Question No. 434 answered with Question No. 429

Fire Service Staff

Questions (435)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

435. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to reduce the number of chief fire officers and assistant chief fire officers in the various fire services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9662/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The recently published “Keeping Communities Safe” (KCS) , which I have adopted as national policy, sets the future direction of fire services in Ireland. The national standards proposed in KCS are in keeping with international good practice and are crucial to the achievement of a consistent approach to the provision of effective fire services across fire services in Ireland. KCS also indicates a move to a “shared services” structure, involving a reduction in the number of service delivery units from 30 to 21 .

The local authority fire services annual budget of €250 million and the 3,233 fire-fighters who provide the services are currently managed by the 29 Chief Fire Officers . Following implementation of KCS, in a new configuration of 21 service delivery units, there will be 21 Chief Fire Officer positions .

At the most recent count in 2012 , there are 203 senior fire officers (including the 29 Chief Fire Officers) who provide and manage the delivery of fire services from 220 fire stations, using a fleet of some 500 vehicles. Staffing in the fire services is covered by the local government Employment Control Framework for the sector . Firefighter numbers have been protected from the recruitment embargo and have not changed since 2008, while senior officer numbers have decreased from 270 to 203 in the same period. This 25% decrease of officer numbers is in line with overall local authority staffing decreases.

Unfinished Housing Developments Data

Questions (436)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

436. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government , further to Parliamentary Question No. 456 of 12 February 2013, the reason an estate in south Tipperary which had been classed in category three unfinished estates by South Tipperary County Council in 2011 has not been included in his Departments list of unfinished estates for household charge purposes; if his Department has received requests from South Tipperary County Council to correct the omission of this estate (details supplied); if he will have this estate included in the list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9671/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, published by my Department in October 2011, local authorities , including South Tipperary County Council, provided details of all unfinished housing developments in their areas. Unfinished housing developments were divided into four categories as follows: Category one, where the development is still being actively completed by the developer, or where no serious public safety issues exist; Category two, where a receiver has been appointed; Category three, where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and Category four, where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.

This categorisation formed the basis for the list of those unfinished developments eligible for a waiver on the annual household charge. Only households in developments in categories three and four are eligible for the waiver from payment of the household charge. The list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012.

While Longfield Park, Boherlahan, was classified as category three by the local authority when identifying unfinished estates as part of the 2011 National Housing Development Survey, it was omitted, in error, from the list of estates prescribed as qualifying for a waiver from the household charge 2012. There is no appeals procedure and no facility to amend the list once it has been prescribed. Consideration of the categorisation of this development will again arise in the context of the prescribed list for purposes of the waiver from the local property tax.

United Nations Environmental Programme

Questions (437)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

437. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will report on the 27th session of the UN Environment Programme Governing Council recently held in Kenya; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9676/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The 27th session of UNEP’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum took place in Nairobi from 18 February to 22 February. This was a historic meeting as it marked the first under new universal membership arrangements for UNEP agreed in "The Future We Want" document at the Rio +20 Conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012. Environment Ministers attending the Session backed decisions designed to ensure a strengthened and upgraded institution that will be able to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century. This was the first major restructuring of UNEP since it was founded four decades ago. The negotiations in Nairobi were challenging, particularly in relation to the new institutional arrangements and it fell to the Irish Presidency to coordinate the EU’s input to these negotiations.

The Irish Presidency team’s co-ordination role involved managing multiple parallel tracks of meetings and participating in a number of bi-lateral meetings with other non-EU delegations during the Session. Following agreement on all the major decisions tabled, the Irish Presidency on behalf of the EU and its Member States welcomed the outcome of the Session.

The Ministerial segment took place over the first three days of the Session during which I and fellow Ministers discussed a range of issues including the key priority of Institutional Reform of UNEP, Sustainable Development Goals, and the Green Economy. In addition, the Governing Council took a number of other decisions across a range of themes including on sustainable consumption and production, green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, chemicals and waste and UNEP’s Programme of Work and Budget. Further details on the negotiations and outcomes of the meeting are available at http://www.unep.org. On the eve of the Governing Council I addressed a High Level international meeting on the Rule of Law and the Environment which brought together Ministers of the Environment and Government representatives with representatives of the judicial, legal and auditing professions.

I attended and spoke at round table discussions on emerging policy issues in the area of the environment and also attended lunchtime discussions, hosted by the Executive Director of UNEP, Mr. Achim Steiner, on the Green Economy. I also outlined, in my Presidency role, key EU priorities and concerns on the institutional arrangements for UNEP being discussed at the Session. In addition, I attended and spoke on behalf of the EU at a Ministerial Breakfast hosted by the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, for key players in the negotiations. I also attended a reception hosted by the Head of the EU delegation in Nairobi at which Sustainable Development Goals were discussed.

While at the Governing Council I also took the opportunity to have a number of bilateral meetings. I met with the Executive Director of UNEP to discuss a number of issues including the key issues before the Session, Ireland’s Presidency of the EU in the context of the Informal Environment Council which takes place in Dublin on 22/23 April next and issues relating to the GEMS Water Programme, which is the primary source for global water quality data and information. I had further discussions on this latter issue with UNEP at official level.

I also met with Mr. Richard Beynon, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs, during which we discussed priorities for Ireland’s Presidency of the EU. I also met with Mr. Janez Potocnik, EU Commissioner for the Environment, to review EU priorities and the state of play in negotiations during the Governing Council and co-chaired, with Commissioner Potocnik, a meeting with representatives of major groups and civil society. During the negotiations, I also chaired two meetings of EU Ministers and Heads of Delegations to agree EU priorities as discussions moved into a critical phase. Commissioner Potocnik and I also took the opportunity to meet, on a bilateral basis, with Environment Ministers from a number of Latin American countries - Columbia, Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil - to discuss key issues during the Session, principally in relation to sustainable development goals, the green economy and resource efficiency.

In the margins of the Governing Council, and in accordance with normal practice, I attended a reception hosted by Ireland’s Honorary Consul at which I met members of the Irish Community in Kenya and Irish officials from UNEP involved in preparations for the 27th session.

Control of Dogs

Questions (438)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

438. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on recent contact with farming representatives regarding the promotion of responsible dog ownership, particularly in order to reduce the level of sheep worrying taking place in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9693/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Both I and my Department met recently with representatives of the Irish Farming Association as part of on-going discussions regarding dog control issues in general and instances of sheep worrying in particular.

As a direct result of these discussions both my Department and the Irish Farmers Association issued press releases regarding the spate of serious dog attacks on sheep which occurred earlier in the year. I stressed the need for owners to take responsibility for their dogs, as this is the most effective way of ensuring that such attacks are avoided. These comments received significant nationwide media coverage.

My Department is joining with the Irish Farmers Association in the development of a local radio advertising campaign to highlight the issue of dog attacks on sheep. I expect this to air shortly to coincide with the main lambing season.

I will continue to work with the IFA and other responsible stakeholders on our shared aim of promoting responsible dog ownership and to reinforce the message that dogs should never be allowed to roam alone, especially at night and most especially during the lambing season.

Architectural Qualifications

Questions (439)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

439. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce a provision for a grandfather clause under the Building Control Act and its regulations to ensure that persons with experience and a long standing reputation in the business may continue to operate as architects and use that title; and in particular that they will be qualified to provide building certification services under the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9706/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Part 3 of the Building Control Act 2007 sets out the statutory arrangements for the registration of persons legally entitled to use the title of Architect. Section 22 of the Act already provides for the continued operation, as architects, of experienced persons by means of a technical assessment process which is open to individuals who had been performing duties commensurate with those of an architect for a period of ten years or more prior to the commencement of the Act. Eight persons have to date successfully qualified for inclusion on the register of architects by means of the technical assessment process. I am satisfied that the statutory arrangements for registration that are currently in place are appropriate, open and transparent and I have no plans to change these arrangements at present. In relation to practically trained architects in particular, it is clear that the technical assessment process is a viable route to registration and I look forward to seeing more persons avail of this opportunity in time. I have asked my Department to work in conjunction with the registration body to see if any practical steps can be taken to facilitate and support the relatively small number of practically trained persons who are interested in and eligible to pursue registration by means of technical assessment.

I am currently finalising the Building Control Amendment Regulations 2013 for signature into law following a comprehensive public consultation process undertaken in 2012. Persons who are on the registers of Architects and Building Surveyors established in accordance with the Building Control Act 2007, or who are Chartered Engineers, may sign the statutory certificates of compliance for designers and for assigned certifiers that will be introduced under the new regulations. Depending on their background and experience the persons of experience and long standing reputation referred to may also qualify for consideration for inclusion on the register of Building Surveyors which, as indicated, would also enable them to sign the statutory certificates being introduced under the new regulations. The new regulations will provide for a transition period of 12 months which will, among other things, give sufficient time for eligible persons who have not already done so to apply for registration.

Septic Tank Grants

Questions (440)

Simon Harris

Question:

440. Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow may recover some of the cost incurred for a puraflo effluent treatment system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9728/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

On 17 December 2012 I announced my intention to introduce a grant scheme to provide financial assistance to households whose septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems are deemed to require remediation following an inspection under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012. The grant scheme will apply to treatment systems which are the subject of an Advisory Notice issued by a water services authority following an inspection carried out under the 2012 Act and the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Inspection Plan 2013. Full details of the scheme will be defined in regulations which I will make in advance of inspections commencing later this year.

Local Authority Housing Rents

Questions (441)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

441. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons in arrears on their rental of local authority housing; if he will provide a breakdown of these figures down by local authority and length of time in arrears; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9820/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department collates and publishes a wide range of housing and planning statistics that inform the preparation and evaluation of policy, and those data are available on my Department’s website www.environ.ie. Data on rent arrears owing to local authorities are included within this range. However, these data are not broken down by the number of households or by the length of time in arrears. Statistics in relation to 2012 are currently being collated.

Commercial Rates Valuation Process

Questions (442)

Paudie Coffey

Question:

442. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government , further to Parliamentary Question No. 144 of 12 December 2012, which specific section in the Valuation Act 2001 he refers to in his answer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9877/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

As previously indicated, 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 Commission of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001.

The legislation governing the application of rates is not limited to that Act, however, and provisions in relation to rating law range across a number of statutes. The provision that rates may be payable by a subsequent occupier if they cannot be recovered from the person with whom primary liability lies is at section 71 of the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act 1838.

Commercial Rates Exemptions

Questions (443, 444)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

443. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if all community child care groups have their premises exempt from payment of commercial rates and if so on what basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9895/13]

View answer

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

444. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider exempting registered private child care facilities from commercial rates on the basis of their educational function; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9896/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 443 and 444 together.

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. With regard to the application of rates to child care facilities, where child care provision is within a community facility operating in a non-profit capacity, commercial rates do not generally apply.

The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority. The annual rate on valuation (ARV), which is applied to the valuation of each property, determined by the Valuation Office, to obtain the amount payable in rates is decided by the elected members of each local authority in the annual budget and its determination is a reserved function.

However, it is a matter for the Commissioner of Valuation to decide whether or not a property is rateable and on what basis it is placed on the valuation list. The Valuation Office comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Public Sector Staff

Questions (445)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

445. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there is a moratorium on former employees of local authority planning departments precluding such former employees from providing planning consultancy services for a period of time after their employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9943/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Code of Conduct for employees of local authorities was published in June 2004 under Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001. It is an integral part of the ethical framework for the local government service. The Code includes disclosure requirements concerning employment outside the local government sector and addresses situations concerning a conflict of personal and public interest. The code also provides that officials to whom part 15 of the Act applies shall not, within twelve months of resignation or retirement, accept an offer of employment or consultancy engagement where the nature and terms are such that the question of a conflict of interest could arise without obtaining the approval of the appropriate authority. The twelve month period applies to an employee to whom Part 15 applied at any time during the six month period immediately prior to retirement or resignation.

Local Authority Finances

Question No. 447 answered with Question No. 431.

Questions (446)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

446. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown on a county basis of the debt levels of county councils; if he is satisfied that all local authorities are financially viable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9947/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

It is a matter for each local authority to manage its own finances in a prudent and sustainable manner. Under the Local Government Act 2001, a decision to borrow money is a reserved function of the elected m embers of a local authority. Section 106 of the Act determines that local authorities must obtain the consent of the appropriate Minister to undertake borrowing. Local authorities are asked, as an essential pre-condition to borrowing, to ensure that they achieve balanced revenue and capital accounts.

The total loans payable by each local authority at end 2009 and 2010 as reported in the audited Annual Financial Statements of County, City, Borough and Town Councils is set out in the table below.

Local Authority

2010

2009

Carlow County Council

40,962,899

41,358,897

Cavan County Council

23,829,337

23,819,719

Clare County Council

119,035,823

118,908,244

Cork County Council

514,459,652

550,598,407

Donegal County Council

123,324,378

133,027,591

Fingal County Council

443,820,638

493,766,630

D.Laoire/Rathdown County Council

167,651,292

185,010,002

Galway County Council

110,126,595

120,075,130

Kerry County Council

97,283,880

98,941,063

Kildare County Council

163,566,100

164,041,579

Kilkenny County Council

55,073,315

56,080,528

Laois County Council

129,866,968

120,084,235

Leitrim County Council

16,449,042

12,649,001

Limerick County Council

65,652,024

65,759,912

Longford County Council

48,865,576

44,303,668

Louth County Council

31,438,555

35,584,343

Mayo County Council

109,749,910

93,571,125

Meath County Council

92,862,599

98,072,345

Monaghan County Council

34,845,191

35,164,449

Tipp NR County Council

53,477,681

53,433,040

Offaly County Council

66,958,610

68,895,143

Roscommon County Council

14,573,427

16,807,152

Sligo County Council

73,744,717

62,789,825

Sth Dublin County Council

261,526,564

256,587,986

Tipp SR County Council

68,981,434

72,216,009

Waterford County Council

48,286,469

49,107,339

Westmeath County Council

107,922,722

103,320,527

Wexford County Council

166,274,246

153,998,217

Wicklow County Council

94,584,015

96,387,603

Cork City Council

179,267,917

197,007,867

Dublin City Council

921,257,896

1,248,414,574

Galway City Council

117,516,778

133,071,074

Limerick City Council

25,612,289

25,824,454

Waterford City Council

84,536,828

80,033,504

Clonmel Borough Council

5,021,932

5,250,208

Drogheda Borough Council

71,587,301

76,009,172

Kilkenny Borough Council

728,220

847,261

Sligo Borough Council

42,617,756

42,335,861

Wexford Borough Council

4,649,718

4,921,663

Arklow Town Council

65,750

73,038

Athlone Town Council

3,955,029

4,226,609

Athy Town Council

4,473,650

2,336,025

Ballina Town Council

81,996

96,056

Ballinasloe Town Council

0

0

Birr Town Council

299,929

312,814

Bray Town Council

7,453,996

7,477,461

Buncrana Town Council

0

0

Bundoran Town Council

3,282,833

3,535,761

Carlow Town Council

2,750,000

0

Carrick-on-suir Town Council

420,247

418,726

Carrickmacross Town Council

0

0

Cashel Town Council

0

0

Castlebar Town Council

11,965,457

4,771,724

Castleblaney Town Council

61,343

68,410

Cavan Town Council

0

0

Clonakilty Town Council

852,896

2,291,239

Clones Town Council

171,631

179,925

Cobh Town Council

0

0

Dundalk Town Council

50,381,551

52,766,448

Dungarvan Town Council

39,369

44,735

Ennis Town Council

8,546,959

9,212,072

Enniscorthy Town Council

4,528

4,978

Fermoy Town Council

574,537

2,322,332

Kells Town Council

58,200

63,009

Killarney Town Council

3,228,865

3,532,431

Kilrush Town Council

535,888

681,559

Kinsale Town Council

195,456

212,745

Letterkenny Town Council

9,834,861

6,560,140

Listowel Town Council

815,875

967,027

Longford Town Council

3,915,903

5,462,144

Macroom Town Council

0

0

Mallow Town Council

3,814,131

3,761,691

dleton Town Council

0

0

Monaghan Town Council

1,066,114

1,242,313

Naas Town Council

18,048,496

19,831,095

Navan Town Council

5,376,141

3,063,381

Nenagh Town Council

1,834,779

861,584

New Ross Town Council

1,072,500

0

Skibbereen Town Council

2,368,259

2,434,445

Templemore Town Council

0

0

Thurles Town Council

0

0

Tipperary Town Council

0

0

Tralee Town Council

15,117,088

21,777,374

Trim Town Council

3,048,883

3,199,822

Tullamore Town Council

8,357,585

10,881,067

Westport Town Council

5,152,959

4,244,487

Wicklow Town Council

5,991,184

7,304,973

Youghal Town Council

1,693,765

1,822,643

TOTAL

4,984,898,927

5,426,117,632

Question No. 447 answered with Question No. 431.

Local Authority Finances

Questions (448)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

448. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the process that will be in place to audit the spending of property taxes in the local communities in which they are collected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10039/13]

View answer

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.

The audit arrangements which generally apply to local authority financial activity will apply to the Local Property Tax.

The governance framework in relation to financial management and reporting in local authorities is contained primarily within the Local Government Act 2001 and the Local Government (Financial Procedures and Audit) Regulations 2002. Local authorities are subject to a number of financial reporting requirements. Some of these requirements are statutory while others form part of the Department’s general governance processes, the financial oversight function s of the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform and also specific requirements relating to the EU/IMF programme of support.

Section 108 of the Local Government Act 2001 requires every local authority to prepare an Annual Financial Statement. The annual financial statements of local authorities are audited by the Local Government Audit Service, which provides independent scrutiny of the financial stewardship of local authorities. The independence of the Audit Service is protected in legislation.

In addition, in line with best practice in corporate governance, audit committees have been established in all County and City Councils. Audit committees have an independent role in advising Councils on financial reporting processes, internal control, risk management and audit matters.

National Spatial Strategy

Questions (449, 450, 453)

John Lyons

Question:

449. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to engage in a consultation process on the formulation of a replacement spatial plan to the national spatial strategy; if he will provide a timeframe for this consultation and delivery of a new plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10044/13]

View answer

John Lyons

Question:

450. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to put any successor to the national spatial strategy on a statutory footing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10045/13]

View answer

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

453. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to reassure the people of Letterkenny, County Donegal, on their serious concerns now that they have lost their Gateway status and are soon to lose their town council. [10111/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 449 , 450 and 453 together.

The 2002 National Spatial Strategy (NSS) is Ireland’s first national strategic spatial planning framework providing the spatial vision and principles to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development and population growth between regions. It serves as a strategic context for spatial planning in Ireland by regional authorities in their regional planning guidelines role, for planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála in their statutory planning functions, and by influencing investment priorities particularly in transport, housing, water services, communications, energy, health and education infrastructure. 

The 2002 NSS remains in place, including its focus on developing the Gateway and Hub locations. However, together with Minister Hogan, I will be bringing proposals to Government later this year for a road map to develop a successor strategy. This will take account of the report of the Mahon Tribunal which recommended that the NSS be given a statutory footing in both its preparation and implementation.

I expect the successor to maintain the key principles of the current NSS but to be different in terms of focus and content given that the Regional Planning Guidelines now provide the well-established framework for articulating the NSS at regional level. The key principle of an evidence-based plan-led approach will remain in order to provide the foundation for proper planning and sustainable development, and maximising the role of a successor NSS in supporting overall economic recovery for our country, regions, counties, cities, towns and rural areas.

Light Pollution

Questions (451)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

451. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding a letter of support in respect of an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10049/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question No.180 of 20 February 2013 which outlines the position in this matter.

Fire Service Staff

Question No. 453 answered with Question No. 449.

Questions (452)

Robert Dowds

Question:

452. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there will be any recruitment of Fire Service staff in the foreseeable future; and if so, if there will be any age limit placed on such recruitment when it recommences. [10102/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Fire services are provided by the local authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Fire Services Act 1981 and 2003. Under section 10 of the Act, a fire authority is required to make provision for the delivery of fire services in its functional area, including the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of premises.

The embargo on the filling of posts in the Local Government Service was introduced on 24 March 2009 following a Government Decision to implement savings measures across the wider public service.

My Department received a delegated sanction from the Department of Finance in August 2009 for implementation of this general moratorium on the filling of public sector posts across all local authorities.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each County and City Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible. In this regard, it is a matter for County and City managers, in the first instance, to ensure that the reduction in staff numbers is managed so that the appropriate service level is maintained within budgetary and staffing constraints.

Where vacancies arise, local authorities must consider all options for reorganisation and reallocation of work to meet requirements.  Any exceptions to the moratorium require sanction from my Department.

All staffing sanction requests are examined on a case by case basis having due regard to the continued delivery of key services and the need further to reduce overall staffing levels in the local authority sector. My Department works closely with local authorities to ensure that key posts are filled. In this regard, the majority of the sanctions granted are for the filling of posts in front line service areas such as fire and emergency services, water services, roads maintenance, housing, community and enterprise, and in relation to capital projects. Of the 585 requests received in respect of Fire and Emergency service posts since 2009, 480 have been sanctioned, 8 have been withdrawn, 3 have been refused and 94 are pending.

In view of the financial position facing local authorities, and the country as a whole, it is necessary to continue to focus on achieving the greatest possible savings. In this context, my Department and local authorities will continue to make every effort to ensure that further efficiencies and savings are attained by the sector while an appropriate level of service to the public is maintained.

Question No. 453 answered with Question No. 449.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Questions (454)

Gerry Adams

Question:

454. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if as part of the process of social housing reform, a review of the 2011 social housing assessment regulations has been carried out; if the review has been completed; if any revised regulations or guidance has been issued on foot of the review; if consideration has been given to giving wider discretion to housing authorities to deal with complex cases such as those involving newly separated persons or situations where persons flee the family home as a result of domestic violence and are in need of long term housing. [10117/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

A review of the implementation of the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 has been initiated under the overall programme for social housing reform and this process is on-going. It is intended that revised regulations and guidance will issue to housing authorities once the process is complete. In this context consideration will be given to what wider discretion might be given to housing authorities to address the individually difficult and complex cases which may present to them.

Alternative Energy Projects

Questions (455)

Pat Deering

Question:

455. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when an application for funding for a Miscanthus plant will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [10120/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme for which my Department has responsibility aims to improve the quality of life in rural areas and support the diversification of the rural economy. Axis 1 and 2 specifically support the agricultural aspects of the rural economy, and, accordingly, Axes 3 and 4 are prohibited from supporting activity that involves the production/growth of agricultural products.

The harvesting of such products could also be considered agricultural activity. In this context the operating rules for Axes 3 and 4 specifically state that support can only be considered for post-harvest activity when it relates to agricultural products.

The project referred to in the question involves the processing of miscanthus, a species of grass used as a renewable energy source. The production of such grass can be considered for support under a scheme already available in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and it could therefore be considered an agricultural product. Clarification is being sought from the European Commission to determine the appropriate distinction between production and processing, thereby potentially facilitating support under the LEADER elements of the RDP. Pending this clarification, a final approval of the project in question will not be possible. However, my Department will be in contact with Carlow County Development Partnership as soon as possible in regard to this project.