Mobile Telephony

Questions (387)

Brian Walsh

Question:

387. Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will consider introducing measures that would require mobile telephone network providers to ensure that all telephone users, including those who opt for the prepaid option, are compelled to register their name and address with their network provider. [13010/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

A proposal to register all customers of mobile phone services was considered previously by my Department which identified many complex legal, technical, data protection and practical issues to be considered. It was concluded at that time that the proposal would be of limited benefit in that it would not solve the illegal and inappropriate use of mobile phones and was not practical. There are no current proposals to compel mobile telephone service providers to register all customers.

Mining Industry

Questions (388)

Michael Lowry

Question:

388. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the current use of the former tailing pond site in Silvermines, County Tipperary, is safe and poses no health risk to residents or animals; if he will detail his long-term plans for the site; if he will provide a guarantee that this site will be safely maintained into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13090/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

For the information of the Deputy, I am advised that the remediated area of the tailings management facility at Gortmore, Silvermines, Nenagh, County Tipperary, comprises a substantial cover including geogrid membrane, a rock layer and soil overlaid by vegetation. I understand that there would not appear to be a risk of immediate or irreversible damage to the property. In the circumstances, public or animal health would not be an issue.

In regard to the immediate issue of livestock on the site in question which was brought to my attention, I can advise the Deputy that a recent inspection by an expert, commissioned by the Department, indicated that there were ten horses and a donkey contained on part of the remediated site. These were observed as not causing any damage to the ground that, along with the vegetation, is described as being in good condition.

There are ongoing negotiations with the landowner on the future of the site. It is my intention to reach an accommodation on this and once the statutory process is observed, I would expect that the tailings management facility will be appropriately managed and monitored on behalf of the State in the future.

Motor Tax Exemptions

Questions (389)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

389. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider introducing a special rate of motor tax for pre-2008 seven seat family vehicles similar to the commercial rate in view of the fact that these vehicles have large engines and come under high motor tax bands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12306/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Private vehicles registered prior to 2008 are charged motor tax on the basis of engine capacity with the rates graduating upwards as the engine size increases. Any reduction in motor tax rates for this category would require a compensatory increase elsewhere in motor tax rates or elsewhere in the tax code. I have no plans to revise the basis of taxation for the vehicles in this category.

Water Meters Expenditure

Question No. 391 answered with Question No. 89.

Questions (390, 432, 445)

Brendan Smith

Question:

390. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that one of the conditions for inclusion on the sub-contractor panel for water metering work is a minimum annual turnover of €400,000; his views on whether this threshold is too high and will deny small-scale operators the opportunity to apply for such work; if he will ensure that this threshold is substantially reduced in line with stated policy on facilitating small and medium enterprises participation in public procurement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12859/13]

View answer

Brian Stanley

Question:

432. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the terms of reference used by the water metering system in choosing companies to be included on the panel for the installation of water meters; his views on whether the required €400,000 turnover for the listed years discriminates against small, experienced businesses in favour of bigger businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13037/13]

View answer

Michael Colreavy

Question:

445. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the terms of reference used by the water metering system in choosing companies to be included on the panel for the installation of water meters; his views on whether the required €400,000 turnover for the listed years discriminates against small, experienced businesses in favour of bigger businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13058/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 390, 432 and 445 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 219 of 27 February 2013, which sets out the position in relation to the procurement process. The position is unchanged.

Question No. 391 answered with Question No. 89.

Roads Maintenance

Questions (392)

John Halligan

Question:

392. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to address the issue of road maintenance in Waterford city and county (details supplied); and the timeframe for same. [12308/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the public service was introduced in March 2009 in response to the financial crisis. My Department operates a delegated sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for implementation of the moratorium in relation to local authorities, and any exceptions to the moratorium in local authorities require sanction from my Department.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each City and County 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 City and County Managers, in the first instance, to ensure that the moratorium is implemented while the appropriate service levels are maintained.

My Department examines all staffing sanction requests on a case by case basis having due regard to the continued delivery of key services in the context of staffing and budgetary constraints. In considering sanction requests public safety, maintaining key front line services, and economic issues are given precedence.

My Department works closely with Waterford City Council and Waterford County Council in relation to overall staffing requirements. No request has been received from Waterford City Council for roads maintenance staff; however, in February 2013, my Department sanctioned 9 General Operative (roads and water) positions for Waterford County Council.

Constitutional Amendments

Questions (393)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

393. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it will be possible to hold a referendum regarding changing the wording of the Constitution to allow the numbers of Deputies to be reduced by 20; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12314/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government has no plans to hold a referendum on Article 16.2.2 of the Constitution to allow for TD numbers to be reduced by 20. The focus of the Government is on implementing the Programme for Government commitment to reduce the number of TDs following the publication of the results of the 2011 census. The first step in this was taken with the enactment of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2011 to provide for the Constituency Commission to recommend a total number of members of Dáil Éireann within the range of 153 to 160, reduced from a range of 164 to 168. The next step was the establishment of a Constituency Commission in July 2011 in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 1997. The final step was taken with the initiation of the Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Bill on 5 October 2012 to implement in full the recommendations of the Constituency Commission including a reduction in the number of TDs to 158. That Bill was passed by the Dáil on 28 February 2013. It is now being considered by the Seanad. The provisions in that Bill, if it is enacted, would come into effect after the dissolution of the Dáil next following its enactment.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Questions (394, 395, 396)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

394. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a list of all properties purchased since 2003 for the purpose of providing homelessness accommodation by local authorities; if the property is occupied or currently vacant; the price paid and the intended purpose of the purchased property; if his Department funded the cost of the purchase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12324/13]

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Kevin Humphreys

Question:

395. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a list of all properties purchased since 2005 by local authorities; if the property is occupied or currently vacant; the price paid and the intended purpose of the purchased property; if it is being used for that purpose; if his Department funded the cost of the purchase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12325/13]

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Kevin Humphreys

Question:

396. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a list of all properties purchased since 2005 by Dublin City Council; if the property is occupied or currently vacant; the price paid and the intended purpose of the purchased property; if it is being used for that purpose; if his Department funded the total or partial cost of the purchase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12326/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 394 to 396, inclusive, together.

In accordance with the provisions of Section 58 of the Housing Act, 1966, local authorities are responsible for the management and maintenance of their social housing stock, including policy and practice in relation to tenancy arrangements and decisions in relation to the acquisition of specific properties to meet identified social housing need.

Local authorities acquire properties to meet a range of housing need, including accommodation for persons with specific categories of housing need such as the homeless, older persons, persons with a physical, intellectual or mental health disability etc. Subject to my Department’s approval, the cost of acquiring properties to add to the social housing stock may be recouped out of the annual capital allocations to local authorities under my Department’s Social Housing Investment Programme.

Information in relation to the numbers of properties acquired by local authorities since 2003 is published in my Department’s Housing Statistics Bulletins, copies of which are available on my Department’s website at www.environ.ie.

The detailed information sought in relation to each of the 8,300 properties acquired across all local authorities over the 10 year period in question is not readily available in my Department and its compilation would involve a disproportionate amount of time and work.

Fire Service Issues

Questions (397)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

397. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department has completed its consideration of a formal sanction in consultation with Dublin City Council for the recruitment of 28 positions in Dublin Fire Brigade and the decision he reached. [12348/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the public service was introduced in March 2009 in response to the financial crisis. My Department operates a delegated sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for implementation of the moratorium in relation to local authorities, and any exceptions to the moratorium in local authorities require sanction from my Department.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each City and County 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 City and County Managers, in the first instance, to ensure that the moratorium is implemented while the appropriate service levels are maintained.

My Department examines all staffing sanction requests on a case by case basis having due regard to the continued delivery of key services in the context of staffing and budgetary constraints. In considering sanction requests public safety, maintaining key front line services, and economic issues are given precedence.

My Department works closely with Dublin City Council in relation to the Council’s overall staffing requirements and, in February 2013 sanctioned 28 Emergency Services Controller positions.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (398, 399, 400, 401, 402)

Robert Troy

Question:

398. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the costs of providing hardware and software to his home and the home of Ministers of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12366/13]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

399. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the costs of providing telephone in the homes of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12384/13]

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Robert Troy

Question:

400. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost of telephones and ICT provided to constituency offices, including monthly telephone bills of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12403/13]

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Robert Troy

Question:

401. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if any additional costs other than telephones, ICT and monthly telephone bills are being paid to constituency office by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12421/13]

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Robert Troy

Question:

402. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of mobile telephones in use by him, Ministers of State and politically appointed staff; the total costs of the mobile telephones since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12439/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 398 to 402, inclusive, together.

The information requested is set out in the following table.

Minister Hogan

-

Minister of State Penrose

-

Minister of State O’Sullivan

-

Home

Constituency Office

Home

Constituency Office

Home

Constituency Office

Hardware/Software

costs

Nil

€3,895

€707

(returned when

left office)

Nil

Nil

€158

Telephone lines costs

Nil

€11,560

€678

Nil

Nil

€4,293

Mobile Phone numbers

5

3

6

Mobile Phone costs

€12,964

€1,643

€4,169

My Department does not fund the costs of providing the above mentioned services to the offices of Minister of State O’Dowd.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (403)

Robert Troy

Question:

403. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost of drivers of each vehicle assigned to him and Ministers of State in his Department since March 2011; the mileage and other costs claimed in respect of each since March 2011; the overall yearly costs of ministerial cars in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12457/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

In line with Government policy, I do not use a State car. My Department has employed two civilian drivers since May 2011 for driving duties in my own car in line with approved arrangements, and their salary and subsistence costs, together with the mileage costs paid to me to date, are set out in the Table. The Table also sets out similar costs for the Ministers of State in my Department since the present Government was formed.

Drivers Salaries and Subsistence

Costs

Mileage Costs

Minister

170,682.82

33,624.97

Minister of State O’Sullivan

105,760.11

12,839.69

Former Minister of State Penrose

59,961.35

10,622.55

Totals €

336,404.28

57,087.21

My Department spent a total of €130,946 on transport costs for former Minister of State Finneran in 2010. My predecessor’s transport costs under the previous scheme of Garda drivers and State cars for 2010 are a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality.

Departmental Expenditure

Question No. 405 answered with Question No. 120.

Questions (404)

Robert Troy

Question:

404. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of credit cards issued to staff and Ministers in his Department; the total costs of each card since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12476/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department has issued credit cards to the 8 office holders listed below. The Table also sets out the total amount spent on each credit card since March 2011.

Credit card holder

Total €

Private Secretary to the Minister

14,298.07

Private Secretary to Minister of State (Housing)

2,847.17

Private Secretary to Minister of State (New Era)

1,510.06

Principal Officer, ICT Section

17,172.59

Head of Administration and Training Division, Met Eireann

21,458.11

Principal Advisor, Environment Inspectorate

19.05

Assistant Principal Officer, Environmental Compliance and Air Quality Section

19.05

Assistant Principal Officer, Environment International and Sustainable Development Section

3,820.54

Departmental credit cards are issued for authorised official use only in circumstances where a strong business case has been established. Cards are withdrawn when the business case no longer exists and transferred into the name of the incoming officer, as appropriate, when there is a reassignment of duties.

Credit cards are issued to the private secretaries to the Minister and Ministers of State to facilitate payment for goods or services which would prove more difficult under normal invoicing arrangements, such as reserving hotel accommodation abroad. In the cases of Met Éireann and ICT, the credit cards are used to facilitate the purchase of ICT hardware and software licences and for the renewal of subscriptions to work-related publications. The remaining three staff have been issued with credit cards to facilitate the conduct of official business during the Irish Presidency.

Question No. 405 answered with Question No. 120.

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge Collection

Questions (406)

Finian McGrath

Question:

406. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the non-principal private residence payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [12661/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties. It is a matter for an owner, whether resident in Ireland or elsewhere, to determine if he or she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the charge.

The provision of information to potentially liable owners was regarded as an important element in the introduction of the Non Principal Private Residence Charge in 2009 and in subsequent years. The associated communication campaign, includes media advertisements funded by my Department, information made available by local authorities, and website hosted information, in circumstances in which the legal onus is on the liable owner to declare liability and make payment has achieved its general goals of raising awareness and encouraging compliance. Much of this information, such as information available online and press advertisements in Irish communities, was available to liable persons living abroad.

Under the Act, it is a function of a local authority to collect the Non Principal Private Residence Charge and late payment fees due to it, and all Charges and late payment fees imposed and payable to a local authority are under the care and management of the local authority concerned. In this regard, application of the legislation in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority. Guidelines have also been issued to local authorities in relation to the operation of the “care and management” provisions of the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 and local authorities are expected to implement these guidelines appropriately.

Mortgage Arrears Rate

Questions (407)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

407. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has carried out an impact assessment on the potential effect on the numbers in mortgage distress if water charges are introduced. [10567/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Programme for Government and the Memorandum of Understanding with the EU, the IMF and the ECB provide for the introduction of domestic water charges. It is not intended that domestic water charges will commence before 2014. The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. The Government has also decided that Irish Water, a new State-owned water company to be established as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group, will be responsible for the metering programme.

The Water Services Bill 2013, which completed its passage through the Dáil last week, will assign the necessary powers to allow Irish Water to undertake the metering programme. The Bill also assigns to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) the power to advise the Government on the development of a regulatory framework for water services.

Affordability measures will be addressed by my Department and the Department s of Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform, in consultation with the CER, Irish Water and other stakeholders, in the context of developing a water pricing framework. The agreed approach will then be reflected in the charging structure established by the CER.

In addition, Irish Water will be required to have a range of options in place to assist householders who have difficulties in paying their bills. For example, a wide range of flexible payment options are available for the other utility services and it is expected that these will be replicated for water services.