Sale of State Assets

Questions (150)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

150. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the power stations abroad that the ESB is selling; the reason they are selling same; if it is his policy; the expected yield for the ESB and the expected special dividend for the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12057/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

As part of the Government’s asset disposal programme provided for in the Programme for Government and agreed with the troika (i.e. the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), the Government has agreed the sale of some non-strategic power generation assets of the ESB. The disposal process is overseen by a Steering Group co-chaired by officials from both my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and including officials from the Department of Finance and NewERA.

Significant progress was made during 2012 on preparing for the asset disposals. ESB made an announcement in October 2012 regarding the sale of some of its non-strategic generation capacity. This will involve a package of assets being brought to the market on a phased basis, commencing in 2013, with the objective of delivering up to €400 million of special dividends to the Government by 2014. In this regard, ESB announced on 27 February 2013 its intention to sell its 50% shareholding in each of its international tolling plants, namely Marchwood Power Ltd in the UK and Bizkaia Energia SL in Spain. Details of further components of the package will be announced at the appropriate junctures, subject to (i) the integrity of the sales processes and (ii) relevant commercial considerations.

Broadband Services Provision

Questions (151)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

151. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the plans in place to roll out broadband in the Oldtown, Ballyboughal, Naul and Garristown areas of north County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12111/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland’s telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and since then has developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available on a County-by-County basis, including County Dublin, can be found on the website of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) at www.callcosts.ie.

The State only becomes involved in the provision of services in instances of clear market failure, such as in the case of the National Broadband Scheme and the Rural Broadband Scheme. The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland has met the EU Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013, and the focus is now on accelerating the roll out of high speed services.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August last, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed services of at least 30 Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, well in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible. Specifically, it commits to:

- 70 Mbps to 100 Mbps available from the commercial market operators to more than half of the population by 2015,

- At least 40 Mbps, and in many cases faster speeds, to at least a further 20% and potentially as much as 35% of the population, and

- A minimum of 30 Mbps for every remaining home and business in the country.

During the preparation of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, the commercial market operators indicated that they expect to provide 70 Mbps to 100 Mbps services to 50% of the population by 2015. The commercial sector is already making these investments in high speed services, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas. The Government is also committed in the Plan to investing in areas where high speed services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market.

My Department is making preparations to commence a formal national mapping exercise to identify where the market is expected to succeed and fail in the delivery of high speed broadband over the coming years. This will inform the level of Government interaction that may be required and the areas that need to be targeted for a State-led investment. It will also form a critical input to an EU State Aid application in respect of any State-led intervention.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, we are committed to increasing the availability of next generation speeds significantly, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and business can participate fully in a digitally enabled society. I would reiterate that the Government remains committed to the delivery of the speeds referred to above, to ensure that all parts of Ireland, including areas such as, Oldtown, Ballyboughal, Naul and Garristown will have at least 30 Mbps connectivity.

Broadband Services Provision

Questions (152)

Seán Kyne

Question:

152. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm if the feasibility of using the existing electricity grid network for the provision of broadband Internet services has been examined; if so if his policy favours the use of using such technology to bring broadband internet access to remote locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12275/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

It has been Government policy for some time that State entities should avail of commercial opportunities to facilitate the deployment of infrastructure to the telecommunications market. A number of commercial State companies and non-commercial State bodies are currently leveraging their infrastructure in this way and have contributed to the marked improvement in broadband services in recent years. I am aware that the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), for example, recently sought a joint venture partner to deploy and manage, as a wholesale service provider, access to a fibre-to-the-building network capable of providing next generation broadband services, using the existing electricity network infrastructure. These initiatives are consistent with the National Broadband Plan (NBP) which reaffirms the Government’s commitment to using State Assets to help accelerate the roll-out of next generation high speed broadband.

The NBP also recognises that Government intervention will be required to ensure a minimum marketed speed of 30 megabits per second will be available in those parts of the country the competitive market will not serve. The NBP estimates required public funding will be significant, in the region of €175 million. The actual level of investment will be decided in a future competitive procurement process managed by my Department. There will be a number of technologies and solutions capable of meeting the qualitative requirements. It is not appropriate for me to express a preference for any one potential solution or applicant over others prior to the completion of the procurement process.

Local Authority Housing Maintenance

Questions (153)

Robert Troy

Question:

153. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will make funding available to the local authorities to upgrade council houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12047/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under my Department’s Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme includes a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building. Over the past four years, the retrofitting measure focussed on improvement works to vacant houses with the objective of returning as many as possible of these dwellings to productive use and combating dereliction and associated anti-social behaviour. Over that period some € 99.9 million was recouped to local authorities in respect of improvements carried out to 7,762 dwellings.

This year I will be focusing investment on improving the quality and standard of the tenanted social rented units. This will be done through a range of measures including regeneration, estate-wide remedial works and energy retrofitting of older houses and apartments. I am bringing in a new measure which will specifically target older properties and involves the insulation of attics and walls, draught-proofing of windows and doors and the fitting of heating controls.

Last week I allocated €111.4 million for a programme of works ranging from large scale regeneration works to a retrofitting scheme aimed at improving the energy efficiency of these properties. My Department also provides capital funding to local authorities to assist with the provision of necessary adaptations and extensions to their properties to meet the needs of tenants with a disability.

A second focus this year will be to undertake an audit of the 130,000 social housing units in conjunction with the local authorities, in order to better understand the quality and distribution of the national social housing stock and to facilitate the future planning of sound and robust improvement works programmes. This will provide a comprehensive database to inform future targeted interventions aimed at further improving the stock.

Fire Service Issues

Questions (154)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

154. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide the detailed data and risk assessment that his Department used to base its finding for Keeping Communities Safe document; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12050/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The recently published Keeping Communities Safe (KCS) sets the future direction of fire services in a way that aligns fire services and fire safety in Ireland with international good practice. KCS was developed by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in my Department following a review of relevant international literature which is referenced in Appendix D of the document. A collaborative process was used between central and local government in developing KCS, including expert input by Chief Fire Officers and fire services personnel; stakeholder consultation and engagement by the National Directorate with relevant technical organisations to ensure the best fit between up-to-date thinking and Ireland’s needs. The document was recommended for adoption as national policy by the Management Board of the Directorate.

KCS is based on the systems approach to safety management in set ting out the guidance and core standards for fire authorities to achieve the objective of keeping communities safe from fire. The systems approach is recognised internationally and is applied in many safety spheres. The Risk Management approach, which is described in Chapter 2 of KCS, is generally seen to involve five stages including identifying hazards and evaluating the risks these hazards pose, mitigating these risks by trying to reduce the probability of the event and/or its consequences if it does occur, planning and preparing to deal with the risk, responding to an event, and reviewing events with a view to learning for the future.

A common understanding in relation to terminology in risk management is important, hence the inclusion of relevant definitions in Appendix E of KCS. In particular, the term “Risk Assessment” as used in KCS is one stage of the risk management process outlined above. The National Directorate prepared a series of ‘Task Analyses’ to show how the recommended initial ‘Pre -determined Attendance’ (PDAs) responses may safely undertake tasks normally associated with the common range of fire scenarios set out in Appendix A to the document.

Under Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 , 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 through a number of approaches. The concept of ‘Dynamic Risk Assessment’ at fire service operations is embedded in the National Incident Command System introduced in 2007. The Fire Services Ancillary Safety Statement, also from 2007, developed generic risk assessment processes for fire services, and the Fire Service Standard Operational Guidance (SOGs) developed specific situational risk assessments for fire services activities. It is expected that 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, based on the Task Analyses referred to above. 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.

Septic Tank Registration Scheme

Questions (155, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 171)

Robert Troy

Question:

155. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if septic tank registration will have to be renewed every five years; and if there will be a renewal charge on each occasion. [12055/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

158. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of households who have registered their private waste water systems to date, broken down by county; the percentage who have registered in each county; if he intends to extend the deadline for registration for the purpose of being eligible for the upgrade grants to the date of the announcement of the details of these grants and the availability of application forms for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12076/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

159. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he will announce details of the grant scheme for the upgrade of private waste water systems; if persons who have registered by that date will be eligible for the grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12077/13]

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Brendan Griffin

Question:

160. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when householders will be able to avail of grants to improve their septic tanks. [12079/13]

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Brendan Griffin

Question:

161. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if householders can be proactive and if they will able to avail of grants to improve their septic tanks in advance of any inspection being carried out by their local authority or if they will have to wait to be inspected and failed. [12080/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

164. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency not to commence inspections until July 2013, if all householders who have registered their private waste water system by that date will be eligible for the grants announced by him for private waste water systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12118/13]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

171. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline details of the proposed grant scheme for the upgrading of septic tanks; when the scheme will become operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12270/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155, 158 to 161, inclusive, 164 and 171 together.

In relation to the grant scheme for septic tanks, I refer to the reply to Question No. 440 of 26 February 2013 which sets out the position in this matter. Section 70B(5) of the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provides that a certificate of registration for a domestic waste water treatment system will be valid for five years. The legislation does not provide for a re-registration fee and I have no plans to introduce such a fee.

As of 5 March 2013, applications in respect of the on-site wastewater treatment systems of 389,891 owners had been processed and approximately 3 5,000 additional registration applications were awaiting processing by the bureau operated by the Local Government Management Agency. Details of the number of processed registrations for each County and City Council are set out in the table below. Registration facilities have been available since 26 June 2012 and have been comprehensively publicised. The deadline for householders to register was 1 February 2013 and I have no plans to extend this date. However, owners of domestic wastewater systems who have not yet registered may still do so and there are no late payment fees payable.

Registrations processed as of 5 March 2013

Water Services Authority

Estimated total number of on-site waste water treatment systems [1]

Number of on-site waste water treatment systems registered

Number of on-site waste water treatment systems registered as a percentage of the estimated total number

Carlow County Council

7190

5,440

76%

Cavan County Council

14477

12,369

85%

Clare County Council

19769

18,085

91%

Cork City Council

586

511

87%

Cork County Council

57993

41,690

72%

Donegal County Council

32955

21,255

64%

Dublin City Council

2718

110

4%

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

1928

1,028

53%

Fingal County Council

5213

2,928

56%

Galway City Council

1145

671

59%

Galway County Council

42161

33,473

79%

Kerry County Council

28277

28,598

100%

Kildare County Council

16795

12,518

75%

Kilkenny County Council

15368

12,011

78%

Laois County Council

11309

8,843

78%

Leitrim County Council

7005

6,488

93%

Limerick City Council

420

240

57%

Limerick County Council

24207

18,510

76%

Longford County Council

7556

6,233

82%

Louth County Council

11633

8,255

71%

Mayo County Council

26659

23,094

87%

Meath County Council

21687

16,459

76%

Monaghan County Council

12065

8,095

67%

North Tipperary County Council

12342

10,565

86%

Offaly County Council

11170

8,403

75%

Roscommon County Council

14297

12,627

88%

Sligo County Council

11192

9,493

85%

South Dublin County Council

2266

1,119

49%

South Tipperary County Council

14442

11,257

78%

Waterford City Council

488

348

71%

Waterford County Council

11466

7,944

69%

Westmeath County Council

12165

9,741

80%

Wexford County Council

26267

21,432

82%

Wicklow County Council

12070

10,058

83%

1Based on CENSUS 2011

Water Meters Expenditure

Questions (156)

Robert Dowds

Question:

156. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will be making regulations, or if there will be any specifications regarding the pricing structure for the installation for water meters; if there will be any maximum amount which can be spent on various aspects of the installation, such as digging up a footpath, when taking into consideration that different houses will require different amounts of digging to install water meters. [12056/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 219 of 27 February 2013, which sets out the position in relation to the procurement process for the water metering programme. I have previously indicated that there will be a proportion of households which will not be metered in the initial metering programme due to either the high cost or the technical difficulty of doing so. For those properties that will be encompassed by the metering programme, the works involved will not be extensive and will only require excavation and installation of a boundary box. The procurement process is governed by a legal framework of European and national legislation and it would not be appropriate to introduce specific regulations concerning the installation of the water meters. As the procurement process is currently underway it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Questions Nos. 158 to 161, inclusive, answered with Question No. 155

Questions (157)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

157. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding funding (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12074/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

This year I allocated some €5.777 million to Kerry County Council in respect of the various measures supported under my Department’s Social Housing Investment Programme. In July 2012, I approved €420,000 for the construction of rural houses in the county over the period 2012–2014 and this is reflected in the Council’s capital allocation for 2013. Given the existing high level of commitments under the housing programme it is not possible to approve additional construction projects at this time. Details of the amounts allocated under the various housing measures are set out in the following table:

Measure

2013 Allocation

Housing Projects*

€617,382

Capital Assistance Scheme Projects

€670,000

Regeneration (Tralee)

€4,000,000

Remedial Works Schemes

€120,487

Adaptations and Extensions

€76,811

Energy Retrofitting

€292,936

*Includes €400,000 for single rural dwellings

Questions Nos. 158 to 161, inclusive, answered with Question No. 155.