Budget 2014

Questions (92)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

92. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the basis for the growth projections for employment as outlined in budget 2014. [45295/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

For 2013, employment growth of 1.6 per cent is projected. This takes into account outturn data for the first half of the year, which show average annual employment growth of 1.5 per cent. This growth is in both full-time and part-time employment and was broad-based across the majority of sectors in the economy. In addition, high frequency data, such as the Liver Register and survey data, suggest a continued improvement in the labour market situation in the second half of the year.

For next year and over the forecast horizon, further employment growth is projected. This is based on the assumption of GDP growth averaging 2.4 per cent per annum. The GDP growth forecast incorporates a modest positive contribution from domestic demand growth, which is labour intensive.

Finally, I would point out that macroeconomic forecasts underpinning Budget 2014 for this year and next have been endorsed independently by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council as part of the European economic governance reforms.

Pensions Levy Yield

Questions (93)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

93. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the expected receipts to be generated by the pensions levy in 2014 and 2015; the level of funds that relevant sections of the jobs initiative will receive; and the level of funding to be set aside to provide for State liabilities from pre-existing and future pension fund difficulties. [45296/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I announced in my Budget speech last week that the 0.6% Pension Fund Levy introduced to fund the Jobs Initiative in 2011 will be abolished from the 31st of December 2014. I will however, introduce an additional levy on pension funds at 0.15%. I am doing this to continue to help fund the Jobs Initiative, including the continuation of the reduced 9% VAT rate detailed below and to make provision for potential State liabilities which may emerge from pre-existing or future pension fund difficulties. The additional levy within the existing legal framework will apply to pension fund assets in 2014 and 2015. The yield from the pension fund levy in 2014 is estimated at €675 million. The yield from the pension fund levy at the reduced rate of 0.15% in 2015 is estimated at €135 million.

The revenues arising to the Exchequer from the levy are, in common with Exchequer revenues generally, not hypothecated to any particular item of expenditure or liability but have been used to help fund the various measures introduced by the Jobs Initiative. One of the very significant and successful measures introduced by the Jobs Initiative – the reduced VAT rate of 9% on tourism and certain other services – was due to end this year. In my Budget speech, I announced the continuation of the reduced 9% VAT rate. I also announced that the Air Travel Tax is being reduced to zero with effect from 1 April 2014. The combined cost of these initiatives is estimated at close to €400 million in a full year.

The Jobs Initiative also included a number of current and capital expenditure measures. While the details of the expenditure on these measures are a matter for my colleagues in Cabinet, I would ask the Deputy to note that the Jobs Initiative originally provided for 5,000 places under Jobbridge, the National Internship scheme and 5,900 places under the Springboard scheme. Numbers who have participated in Jobbridge have now exceeded 20,000 with an evaluation by Indecon Economic Consultants finding that 61.4% of survey respondents were in employment within 5 months of finishing their internships. The Springboard scheme, now in its third iteration, has expanded to over 16,500 places. The expansion of these schemes, reflective of their success, will require further funding from the Exchequer.

The extent of the potential State liabilities from the pre-existing or future pension fund difficulties is a matter currently under examination by my colleague the Minister for Social Protection. As I have already indicated, however, the proceeds from the levy that accrue to the Exchequer are not set aside in the manner suggested in the question and expenditure decisions on the use of those and other funds will be made as they arise in the normal way.

Property Taxation Administration

Questions (94)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

94. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if improvements will be made to the local property tax department in the Revenue Commissioners to ensure that any concerns regarding payment are responded to quickly and efficiently (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45300/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the introduction of Local Property Tax (LPT), which was the largest extension of the self-assessment system in its history, has been a major administrative challenge. On response times, Revenue strives to respond to all correspondence and contacts within its customer service standards, i.e., 30 days. However, as LPT is a new tax it was inevitable that there would be exceptional temporary pressures at stages of the initial implementation and it was always going to be difficult for Revenue to meet service demands. To put the scale of the task into perspective, since early March 2013 Revenue has processed approximately 1.59 million LPT Returns, lodged in excess of €200 million to the Exchequer, answered in excess of 500,000 phone calls and replied to approximately 200,000 letters/emails. In the circumstances, Revenue has done a very good job, in my view.

On the specific case mentioned by the Deputy, I am advised that the refund arose when a second payment arrangement was made by the owner of the property without cancelling the original arrangement. The situation was further complicated when the individual, who is a multiple property owner, sent other correspondence to Revenue on the revaluation upwards of another property. The letter for the second property was inadvertently associated with the refund request on the basis of a common property identification number which led to a delay in dealing with the refund request.

Once Revenue had fully clarified all the issues concerning the various properties linked to the property owner, a refund was approved and was issued on 1 October.

School Textbooks Rental Scheme

Questions (95)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

95. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to the announcement in budget 2014 regarding additional funding for the book rental scheme in primary schools, if the grant paid to schools for this scheme will be paid in one instalment or spread over three years; when this grant will be paid to the schools in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44918/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The additional funding referred to by the Deputy will involve an investment of €15 million to support the establishment of book rental schemes in primary schools that do not currently operate them. The Department will provide €5 million per annum over a three year period to such schools. This will allow schools to reduce the cost burden on parents with young children. These schemes can result in savings of up to 80% of the cost of school books for parents.

The Department will advise schools of the application process later this year. The funding will be allocated in time to allow schools to purchase a stock of textbooks for the commencement of the 2014/2015 school year.

School Accommodation

Questions (96)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

96. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties pertaining to a school (details supplied) in County Limerick, which is attended by children of 169 families; the steps he intends to take to solve those difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44988/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has been in ongoing liaison with the school, referred to by the Deputy, in relation to its accommodation issues. In that regard, my Department recently met with the school authority concerned to consider further the proposal being developed by the school to meet its accommodation needs. Arising from this meeting, the school concerned agreed to supply the technical reports required by my Department. This information, when received, will enable my Department with the school authority to progress an accommodation solution for the school.

School Accommodation

Questions (97)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

97. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the intended catchment area for a new primary school for which his Department has recently applied to Dublin City Council for planning permission on Bannow Road, Cabra West, Dublin 7 (details supplied). [44997/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that demographic projections which are based on child benefit data for the Dublin 7 area indicates a requirement for up to 38 additional primary school classrooms in the general area in the coming years. While most of that demand will be catered for by using current capacity in the existing primary schools in the area and also through the proposed expansion of some of those schools, my Department forecasts indicate that a new school building may be required to meet future demand that is projected to arise in the coming years.

With the closure of the FÁS training centre in Cabra, FÁS approached my Department to establish whether there would be an educational use for that property. A planning application for a 16 classroom primary school was prepared and recently submitted by my Department in relation to part of the former training centre site. Assuming that planning for a school building is secured, my Department will have 16 primary school classrooms available at the former training centre site in anticipation of meeting future needs in the area.

Schools Building Projects Expenditure

Questions (98)

Seán Fleming

Question:

98. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills when funding will be approved for a school building project (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45003/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning - Stage 2b - Detailed Design. This stage includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Safety Certificate, Disability Access Certificate and the preparation of tender documents. Due to competing demands on the Department's capital budget imposed by the need to prioritise the limited funding available for the provision of additional school accommodation to meet increasing demographic requirements it was not possible to include this project in the 5 year construction programme announced in March 2012.

School building projects, including the project referred to by the Deputy, which were previously initiated but not included in the current five year construction programme will continue to be progressed to final planning stages in anticipation of the possibility of further funds being available to the Department in the future.