Departmental Correspondence

Questions (162)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

162. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding response times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12081/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under the terms of my Department’s Customer Charter there is a commitment to respond to letter and email correspondence within fifteen working days.  My Department endeavours to meet this deadline having regard to other competing demands on resources. In the event, I understand that the matter raised in this instance is the responsibility of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and a reply confirming this will issue today.

Local Authority Funding

Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 155.

Questions (163)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

163. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the criteria used in assessing the allocation of funding to the local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12097/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I assume that the Question refers to general purpose grants from the Local Government Fund. General purpose grants are my Department’s contribution towards meeting the cost to local authorities of providing a reasonable level of services to their customers. Some €640 million in general purpose grants has been allocated to local authorities for 2013. I am satisfied that the general purpose allocations provided for 2013, together with the income available from other sources, will enable local authorities to provide a reasonable level of services to their customers.

Local authorities cost and income bases vary significantly from one another and calculating an appropriate distribution of these grants is complex. 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. In determining these grants 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.

Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 155.

Local Government Reform

Questions (165)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

165. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the programme for reform of local government will include improving communication directly between citizens and the agencies or Departments delivering the relevant local services; if greater clarity will be provided to citizens in relation to which level or agency of Government is responsible for delivering particular services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12141/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government’s Action Programme for Effective Local Government outline, inter alia, proposals for the implementation of a range of measures to maximise operational and organisational efficiency and performance in local government and ensure that the best possible standard of service and responsiveness is provided by local authorities to customers, citizens and taxpayers. It also provides that the role of local government will be widened by using its capacity to undertake functions with or on behalf of other sectors and performing a coordination and leadership role locally. Local authorities continue to give priority to maintaining the highest possible standard of customer service in the context of more efficient use of resources, including increased innovation in the delivery of services, for example through area offices and the growing use of online information and service provision and use of social media.

The Action Programme provides that local authority customer charters will be reviewed where they are more than three years old or where significant changes have been made in service provision to ensure continuing improvement in the provision of the optimum level of service to the citizen, and furthermore, in future each City and County Council will ensure that it has a dedicated, suitably trained, Customer Service Officer. This will provide greater clarity to citizens in relation to services provided by local authorities. The Fixtyourstreet.ie website, which assists citizens in reporting problems with street lighting, drainage, graffiti, waste collection and road and path maintenance in their neighbourhoods is now accessible in all local authority areas. As part of the Action Programme, a set of Performance Indicators and Performance Standards against which local authorities can demonstrate their performance will be put in place. Increased emphasis will be placed on identifying customers’ expectations and requirements and their experience of service delivery in their local authority.

To optimise the benefits of Performance Standards and Performance Indicators, local authorities will prepare annual Service Plans and set targets to be achieved in the delivery of services against each of the Performance Standards. The Service Plans, which will cover each service division in each local authority and will set out the decisions taken in relation to the services and levels of standards to which they are expected to be provided, will be adopted by the elected members as a reserved function.

Building Regulations Application

Questions (166)

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

166. Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the discussions his Department has had with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists with regards the draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2012; if he will confirm if the CIAT will have an opportunity to make a formal submission to him before these regulations are commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12168/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Following a comprehensive public consultation process undertaken in 2012, I am currently finalising the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013 for signature into law. The new regulations will provide, among other things, for the introduction of mandatory certificates of compliance by builders and designers of buildings confirming that the statutory requirements of the Building Regulations have been met in relation to the building concerned. In addition a building owner will be required to assign a registered professional to inspect the work during construction and also to certify that the completed building is in compliance with the requirements of the Building Regulations. The roles of lead designer and assigned certifier may only be undertaken by competent persons who are included on the registers of Architects or Building Surveyors as provided for under the Building Control Act 2007 or who are Chartered Engineers.

Depending on their own personal circumstances, it may be open to members of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) to seek inclusion on one or other of the registers of Architects or Building Surveyors. My Department has had discussions and correspondence with the executive of CIAT in recent months in relation to the options for registration under the Building Control Act 2007 that are currently open to their members and the potential for further developing the registration process in line with the Act of 2007. It is intended to meet with CIAT again in the near future and my Department is happy to continue to advise and assist CIAT on this basis in relation to the matter.

Local Authority Expenditure

Questions (167)

Joan Collins

Question:

167. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it has been brought to his attention that in 2008 Sligo County Council sought approval from his Department to the raising of a loan of €6.4 million for a new Sligo Museum and an extension to the Model Arts and Niland Gallery, that the total capital cost of the new Museum and extension to the Model and Niland Gallery was an estimated €23.5 million; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the balance of the capital funding was to be provided by way of a contribution of €2 million from the Model Niland Gallery, a grant of €4.6 million from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism ACCESS I and II and Government grants of €10.5 million from the Gateway Innovation Fund and ACCESS III; if the loan was approved by his Department conditional on the balance of the funding being made available from the other sources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12171/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The elected members of a local authority have direct responsibility in law for all reserved functions of the authority, which include adopting the annual budget and authorising borrowing, and are democratically accountable for all expenditure by the local authority. Section 106 of the Local Government Act 2001 requires that borrowings by a local authority are sanctioned by the appropriate Minister. Strategic investment in arts and cultural infrastructure is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Waste Management Issues

Questions (168)

Brendan Smith

Question:

168. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce a national waste management bin collection waiver for senior citizens and low income families in view of the fact that many senior citizens and low income families do not have the sufficient financial resources to meet additional household payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12187/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government’s new waste policy, A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland, was published in July 2012. Among the measures included in the policy is the establishment of an interdepartmental working group to report to Government with options to minimise the impact of waste charges on low income households. The working group, which comprises representatives of my Department and the Departments of Social Protection; Public Expenditure and Reform; Finance; and the Tánaiste's Office, submitted its first report to Government on 11 December 2012.  Government considered the report and the working group is to continue to examine the design and implementation of measures to address the issue and will provide a further report to Government by 31 March 2013.

Another measure of the Government’s waste policy is the revision of the current regulatory regime, to ensure, inter alia, that waste collection providers have Customer Charters in place. The Customer Charters will be required clearly to set out information for customers in relation to issues such as charging structures, procedures for dealing with customers who may fall into arrears, and arrangements for switching from one waste collector to another.  I wrote to the waste management industry in September and October, 2012 in relation to the development of such charters and I understand that a number of waste collection providers have already put in place a Customer Charter ahead of the development of the new regulatory regime. I further understand that a number of waste collection operators have notified former local authority customers of the offers and discounts available to those previously in receipt of a local authority waste collection waiver.

Voluntary Housing Sector Issues

Questions (169)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

169. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to date of dialogue between his Department and Kildare County Council in the matter of the regularisation of issues appertaining to the operation of a housing association (details supplied) and similarly constituted housing associations in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12219/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Léim an Bhradáin Housing Association received approved housing body status for voluntary housing purposes from my Department in September 1997. The association has a four-person Board of Directors and currently manages and operates a 32-unit voluntary housing scheme at Sli an Chanail, Easton Road, Leixlip, Co. Kildare. My Department’s role in relation to the voluntary housing capital funding schemes relates primarily to the provision of funds to support the annual construction and housing acquisitions programmes by the sector. It is a matter for the relevant housing authority to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of the schemes and to have appropriate oversight and liaison arrangements in place for the effective administration of the schemes and for ensuring that the investment in voluntary housing is safeguarded.

Kildare County Council has been engaging closely with the Léim an Bhradáin housing association on a range of issues pertaining to the management and operation of the housing scheme and has kept my Department informed of progress on these issues . My Department will be arranging a meeting with the Director of Service and senior housing officials in Kildare County Council as soon as possible to discuss the council’s social housing programme for 2013. The management of a number of schemes operated by approved housing bodies in County Kildare will be a specific matter for discussion at this meeting.