Commercial Rates Issues

Questions (205)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

205. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on behalf of Early Childhood Ireland, regarding commercial rates, which are of serious concern and stress for the services in Ireland, and in view of the fact that they are levied unfairly and inconsistently on early childhood care and education services and pose a serious threat to the sustainability of a sector that currently employs in a region of 22,500 staff, the discrepancies that exist in the percentage of services by county of commercial rates, which vary from 11% of the notified services in one county to 71% in another; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41414/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001.  The Commissioner of Valuation has sole responsibility for all valuation matters.  With regard to the application of rates to child-care facilities, where child-care provision is within a community facility, operating in non-profit capacity, commercial rates do not generally apply.

The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority. The annual rate on valuation (ARV), which is applied to the valuation of each property, determined by the Valuation Office, to obtain the amount payable in rates, is decided by the elected members of each local authority in the annual budget and its determination is a reserved function. The factors that influence local authority members' decisions on the ARV include the level of services to be provided by the local authority and the income available from all other sources to fund these services. Therefore, elected members adopt the ARV that they consider necessary to provide the range of services for the communities, including businesses, in their area. I recognise that these are difficult economic times for many businesses and I am continuing to keep all matters relating to rates under regular consideration in my Department.

Postal Voting

Questions (206)

Billy Timmins

Question:

206. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding postal votes for persons who are working here but away from home on shift work and not able to get home to vote; if they will qualify for a postal vote; the criteria for postal votes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41264/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In order to be able to vote at elections and referendums, a person's name must be entered in the register of electors for a constituency in the State in which the person ordinarily resides. Postal voting is provided for in electoral law in respect of certain categories of person who are entered in the register of electors - whole-time members of the Defence Forces; members of the Garda Síochána; Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses or civil partners; electors living at home who are unable to vote because of a physical illness or a physical disability; electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day and full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State; certain election staff employed at the poll outside the constituency where they reside; and electors who because of the circumstances of their detention in prison pursuant to an order of a court are likely to be unable to go in person on polling day to vote. Qualifying voters can apply to their local City or County Council, as appropriate, for inclusion in the postal voters lists.

Referendum Expenditure

Questions (207)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

207. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way temporary staff were hired to work as polling tellers and clerks for the upcoming Seanad and court of appeal referendums; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41330/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The primary role of my Department in electoral matters is to provide an appropriate policy and legislative framework for a modern and efficient electoral system. Within that framework, local returning officers are responsible for all matters in connection with the actual conduct of elections and referendums, including the selection, appointment and training of polling station and count staff in accordance with the relevant provisions of electoral law. My Department issues guidance to Returning Officers in advance of each election and referendum. The guidance emphasises that the smooth conduct of polls is dependent on maintaining a cadre of sufficiently skilled and experienced people. Having regard to that overall objective, returning officers are advised to employ competent and efficient persons as polling staff and asked to give consideration, where possible, to employing suitable persons who are unemployed, particularly for the position of polling clerk where the responsibilities of the post can be fulfilled under the guidance of the Presiding Officer.

Leader Programmes Applications

Questions (208)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

208. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will give approval at an early date for the allocation of funds through the West Cork Development Partnership in respect of a development (details supplied) in County Cork. [41338/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department continues to monitor the situation with regard to the allocation and drawdown of funding under the LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) . I advised all Local Development Companies (LDCs), including West Cork Development Partnership, of their revised Programme allocations in May 2013 and LDCs were given until 31 August to allocate any remaining available funding to ensure that all funding is allocated before the end of 2013. I understand that the project in question was not approved.

Currently there is approximately €20m in potential commitments at various stages of assessment with my Department and I envisage that this process will be complete by the end of October 2013. Following this, all LDCs, including West Cork Development Partnership, will be informed if there is any availability of unallocated funds with a view to reaching full programme commitment by the end of 2013. As the principal decision maker on project funding, it will be the responsibility of the LDC to determine what projects are allocated funding, should additional funding become available from the above process. I understand that the project in question is approved in principle.

Planning Issues

Questions (209)

Martin Heydon

Question:

209. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the assistance provided to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is having issues with a property next door; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41378/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

There is no legislation in Ireland regulating the height of trees and hedges. However, there is a civil remedy, of nuisance, available in respect of the branches or roots of a neighbour’s trees encroaching on one's property. Complaints relating to such matters are normally addressed, where necessary, under civil law between the parties concerned.

Water Services Provision

Questions (210, 211)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

210. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 383 of 24 September 2013, if a house owner or the local authority is responsible for leaks or sewerage blockages outside of a home owner's boundary located on a public footpath or road in view of information from Cork County Council (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41398/13]

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Sandra McLellan

Question:

211. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 384 of 24 September 2013, if there are grants available to assist home owners to replace leaking pipes or collapsed sewers where the problem occurs outside their boundary under a public footpath or road in view of information provided by Cork County Council (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41404/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose taking Questions Nos. 210 and 211 together.

The Water Services Act 2007 provides that where a property is connected to a public water or waste water system the property owner is only responsible for the maintenance and replacement of any water or wastewater pipes, connections or distribution systems which are connected within the boundary of their premises. It would not be appropriate to provide a grant system for the replacement of leaking pipes outside a home-owner's property.

My Department's Water Services Investment Programme funds 90% of the costs incurred by local authorities in addressing water mains rehabilitation. The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013 builds on existing investment in water conservation, which has seen over €247 million spent on various water conservation measures between 2003 and 2012. Over the past number of years, annual expenditure on water conservation has been in the range of €30-€40m.

Mortgage Arrears Proposals

Questions (212)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

212. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on correspondence regarding eviction (details supplied). [41526/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

While I cannot comment on individual cases, I am 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, proactive and constructive engagement with the lender to seek to achieve an agreed solution is the recommended approach. 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.

As part of the Government's implementation of the recommendations in the Keane Report, my Department has developed a "mortgage to rent" scheme for households with commercial mortgages that:

- have had their mortgage position deemed unsustainable under a Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) , as provided for under the Central Bank's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears;

- agree to the voluntary surrender of their home;

- do not have significant positive equity; and

- are eligible for social housing.

This scheme was extended nationally in June 2012, targeting those low income families whose mortgage situation is unsustainable and where there is little or no prospect of a significant change in circumstances in the foreseeable future. The scheme ensures that the family remains in their home, while ownership is transferred to an approved housing body who in turn rent it to the original owners. Eligibility requirements are in line with other forms of social housing support. A pilot mortgage to rent scheme for the most acute cases of local authority mortgage arrears is currently being operated by Westmeath County and Dublin City Councils ahead of national implementation later this year.

Consultancy Contracts Expenditure

Questions (213)

Billy Timmins

Question:

213. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the consultants, if any, he has contracted since 1 January 2013 to advise on the possible sale of any assets; the current situation; the advice given and the terms and cost of the contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41543/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department has not contracted any consultants to advise on the possible sale of any assets since 1 January 2013.