Property Taxation Administration

Questions (149)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

149. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if, in respect of the moneys due to be transferred from the Central Fund to the Local Government Fund under the provisions of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, he will confirm the percentage of the sum transferred and that he as Minister will retain discretion over the sums that are pledged to local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29534/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

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 2013 Local Property Tax revenue will accrue to the Exchequer. As such, no Local Property Tax revenue has been transferred to the Local Government Fund to date.

The Government has indicated an intention to move, from 2014, to 80% retention of all Local Property Tax receipts within the local authority area where the Tax is raised. The remaining 20% of the Tax collected nationally will be re-distributed on an equalised basis to local authorities within the context of the annual allocations of General Purpose Grants.

Housing Finance Agency Issues

Questions (150)

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

150. Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the previous two interest rate cuts announced by the European Central bank have been passed on in full to local authority borrowers, home owners under the shared ownership and affordable housing schemes; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29577/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Board of the ECB announced decisions to reduce the main refinancing rate by 0.25% in July 2012 and again in May 2013. The Housing Finance Agency’s rates are not predicated on base rates afforded by the ECB, as its funding is sourced through the EU/IMF programme of financial support and dictated by EURIBOR. Independently of the ECB rate cuts, the Agency has reduced the rate it charges to local authorities by 0.55% since September 2012. This has allowed for establishment of a Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) premium to begin to accumulate reserves which will allow local authorities to continue to make available various supports for distressed borrowers under the local authority MARP.

The rate charged to local authority borrowers continues to represent very good value. The current rate of 2.75% charged to borrowers is – by some distance – the lowest rate available currently and stands at 1.65% lower than the average variable rate ‘available’ in the domestic mortgage market. It is also almost 2% lower than the best rate available from other lenders, a number of whom have increased their variable rates since the ECB announcement.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (151)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

151. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the progress made at the EU Environment Council in Luxembourg on 18 June under his chairmanship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29588/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The final Environment Council under the Irish EU Presidency took place in Luxembourg yesterday, 18 June.

At that meeting, Council adopted Conclusions on the EU Climate Adaptation Strategy. This is a very positive step forward in EU climate policy, demonstrating a progressive and coherent response to adaptation at EU level and across the Member States.

Council also endorsed Conclusions on the post-2015 framework (following on from the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development in June 2012). These Conclusions were prepared in cooperation with colleagues across environment, development and foreign affairs work streams, a co-operative approach which has been a particular hallmark of the Irish Presidency.  The post-2015 agenda will require input from a broad range of stakeholders and this recent joint-working initiative is a strong foundation for future work on this agenda.

Council also discussed the recent report of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 development agenda.  There was broad support for the report and in particular its emphasis on the need to ensure that the three dimensions of sustainable development – environmental, economic and social – are at the heart of the post-2015 agenda.  The Council took note of a progress report on the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) proposal, with a particular focus on the 5% threshold for conventional biofuels, ILUC factors, treatment of new installations, the bonus for degraded land, fraud prevention, the review clause and delegated acts. 

The Council also took note of progress reports on F-gases, Environmental Impact Assessment and Access and Benefit Sharing which, along with the ILUC file mentioned above, will be taken forward by the Lithuanian Presidency. The Council also received updates from the Presidency and the Commission on a range of international environmental issues, including an update from Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, on the recent two-week inter-sessional meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ahead of Conference of the Parties 19 (COP19) in Warsaw in November.

Concluding the business at Council, I highlighted the significant progress made on a range of environment/climate legislative dossiers during the Irish Presidency, with 4 First Reading Agreements already achieved and a number of other files expected to be brought to finality in the remaining 10 days of the Irish Presidency. I also highlighted the leadership of the Irish Presidency in achieving progress on a range of international environmental issues, not least among these the conclusion of a new international treaty on mercury.

Over lunch, the Council, joined by the Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, had an exchange of views on progress on implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The purpose of the discussion was to take stock of progress to date, to look ahead and to consider how the directive links to other EU policies.

Local Authority Housing Maintenance

Questions (152)

Barry Cowen

Question:

152. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the funds available to local authorities for the upgrade of vacant local authority houses before they are re-occupied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29602/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Over the course of 2011 and 2012 my Department focussed almost exclusively on refurbishing vacant properties with the objective of bringing as many as possible of these back into productive use. Over that period some 4,7 00 units were improved at a cost of over €52 million. Some 2,659 units were refurbished in 2011 and a further 2,115 in 2012.

Given the concentration on vacant properties in recent years, and in view of the substantial numbers of vacant properties which were improved, it is timely to focus attention on those occupied and older dwellings which lack adequate insulation and draught-proofing. On 5 June, I announced a new €50 million three-year energy efficiency investment programme for local authority homes. This programme will target the 25,000 least energy efficient properties and result in warmer homes and lower energy bills for thousands of families and will also create around 1,000 jobs in the sector.

Local authorities are responsible for the management and maintenance of their social housing stock and for the preparation and implementation of planned maintenance programmes and pre-letting repairs to vacant properties. In addition to the new insulation measure, my Department supports an energy retrofitting measure for local authority houses and €10 million is being provided for this purpose in 2013. Local authorities may undertake energy retrofitting works in conjunction with pre-letting re pairs with the objective of getting best value for money and ensuring that the existing stock is available to meet housing need.

Rural Development Programme Funding

Questions (153)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

153. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if additional funding will be provided to South Kerry Development Partnership (details supplied). [29607/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 294 of 18 June 2013 which sets out the position in regard to LEADER funding.

In the case of South Kerry Development Partnership the revised allocation represents a decrease of 20% from their original allocation. The redistribution of available funding was conducted in as fair and equitable a manner as was possible with many LDCs experiencing similar reductions.

I am committed to the continued monitoring of this situation and my Department will conduct another formal review of commitments and expenditure levels at the end of August 2013. If Local Development Companies are not performing with regard to the Programme commitment levels, allocations will again be revised in the context of maximizing commitments to the end of the Programme by December 2013.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (154)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

154. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is his intention to officially record the first ever meeting of EU homeless Ministers held in Leuven on 1 March 2013 during Ireland's EU Presidency. [29630/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Presidency Report of the Roundtable Discussion of EU Ministers with Responsibility for Homelessness which I hosted in Leuven on 1 March 2013 during the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union has been published on the EU presidency website, www.eu2013.ie, and circulated to all participating ministries. A note of the discussion has also been published and circulated. Details of the event will be included in the Presidency's report on conferences to be presented to the EU Council of Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs later this week by my colleagues, Minister Richard Bruton and Minister Joan Burton.

In seeking to reduce the risk and magnitude of homelessness across the E U, Member States and the European Commission will work to strengthen coordination on the six principles referred to in the Presidency Report . This will be the subject of future discussion with the EU Social Protection Committee.

Anti-Social Behaviour

Questions (155)

Finian McGrath

Question:

155. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide advice to the residents (details supplied) regarding the options available to them regarding anti-social activities, in view of the fact that these residents are fearful of calling the Garda as they may suffer a backlash from this action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29432/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is the policy of An Garda Síochána to deploy personnel to establish a highly visible and accessible service to communities to tackle crime, the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour. If a person feels that a crime has been committed they should contact their local Garda station. All crimes that are reported to Gardaí are fully and thoroughly investigated and offenders brought to justice wherever possible.

In addition, information can be provided to An Garda Síochána by way of the Garda confidential line, 1800 666 111, which is a monitored freephone line that allows members of the public to contact An Garda Síochána with information of a confidential nature.

The allocation of Gardaí and the prioritising of policing matters is a matter for local Garda management who are best placed to respond to localised public disorder and anti-social behaviour. Gardaí engage closely with local communities to identify issues of concern and to respond appropriately. In this regard there is a wide range of legislation available which may be utilised by An Garda Síochána to address incidents of anti-social behaviour and related criminal acts.