercial Rates Calculations

Questions (517)

James Bannon

Question:

517. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to change the legislation in order to introduce a tiered system of rates, which is needed to help support small businesses, where the present system of percentage reductions in all council budgets, 2008 to 2012 favour the large ratepayers as much as the small ones; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8624/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

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

The Valuation Office is responsible for calculating the rateable valuation of premises and the type, size and location of the premises would be a factor in arriving at the rateable valuation. The Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV), which is set by the local authority, is then applied to that rateable valuation. The Valuation Act 2001 is a matter for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

I am acutely aware of the pressures on small and medium sized businesses at the present time. Local authorities have been asked by my Department, by way of a circular letter, to exercise restraint or, where possible, reduce commercial rates and local charges for 2013. Local authorities have responded well to such requests in recent years.

I will continue to keep the approach to rates by local authorities under active review, and am determined that every avenue will be pursued to optimise efficiency and contain costs in the local government sector.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Questions (518)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

518. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of loans that have been provided to and agreed directly with approved housing bodies by the Housing Finance Agency in the provision of new finance for social housing; and the number of homes that have been completed with such finance to date in view of the fact that almost 100,000 households are in need of social housing. [8644/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government’s housing policy statement, published in June 2011, recognises the approved housing body sector as a key partner in the delivery of social housing solutions for low-income families and persons with specific categories of housing need.

Delivery of social housing is being significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and leasing as well as through the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies (AHBs) for construction and acquisition of social housing units.

The Housing Finance Agency has thus far awarded ‘Certified Body’ status to 6 AHBs, from 13 applications. These AHBs have made 8 loan applications, totalling €18.9 million, which have been approved and, when fully drawn down, will deliver over 200 individual housing units.

I am determined to ensure that the social housing programme is framed in a manner which optimises the delivery of social housing and the return for the resources invested. To achieve this it is essential that we tailor the use of available Exchequer supports to prevailing conditions and explore the full range of solutions to address housing needs.

In spite of the challenging circumstances within which local authorities have been operating, a tentative outturn in the order of 4,000 housing units was achieved in 2012. Given the current volatility of the market and different challenges to the channels of supply, it is difficult to estimate the likely output of new units for social housing this year. However, it is provisionally estimated that in the region of 5,000 units will be provided for social housing in 2013.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (519)

Jim Daly

Question:

519. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 472 of 12 February 2013, if he will compile and present, in tabular form, the cost to each local authority in assessing the means of applicants for the various schemes administered by that local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8691/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The information requested is not available in my Department.

Energy Conservation

Questions (520, 521)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

520. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the eligibility criteria for attic house insulation has been changed. [8710/13]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

521. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons who were due to have their attics insulated were told they were no longer eligible due to new legislation brought in stating that attics with sloping ceilings cannot be insulated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8711/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 520 and 521 together.

There have been no new , or no recent, changes to Building Regulations which would prevent the insulation of attics with sloping ceilings.

I have no responsibility in relation to the Better Energy Homes scheme which provides grant assistance for specific energy efficiency measures in homes, including attic insulation. This scheme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and funded by the Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources.

Homeless Persons Supports

Questions (522)

Simon Harris

Question:

522. Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the services and supports in place for homeless persons in an area (details supplied) in County Wicklow; the funding that has been provided by Government for such services in this area; if consideration will be given to making an outreach service providing hot food available to those who are unable or unwilling to attend a homeless centre of shelter; the Government policy in relation to tackling homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8794/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities. Accordingly , it is a matter for housing authorities to make decisions regarding the type and provision of services for homeless persons within their functional area.

Under Section 10 of the Housing Acts, my Department provides funding to housing authorities in respect of the operational costs of homeless accommodation and related services. Funding is provided at the rate of 90% of cost , with the housing authorities providing a further 10% from their own resources. Details of the funding provided by my Department for County Wicklow, since 2010, are set out in the table below.

I will shortly publish a policy statement on homelessness. In this statement I will be indicating what I expect from housing authorities and other stakeholders in accelerating progress towards realising the ambition of eliminating involuntary long-term homelessness.

Wicklow

2010

2011

2012

Funds paid to

Purpose

Wicklow County Council

Harry Cullen Old Presbytery - emergency accommodation

43,800

72,072

75,960

Outreach Worker

29,890

Private Rented Accommodation

2,908

Bed & Breakfast emergency accommodation

7,905

1,093

Bray Town Council

Old Brighton Terrace - emergency accommodation

101,217

86,724

87,200

Total

174,907

169,609

164,253

Wastewater Treatment Issues

Question Nos. 524 to 528, inclusive, answered with Question No. 503.

Questions (523)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

523. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to an ongoing sewerage issue at a school (details supplied) in County Cork; the assistance being extended to rectify the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8823/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I understand that the Derrycreha School is served by a private sewerage system. My Department has no responsibility for, or role to play in, the management, maintenance or operation of privately owned wastewater treatment facilities.

Question Nos. 524 to 528, inclusive, answered with Question No. 503.