Question No. 186 answered with Question No. 180.

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge Administration

Questions (187, 188, 203)

Martin Heydon

Question:

187. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that certain final reminder notices sent in relation to the payment of the non-principal private residence charge due on 30 June 2013 were not received until after the closing date as in the case of a person (details supplied); if he will outline the procedures that are in place to ensure this does not happen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33678/13]

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Noel Coonan

Question:

188. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the way the penalties for late payment of the non-principal private residence charge were calculated; the methodology behind the penalties being charged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33843/13]

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Noel Coonan

Question:

203. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way in which the penalties for late payment of the local property tax were calculated; the methodology behind the penalties being charged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33842/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187, 188 and 203 together.

I understand that Question No. 203 concerns the non-principal private residence charge. 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. Section 6 of the 2009 Act, as amended, provides that the owner of a liable property who fails to pay the charge, in addition to his or her being liable to pay the charge, is liable to pay to the relevant local authority a €20 late payment fee in respect of each month or part of a month in which the charge, any late payment fee, or any part of such charge or fee, remains unpaid.

Under the Act, it is a function of a local authority to collect non-principal private residence charges 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. I have issued guidelines to local authorities in relation to the operation of the “care and management” provisions of the legislation in instances in which genuine hardship in having to discharge a liability in a single payment can be demonstrated. Queries concerning non-principal private residence charge operational matters, such as the issuing of reminder letters, should be directed to the relevant local authority or authorities.

Motor Tax Exemptions

Questions (189, 190, 191)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

189. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost to the Exchequer of the exemption for diplomatic vehicles from motor tax for 2013 and the expected cost for 2014 if there is no change to the rates of motor tax and there are no changes to the eligibility criteria for this exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33878/13]

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Stephen Donnelly

Question:

190. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost to the Exchequer of the exemption for vehicles under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994 (S.I. No. 353 of 1994) from motor tax for 2013 and the expected cost for 2014 if there is no change to the rates of motor tax and there are no changes to the eligibility criteria for this exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33879/13]

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Stephen Donnelly

Question:

191. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost to the Exchequer of the exemption for vehicles, including any cycle with an attachment for propelling it by mechanical power, not exceeding 400 kilograms in weight unladen, adapted and used for invalids, from motor tax for 2013 and the expected cost for 2014 if there is no change to the rates of motor tax and there are no changes to the eligibility criteria for this exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33880/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 to191, inclusive, together.

The information requested is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Voluntary Sector Funding

Questions (192)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

192. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to establish a grant scheme to assist voluntary organisations with the costs associated with complying with Government generated regulatory requirements, such as mandatory training and vetting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33605/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department provides funding to national organisations towards core costs (salary and related overheads) associated with the provision of services through the Scheme to Support National Organisations in the Community & Voluntary Sector.  There are no plans, at present, to establish a grant scheme to assist voluntary organisations, or any other organisations funded by my Department, with the costs associated with complying with Government generated regulatory requirements, such as mandatory training and vetting.

Local Government Reform

Questions (193)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

193. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has received submissions on the proposal for an elected Mayor of Dublin for the four Dublin local authorities. [29130/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The specific question of introducing an office of directly elected mayor for the Dublin Metropolitan Area is considered in the Government’s Action Programme for Effective Local Government in the context of other governance issues. A key conclusion in that regard is that such an office should not be simply inserted as a further layer of governance and administration in addition to the current local government structures.

The establishment of an office with more far-reaching powers, functions and budgetary capacity would be likely to require significant changes in existing local government arrangements. The implications in this regard and the changes required at local government level would need to be considered carefully and include issues in regard to the powers, structures and functions of such an office and consequential changes in the powers, structures and functions of local authorities and other relevant bodies, budgetary matters, strategic co-ordination, an elected assembly with oversight and accountability functions, avoidance of duplication, maximisation of efficiency in local government arrangements, avoidance of cost increases and achievement of savings. The Action Programme indicated that a special forum or colloquium of the elected members of Dún Laoghaire – Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin County Councils and Dublin City Council would be convened by the Lord Mayor of Dublin to consider the options for local governance in Dublin, including the potential for a directly elected Mayor for a Dublin Metropolitan Area. It is intended that proposals arising from the colloquium will be put for decision through a plebiscite in 2014, which I envisage will be held alongside the local elections. This will provide for suitable democratic debate and consultation on all dimensions of the issue.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin wrote to me recently on the matter and I replied, setting out matters which I consider would need to be addressed by the elected members of the four local authorities, when developing proposals to be put before the electorate in the plebiscite. It will be open to the forum or colloquium to assess the various options for local governance in the Dublin metropolitan area as part of its deliberations. I have asked for a response by the end of the year, in order to allow Government make appropriate decisions on the next steps in the preparation of the plebiscite. I have received no other written submissions in the matter.

Renewable Energy Projects

Questions (194)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

194. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of submissions received in the foreshore unit in relation to Dublin Array's proposal for a wind farm in Dublin Bay; and when a decision will issue in this respect. [33646/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department received 169 submissions following publication of the Dublin Array Environmental Impact Statement. All submissions are available on my Department’s website. No assessment of the application will take place pending publication of the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan.

Mortgage Arrears Proposals

Questions (195)

John McGuinness

Question:

195. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the arrangements in place in each local authority to assist those that have fallen into arrears with their mortgage or other loans; if interest-only or deferred payments or other options are offered to borrowers; the number of repossessions obtained or being considered by local authorities in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33691/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government is acutely conscious of the difficulties many households are facing in terms of mortgage arrears. Where any borrower, either from a local authority or from a private financial institution, is facing difficulties in meeting mortgage repayments, they should engage proactively and constructively with the lender to seek to achieve an agreed solution. The services of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service are also available to such borrowers and support is available through the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. Local authorities have long been the lenders of last resort servicing the housing loans needs of less affluent members of society. In the present economic circumstances it is to be anticipated that the ability of some borrowers to service housing loans may become restricted and that a number of loans may fall into arrears.

Section 34 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 provides local authorities with powers to deal flexibly with distressed borrowers, and they have demonstrated sensitivity over the years in dealing with such cases. In March 2010 my Department issued guidelines to local authorities, based upon the Central Bank’s first Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, which continued the tradition of handling arrears in a manner that is sympathetic to the needs of the particular household, while also protecting the position of the local authority concerned. To reflect the content of the Central Bank’s revised Code of Conduct – which replaced the previous code from 1 January 2011 and was informed by the deliberations of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt – my Department issued updated guidance in June 2012 to local authorities in consultation with the County and City Managers Association. This will further enable local authorities to provide a range of flexible repayment options for households in difficulty.

In particular, the introduction of a Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP), which closely mirrors the suite of options available in the commercial sector, presents borrowers in difficulty with a range of alternative payment agreements, including those referred to, which can be accessed to ease the particular circumstances of each case. This process features a standard set of options including, in cases of certain unsustainable mortgages, the facility of mortgage-to-rent. Local authorities have been restructuring loans for some time using their own internal practices. The introduction of these revised guidelines standardises the approach across the whole sector, introduces a systematic structure to this area and provides borrowers with a transparent and accessible model for arrears resolution. My Department is currently preparing updated guidance in line with the Central Bank’s latest Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears.

Local Government Elections

Questions (196)

Jim Daly

Question:

196. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will address the prospect of supporting towns who wish to continue with some form of representative group by way of assistance with such elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33704/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Policy in relation to democratic representation in local government is clearly set out in the Government’s Action Programme for Effective Local Government . I have no proposals in relation to the matter referred to in the question.

Registration of Architects

Questions (197)

Finian McGrath

Question:

197. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider reducing the cost involved for practically trained persons who wish to be included on the register of architects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33715/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In accordance with section 62(4) of the Building Control Act 2007 the amount of a fee specified for the purposes of the Act is not in any case to exceed the total of the costs of providing the service to which the fee relates together with reasonable costs incurred by the registration body in collecting, accounting for and administering the fee. On this basis the fee for technical assessment has been set at €4,500. This amount represents a significant reduction on the figure originally proposed due to a concession given by the registration body at its own expense. My Department understands that the registration body has negotiated a loan facility with the Bank of Ireland to provide support to those undergoing Technical Assessment. Section 17(3) of the Act enables the registration body to waive or reduce a specified fee in cases of verified hardship.

While the above sets out the current factual position in relation to the fee, I have recently asked Mr. Garrett Fennell, Solicitor, who is currently serving as the Chairperson of the Admissions Board relevant to the register of Architects, to carry out an independent review of the experience to date in relation to the operation of the register with a view to identifying any further improvements that can be made at this point. The terms of reference for the review specifically address the matter of how the registration of practically trained architects can be further encouraged and I look forward to any recommendations and views the review report may offer in this regard in the coming months.

Housing Adaptation Grant Applications

Questions (198, 199)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

198. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to commission a strategic review of the housing adaptation grant scheme to examine current and projected demand; if he will examine the feasibility of centralising the application process and make recommendations on the way the scheme can better meet the needs of older people, people with disabilities and carers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33717/13]

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Brendan Griffin

Question:

199. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position in relation to funding for housing departments in local authorities (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33723/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198 and 199 together.

On 22 February 2013 I announced capital allocations to local authorities under the suite of Grants for Older People and People with a Disability amounting to €42.750 million. This year I allocated local authorities the full amount of their contractual commitments and the balance of the available funding was allocated on the basis of each authority’s share of the new applications on hand in January 2013.

A small capital reserve was set aside to deal with any acute or particular difficulty which might arise in the operation of the schemes over the course of the year. Following requests from 13 local authorities for supplementary funding, I subsequently approved additional allocations totalling €1.2 million. I am continuing to keep the position in relation to finding under review. My Department is currently reviewing the operation of the grant schemes in consultation with the local authorities and groups representing older people and people with disabilities with the objective of targeting those in most need and ensuring that the maximum numbers of households can benefit from these schemes. My Department will continue to explore all opportunities to stretch the available resources, including through co-operation with the Health Service Executive and other agencies. I intend to announce revised terms and conditions for the grant schemes later this year.