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Wednesday, 12 Jun 2013

Written Answers Nos 1-23

Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Wastewater Treatment

Questions (10, 18, 25)

Seamus Kirk


10. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of waste water treatment inspectors appointed to date; the total number of inspectors expected to be appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27996/13]

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Billy Kelleher


18. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of inspections on waste water treatment systems carried out to date; the total number of inspections expected in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27994/13]

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Seán Fleming


25. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of septic tank assistance grants distributed to date; the estimated number of grants to be distributed in 2013; the estimated average grant; the estimated total cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27992/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 18 and 25 together.

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 assigns responsibility to the Environmental Protection Agency to make a National Inspection Plan for domestic wastewater treatment systems. The National Inspection Plan 2013: Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems was adopted and published by the EPA in February 2013.

The Local Authority Services National Training Group, in consultation with my Department, the EPA and the water services authorities, has overseen the development and delivery of a training course for the inspectors who will carry out inspections under the 2012 Act . Over the past six weeks the training course has been rolled out to over 100 water services authority personnel in the Training Group’s regional training centres in Ballincollig, Roscrea, Castlebar, Ballycoolin and Stranorlar. Further courses are being scheduled.

The EPA is responsible for appointing as inspectors those who have satisfactorily completed the training course and meet other qualification criteria regarding professional or technical qualifications and indemnity insurance cover. Full details of the criteria are set out in the Water Services Act 2007 (Registration and Inspections) Regulations, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas library. I understand that the Agency will commence processing applications for appointment as inspectors later this month. The number of appointments to be made is a matter the Agency and I have no role in such matters.

The Plan provides for a minimum of 1,000 inspections to be carried out during the twelve-month period commencing in July 2013; therefore, no inspections under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 have been carried out to date. Details of the minimum number of inspections for each county are included in the Plan and it is a function of the water services authorities to implement the EPA’s Inspection Plan in their functional areas.

In December 2012 I announced my intention to introduce a grant scheme to provide financial assistance to households whose septic tanks and other domestic wastewater treatment systems are deemed to require remediation following an inspection under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012. The grants scheme will not be a universal one – it will only apply to works arising from an inspection and subsequent issue of an advisory notice under the Water Services (Amendment) Act, 2012 and only householders who have complied with the obligation to register their systems by 1 February 2013 will be eligible to apply for grant aid. Full details of the scheme will be set out in regulations which I will make shortly.

As the grant scheme will only apply to owners of domestic waste water 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, no grants will be distributed before inspections commence in July. The number of grants to be distributed in 2013 will depend on the number of treatment systems which fail inspection. It will also depend on the number of owners of such systems who meet the eligibility criteria under the grant scheme and the costs incurred by them in remediating the problems with their systems. Provision for the scheme is being made from my Department’s Vote in 2013.

Local Authority Staff Numbers

Questions (11)

Seán Crowe


11. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the fact that the local authorities have reduced their staff from 37,243 in 2008 to 28,268, if he will outline in tabular form the local authorities from which these reductions took place; the grade of employment of these staff; and the salary scale of these staff. [28065/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The moratorium on Public Service posts was introduced in 2009 and my Department operates a delegated sanction for its implementation in relation to local authorities. Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each City and County Manager is responsible for staffing arrangements in individual local authorities. My Department works closely with local authority management to ensure that the reduction in staff numbers is managed so that the appropriate service level is maintained within budgetary and staffing constraints.

Since 2008 local authority staff numbers have reduced by 8,975, almost a quarter, from 37,243 to 28,268 whole time equivalent staff and this has contributed to reported payroll savings of some €300 million. It is necessary to continue to focus on achieving the greatest possible savings while an appropriate level of service to the public is maintained. In this context, my Department and local authorities have carried out work force planning, on a sector wide basis, and the process is continuing at local authority level taking account of, inter alia, the new municipal district structures, Irish Water and shared service initiatives.

Information regarding staff reductions on a grade by grade basis is not available in my Department. I will, however, circulate with the Official Record, a table showing the reduction in staff numbers in each local authority (WTE).

Local Authority

June 2008 Quarterly Return (WTE)

Staff Reductions up 31/03/2013 (WTE)

Cork City



Dublin City



Galway City



Limerick City & County



Waterford City












Cork County






Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown (DLR)
















































South Dublin



Tipp North



Tipp South















OVERALL TOTAL – Local Authority by Local Authority



Less Regional Authority Staff


Sectoral Staffing Reduction

8,975 WTE

Rural Development Policy

Questions (12)

Charlie McConalogue


12. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the new initiatives taken by him to assist rural development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28051/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My colleague, Minister Coveney and I established the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) in September 2012 and tasked it to investigate the opportunities and challenges facing rural populations in the current economic climate. Since then the Commission has been working towards the publication of a report that will inform policies and strategies to support the economic development of rural Ireland into the future. The Commission led by its Chair, Mr Pat Spillane, has been engaging in an extensive schedule of meetings with stakeholder groups and the public over recent months looking at the many issues that affect life in rural Ireland at present. The Commission is also conducting a parallel research process and has invited interested parties to make submissions directly to it via its website at

There is also an option to complete an online questionnaire. To date 60 questionnaires have been completed. In addition, 108 submissions have been received. In total between the consultation and research exercises 850 contributions have been received to date for consideration in the CEDRA research process. The Commission presented its preliminary findings at a conference in NUI Maynooth earlier this week with the final report due in October 2013.

I believe there is clear evidence that rural communities all over Ireland have embraced the CEDRA research process. I am confident that it will provide invaluable insights into the potential for the economic development of rural areas and will assist policy making into the future. I look forward to receiving the final report, and I and my colleagues in Government will give due consideration to its findings and make decisions regarding the appropriate actions to be taken.

My Department is responsible for the LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 and has to date spent €182 million on the Programme. I recently announced the release of the final €90 million of the Programme. This funding has the capacity not only to facilitate access to sustainable employment opportunities in rural areas but also to help support rural communities and enhance rural economies for business creation and development into the future. In addition, my Department supports a number of initiatives in regard to rural recreation development and continues to be a main funding partner of Leave No Trace Ireland which promotes responsible recreational use in the outdoors. It also chairs regular meetings of Comhairle Na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) and is working closely with the State Claims Agency following the successful establishment of an Irish arm of the Visitor Safety in the Countryside Group (VSCG), which is focused on how to create safe access to the countryside in ways that do not spoil landscape and heritage, or lessen the visitor’s sense of exploration and adventure. A National Indemnity Scheme, to be managed in conjunction with the State Claims Agency, is currently under negotiation.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Questions (13)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin


13. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of vacant local authority homes here on average at any one time; the current average turn around time for vacant local authority homes including the fastest and slowest figure; and the strategies that are being considered for improving these figures. [27059/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Eighth Annual Report of the Local Government Management Agency, published this year, which details service indicators in local authorities in 2011, shows the average time taken, from the date of vacating of a unit to the date when all necessary repairs are carried out, to re-let a unit in each authority. The figures show that some 4,356 dwellings were vacant, accounting for 3.33% of the total national social housing stock of around 130,800 units.

The length of time taken to re-let units varies considerably between authorities and ranges from 8.4 weeks in Offaly County Council to a high of 65.1 weeks in Sligo County Council, with the average time taken to complete repairs just under 21 weeks. I propose to circulate with the Official Report a tabular statement based on the information set out in the Report, outlining the time taken to re-let dwellings in all local authority areas.

It is a matter for each local authority, as an integral part of the management and maintenance of their social housing stock, to carry out any necessary pre-letting repairs and maintenance works to dwellings which are vacated by tenants in order to re-let the units to new tenants within the shortest possible timeframe.

Under my Department’s Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. These measures include large-scale regeneration projects, estate-wide remedial works and retrofitting works to individual properties.

Given the constraints on new local authority housing supply, it is important that the existing stock of local authority housing is available and in fit condition to meet housing need. Houses requiring significant pre-letting improvement works can quickly deteriorate if left vacant for an extended period. Over the course of 2011 and 2012 my Department placed a particular focus on refurbishing vacant properties in order to bring as many as possible back into productive use. In 2011, local authorities prioritised the most seriously deficient properties and funding of up to €35,000 per house was provided to refurbish 2,659 of these at an overall cost of €32.7 million. Last year, the focus on retrofitting vacant properties was maintained and a further €20 million was provided for the retrofitting of around 2,115 vacant properties. I am confident that the figures in the LGMA Report for 2012 will show a considerable improvement on those for 2011.

Given the concentration on vacant properties in recent years, and considering that over 7,600 properties were improved in the last four years, it is timely to focus attention on those occupied and older dwellings which lack adequate insulation and draught-proofing. My Department estimates that there may be as many as 25,000 such properties. I am determined that we enhance the energy efficiency of these properties, improve living conditions and enable tenants to make real and substantial savings on fuel costs. Earlier this year, I put in place a new €10 million energy retrofitting measure for tenanted houses, largely based around roof and wall insulation, with the potential to reduce energy bills by over €400 per year. I’m pleased that last week the Government committed to providing an additional €50 million to accelerate this programme and ensure that up to 25,000 homes are fully insulated and draught-proofed over the next two years.

Table 1 – Average time taken for Repairs.

Average time taken (in weeks) from the date of vacation of dwelling to the date when all necessary repairs are carried out and which are deemed necessary to re-let the dwelling in 2011

Local Authority

Time Taken for repairs

Carlow County Council


Cavan County Council


Clare County Council


Cork City Council


Cork County Council


Donegal County Council


Dublin City Council


Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council


Fingal County Council


Galway City Council


Galway County Council


Kerry County Council


Kildare County Council


Kilkenny County Council


Laois County Council


Leitrim County Council


Limerick City Council


Limerick County Council


Longford County Council


Louth County Council


Mayo County Council


Meath County Council


Monaghan County Council


North Tipperary County Council


Offaly County Council


Roscommon County Council


Sligo County Council


South Dublin County Council


South Tipperary County Council


Waterford City Council


Waterford County Council


Westmeath County Council


Wexford County Council


Wicklow County Council


Table 2 – Total number of Dwelling in LA stock 2011

Local Authority

Total number of Dwellings in LA stock 2011







Cork City Council.


Cork County Council




Dublin City Council


Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown


Fingal County Council


Galway City Council


Galway County Council












Limerick City Council


Limerick County Council












North Tipperary








South Dublin CO. CL.


South Tipperary


Waterford City Council


Waterford County Council










Local Authority Funding

Questions (14)

Catherine Murphy


14. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied that funding for local Government is on a sustainable footing in view of the overall near 40% reduction in the sum allocated to the Local Government Fund in the past five years and the moving of funds out of the ring-fenced motor tax receipts; the way in which service quality will increase from the introduction of both the household charge and local property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27978/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The traditional model of local authority funding has been through a combination of central and local resources; General Purpose Grants and other Grants and Subsidies provided by Government are complemented by commercial rates and user charges and fees raised locally by the local authority. General Purpose Grant allocations, predominantly financed by Motor Tax revenues, have been structured so that each authority has sufficient resources, either from central grants or from its local income base, to provide a reasonable level of day to day services to its customers. There has been an unavoidable reduction in Local Government Fund General Purpose Grant allocations to local authorities, from €832.7 million in 2009 to €640.9 million in 2013, a reduction which has obviously occurred in the context of reduced spending across the public sector.

The Household Charge, introduced in 2012, has made an important contribution to the Local Government Fund. The €131m revenue raised by the Charge so far has funded vital local services and has been a valuable precursor to the introduction of the Local Property Tax.

The local government funding model will change considerably in 2014. Under the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, commencing in 2014 the Minister for Finance will pay into the Local Government Fund an amount equivalent to the Local Property Tax paid into the Central Fund during that year; this revenue will be allocated to local authorities from the Fund. In addition, the establishment of Irish Water and its financial relationship with the local government sector will have a significant impact on local authority financing.

I expect the Local Property Tax to have multiple benefits, including a more sustainable and resilient system of funding for local authorities and therefore a sounder financial footing for the provision of essential local services; greater local scope for financial decision making concerning service provision - in particular, the inclusion of the local variation mechanism from 2015 will further increase the autonomy of local authorities; and, a strengthening of democracy at local level with a more active relationship between local authorities and local electorates. A stronger democratic relationship and clearer lines of accountability can only have a beneficial impact on service provision from the perspective of the service user.

An important purpose of the changes to the funding of the local authorities has been to place the local government sector on a more sustainable financial footing. The concept of financial sustainability should not solely be considered in terms of national recovery from our current economic circumstances over the short to medium term; longer term viability and the connection with the citizen are also important elements. I am satisfied that the changes which are currently underway will deliver a model of funding which is sustainable in the broadest sense.

Local Authority Housing Maintenance

Questions (15)

Pádraig MacLochlainn


15. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the conditions being experienced by many low paid or unemployed private rental tenants especially in Dublin's inner city as highlighted by reports from the RIAI and Dublin City Council; and his plans to improve conditions and enforce the law on unscrupulous slumlords. [27060/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Minimum standards in rented accommodation have been raised significantly in recent years under the Action Programme on Standards which was introduced on foot of a commitment in the Towards 2016 social partnership agreement. All landlords now have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with minimum standards for rental accommodation prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 and 2009.

Responsibility for the enforcement of these regulations rests with the relevant local authority supported by a dedicated stream of funding provided from part of the proceeds of tenancy registration fees collected by the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB). In general, local authorities have significantly expanded their inspection activity with the number of inspections increasing by almost 300% – from 6,815 to 19,616 - in the period 2005 to 2012.

On 1 February 2013, Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 (as amended) came into effect which means that all rental accommodation must now have its own separate sanitary facilities with updated heating, cooking, food storage and laundry facilities. In 2010, my Department made available to the local authorities additional funding of €2.4m to carry out once-off strategically planned programmes of inspection with a particular focus on accommodation at greatest risk of being sub-standard.

Dublin City Council received €1.1million in additional funding under this Intensified Inspection Programme which involved a commitment to carry out in excess of 8,500 inspections over a three year period. This funding was awarded on the basis of an application submitted to the Department and an additional confirmation that the housing authority had a detailed inspection plan in place to complete the inspections under the project within the stated timeframe. The Council commenced this programme in February 2012 and the programme will continue until March 2015 in addition to their general inspection programme.

Details of the inspections of private rented accommodation carried out, the dwellings inspected which did not meet the statutory standards and prosecutions initiated up to 2011 on a county/city basis are included in my Department’s Annual Housing Statistics Bulletins, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library and on my Department’s website at The penalty for non-compliance with the Regulations is a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both, and the fine for each day of a continuing offence is €400.

Local Government Reform Expenditure

Question No. 17 answered with Question No. 6.

Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 10.

Questions (16)

Barry Cowen


16. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the estimated total amount of savings from the abolition of town councils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27984/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government’s Action Programme for Effective Local Government indicated that it would be reasonable to project a target for overall savings in the range €15 to €20 million per annum relative to 2010 expenditure figures as potentially achievable from changes in sub-county governance when the new arrangements have bedded down. Savings will arise from the elimination of parallel structures including on costs associated with supporting 80 separate corporate organisations and the related duplication of functions and processes with the county council, and with the achievement of greater economies of scale and efficiencies within counties.

Question No. 17 answered with Question No. 6.
Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 10.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (19)

Seán Crowe


19. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on the progress made in introducing legislation to put in place a funding mechanism for the repairs needed to pyrite affected housing here. [27064/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Following Government approval of the general scheme of a Pyrite Remediation Bill work is now under way, as a matter of urgency, on developing the Bill and it is my intention that it will be published and enacted in the shortest possible timeframe. The Pyrite Resolution Board has made excellent progress on developing the scope and detail of a pyrite remediation scheme, including the terms and conditions of the scheme dealing with eligibility, assessment criteria, procedures, priorities etc. The Board recently launched the initial phase of its website ( where it provides an outline of the proposed remediation scheme including the scope of the scheme, the application process and also detailed guidance and information for homeowners on how to identify significant pyritic damage and on the steps involved in the assessment of such damage.

The next phase of the Board’s website will include an on-line application system which it is intended will be available in July. Affected homeowners can register their interest on the website now and will be notified when the application system goes live. Discussions are also continuing with a number of financial institutions with a view to making a loan facility available to the not-for-profit entity being set up by the construction stakeholders to facilitate the early commencement of a remediation scheme. I am attaching a high priority to putting in place the necessary structures to deliver a resolution to the pyrite problems for homeowners who have been waiting for a considerable period of time for effective solutions.

Rural Development Programme Funding

Questions (20)

Willie O'Dea


20. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the discussions he has had to date with the EU and with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine in relation to the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28059/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) is the Managing Authority for the Rural Development Programme, and is in ongoing discussions with the European Commission on the 2014-2020 Programme. My Department is the delegated paying agency for Axes 3 and 4, the LEADER elements of the Programme. Accordingly, it is in regular contact with the Department of Agriculture, including in regard to programme preparations and Ex Ante Evaluation. At EU level there are three key elements which concern the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. 

The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) which provides the financial allocation for each fund and Member State has yet to be approved by the European Parliament.  The European Council has agreed on a package which provides a total of €2.19bn or some €313m for Ireland per year under Pillar 2 of the CAP for the period 2014 - 2020. This includes a special allocation of €100 million, over the full period, negotiated in the final stages of the talks. 

Discussions on CAP Reform, led by my colleague the Minister, Deputy Coveney, at EU level, continue in trialogues between the European Council, Parliament and Commission.  This includes the Rural Development Regulation.  These trialogue negotiations covering all aspects of Agriculture and Rural Development are complex and multi-layered. 

For the period 2014-2020 the Rural Development Fund will form part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), including the Social Fund, Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund as well as the European Marine and Fisheries Fund.  The ESIF will have common rules and provisions for how all five funds are managed to best assist each Member State achieve its targets under the EU 2020 Strategy.

Leader Programmes Administration

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 9.

Questions (21)

Seán Fleming


21. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the percentage of project commitments that will have been made by the end of this year under the LEADER programme that he expects to be completed by the latest date to draw down EU funds under the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28047/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007 – 2013 commenced in February 2009 after a delay of more than two years which reduced the time available to allocate funding to less than five years rather than the normal seven. I expect, however, that all project commitments under the Programme will be made by 31 December 2013 at the latest. Following a comprehensive review of the commitments and expenditure across the various measures of the RDP I recently notified all Local Development Companies (LDCs) of their revised allocations under the Programme.

My Department has notified all LDCs that it will review the level of commitments in late August to ensure that no company is failing to commit the monies that I have made available to them. My Department has now requested that each LDC submits a plan by mid-June profiling their project approvals and both their project and administration expenditure per month. All project expenditure should be completed by December 2014 at the latest and I expect that in some areas the Programme will be finalised well in advance of this.

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 9.

Departmental Funding

Questions (23)

Peadar Tóibín


23. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the channel that will manage any future EU community led local development funding and LEADER funding; and if the proposed alignment of local government will impact on this. [28068/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Significant matters regarding EU Community-led Local Development funding and LEADER funding for the 2014-20 period are yet to be agreed, including the value of funding and the regulations governing implementation. In the absence of these, and ahead of the submission of local development strategies, it would be inappropriate for me to confirm any implementation arrangements for future Community-led Local Development or LEADER programmes.

However, the Final Report of the Local Government/Local Development Alignment Group recommended that the Socio-Economic Committee structure “should be considered as the vehicle through which the LEADER approach is implemented for the 2014-2020 round of EU programmes”. This and other alignment recommendations are currently being advanced by my Department with the support of an Alignment Working Group. The latter comprises representatives of the City and County Managers Association, the Irish Local Development Network and Pobal, and is chaired by my Department.

The alignment process affords us a valuable opportunity to bring greater coherence to the delivery of local development programmes, especially at a time when resources are scarce and there is an increasing demand for services. It is important, therefore, that any new implementation arrangements for local development programmes focus on greater collaboration between local actors, achieving more effective targeting of those resources, delivering greater value for money and, most importantly, improving the delivery of services for citizens and communities.