Water Services Provision

Questions (150, 160)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

150. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government the progress made to date towards the implementation of a modern water policy to take account of the current and growing demands in terms of storage and transmission; the extent to which he expects to be in a position to meet the necessary targets within a reasonable timeframe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20927/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

160. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government the extent to which any evaluation has been done of the domestic and industrial water requirements on a regional basis throughout the country; the extent of the provision being made to meet such requirements over a specific period in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20940/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 160 together.

The overall strategy for investment in water services is to ensure that the timing and scale of investment facilitates economic and other development, achieves compliance with statutory requirements and promotes environmental sustainability objectives. The main vehicle for achieving these objectives for public domestic water supplies is the multi-annual Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013.

The Programme provides for the commencement of contracts with a value of over €800m in relation to water supply infrastructure. This includes contracts to address deficiencies in the quality of supply, to improve the overall capacity of the system and an accelerated programme of mains rehabilitation. The Programme also provides for the advancement of a further range of schemes through planning, for progression to construction in future investment cycles. The investment in water services since 2000 has led, inter alia, to an increase in drinking water treatment capacity and additional drinking water storage capacity equivalent to the needs of a population of some 1.4 million and 1.9 million, respectively.

The Programme is based on an assessment of needs for water and sewerage services, undertaken by each water services authority, which were subsequently appraised by my Department. In preparing their assessments, water services authorities were required to take into consideration key environmental and economic criteria in prioritising contracts and schemes to be progressed in their areas. The development of the Programme was strongly influenced by reports by the Environmental Protection Agency on drinking water quality, and an assessment by Forfás of the requirements of enterprise in Gateways and Hubs, as well as River Basin Management Plans. In addition, a detailed project appraisal is undertaken during the planning phase of each scheme, which determines issues such as the appropriate source of water, projected future demand and the most cost effective solution to meeting needs. There is, therefore, a strong evidence base, from technical assessments, environmental monitoring and policy studies to underpin the strategic direction of water services capital investment.

The series of reforms being advanced in the water sector by the Government is designed to support additional investment in the sector. An implementation strategy is in place to deliver on these reforms. This strategy is available on the Department’s website. As part of this strategy, a specific work-stream is considering the matters arising in the proposed transfer of the responsibility for capital programme delivery from the 34 local authorities to Irish Water. This includes the development of a capital transition plan to manage the orderly transition from current arrangements to the new arrangements to be put in place by Irish Water.

Questions Nos. 151 and 152 answered with Question No. 149.

Fire Service Issues

Questions (153)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

153. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of structures of the fire services part-time and whole time throughout the country; if any particular weakness exists which might affect the ability of the services to respond in particular emergency situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20933/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The provision of fire services in a local authority area is a statutory function of individual fire authorities. Under Section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981, 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. Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each county and city manager is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible. In addition, it is a reserved function of fire authorities to adopt fire and emergency operations plans indicating the provision made in respect of organisation, appliances, equipment, fire stations, training and operational procedures for the provision of a comprehensive fire service to the community. My Department supports fire authorities through setting of general policy, training support and issue of guidance on operational and other related matters, and the provision of capital funding.

My Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management has published a policy document, Keeping Communities Safe (KCS), which sets the future direction of fire services in Ireland. Inter alia, it sets out future service delivery structures and a system of national processes and standards for fire service delivery in Ireland based on a risk management approach to fire safety, which combines the important elements of fire prevention, protection and response.

The KCS policy document is available on my Department’s web site at www.environ.ie.

Fire Service Issues

Questions (154)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

154. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which the cost-cutting requirements he inherited is affecting the quality and capacity of emergency services such as the fire services. [20934/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 606 of 5 February 2013, which sets out the position in this matter.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Questions (155, 156)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

155. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government the extent to which it is expected to increase local authority housing stock in line with the local authority housing waiting lists in the next three years excluding any provisions in respect of voluntary housing bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20935/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

156. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government the number of housing units likely to be constructed for or provided directly by local authorities or voluntary housing agencies in the course of the next four years; the extent to which this is intended to address the needs as defined by the current numbers on the waiting lists of the respective local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20936/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.

The difficulties facing the State’s finances and the necessity to reduce public expenditure to sustainable levels are impacting on capital programmes all across the public service, including my Department’s housing capital programme. The amount of capital funding available has decreased significantly in recent years along the lines highlighted in the Medium Term Exchequer Framework for Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016. As a result, capital spending on housing programmes is subject to constraint over the short-term.

In July 2012, I announced details of a three-year funding programme of €100 million to deliver some 377 new units of voluntary housing and 431 units of local authority owned social housing. I am monitoring expenditure under my Department’s housing programme for 2013, together with the level of contractual commitments extending into 2014, with a view to a decision later this year on approving some limited new construction and house purchases over the period to end 2014. New housing provision by local authorities and the voluntary sector in the period beyond 2014 will be considered in the light of the prevailing economic conditions at that time.

Delivery of social housing will be significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and leasing but the Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition. There is also obvious potential, across a range of housing programmes, for the Government’s objective of sourcing and providing suitable residential units for use as social housing to be aligned with the commercial objectives of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). My Department and the Housing Agency are engaged with NAMA to ensure delivery of housing units for social purposes.

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

Local Authority Services

Questions (157)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

157. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which the traditional services provided by local authorities are likely to continue in the context of the reform of local government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20937/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 609 of 5 February 2013, which sets out the position in this matter.

Local Authority Services

Questions (158)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

158. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which his Department has identified the impact of the cost cutting requirements on the services which he inherited; the way this is affecting the capacity to provide continued service throughout the sector and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20938/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Details of funding available to my Department this year as provided for in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2013, together with the spending outturns in 2011 and 2012, are set out in the following table.

REV

Capital

€m

Capital

Carryover

€m

Current

€m

Total

€m

2013

726

43

482

1,251

2012

768

34

450

1252

2011

1,017

-

627

1644

While funding for my Department’s activities has been reduced in line with the constrained economic climate, it remains significant - €1.25 billion in 2013. It has been necessary to prioritise resources to ensure that our programmes contribute, to the maximum extent possible and with enhanced efficiency, to the overall Government objective of economic recovery and increased employment, while at the same time assisting those most in need of support.

The total funding of some €1.25 billion available in 2013 will be used to make maximum progress across the range of programmes for which my Department is responsible, including protecting the environment; providing necessary housing supports; investing in water services infrastructure; and fostering community and rural development in partnership with local government and other local development bodies.