Commercial Rates

Questions (146)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

146. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to provide county councils with the ability to waive or reduce rates in specific areas such as community initiatives and not-for-profit organisations (details supplied); if not, if he will consider such provisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50952/13]

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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 for Valuation has sole responsibility for all valuation matters, including determination under the Act of relevant property for the purposes of rates. The Valuation Act 2001 comes under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Under the provisions of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970, a rating authority may make and carry out a scheme providing for the waiver by the authority of all or a portion of commercial rates due by ratepayers in respect of a specified class or classes of property. The making of such a scheme is subject to the consent of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Any application received for a rate waiver scheme is carefully considered. However, in considering any such application, it has to be borne in mind that a waiver of rates for one class of ratepayer could unfairly impact on existing businesses in the area by giving a competitive advantage to a certain group through a reduction in costs. In addition, the introduction of a waiver scheme could further increase costs on the part of businesses who are not part of the scheme, as it is likely that they would be required to make up the cost of the waiver scheme through the payment of additional rates. This could impose an additional burden on such ratepayers in what are already difficult economic circumstances.

Planning Issues

Questions (147)

Regina Doherty

Question:

147. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the difference in planning terms between agricultural activities and horticultural activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51040/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Section 2 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that “ “agriculture” includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land), the training of horses and the rearing of bloodstock, the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and “agricultural” shall be construed accordingly.”

Departmental Programmes

Questions (148)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

148. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to concerns among workers in the LCDP and Leader programmes about the lack of information provided to them in respect of the future of these programmes; if he will undertake to open a formal dialogue or create a national structure where workers in the sector can engage with his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51059/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

There are 50 Local Development Companies (LDCs) contracted on my Department’s behalf to deliver the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP), with 35 of those also delivering the LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) throughout the country. These independent companies also deliver a range of other programmes and interventions on behalf of other Government Departments and other funders.

The Irish Local Development Network, which represents the LDCs, is represented on an Alignment Working Group that has discussed implementation arrangements in respect of the alignment recommendations. The Working Group also comprises representatives of the City and County Managers Association and Pobal, and it is chaired and supported by my Department. It is the responsibility of the representatives from each sector to consult with their nominating bodies, staff and other relevant stakeholders as part of this process and I would encourage such dialogue by all parties.

Waste Disposal

Questions (149)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

149. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 474 of 19 November 2013, if he is concerned about reported increases in the prices of waste collection services offered by private waste collectors in the Dublin area; if he will provide details on the number and nature of enforcement proceedings that have been taken against waste collectors which have failed to comply with the conditions attached to their waste permits in the years 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. [51062/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

As set out in the Government ’s policy on waste, A Resource Opportunity, an effective system of household waste collection is critical to the economy and the well-being of society. I will shortly be publishing a consultation document on the regulation of household waste collection to guide the development of a new regulatory regime to strengthen and improve the regulation of household waste collection. Our approach to pricing structures will be a significant focus in the consultation paper. I want to ensure that waste management companies operate pricing structures that incentivise environmentally sustainable behaviour in terms of waste reduction and segregation. Ultimately, however, charges applied by waste management companies are a matter between those companies and their customers, subject to compliance with all applicable environmental and other relevant legislation.

With regard to the number and nature of enforcement proceedings taken against waste collectors, my Department does not collect the information sought. A wide range of data on the Office of Environmental Enforcement’s audits and other enforcement activities in relation to such facilities are publicly available on the EPA’s website, at http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/enforcement/.

Planning Issues

Questions (150)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

150. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there have been any tree preservation orders granted; if so, the number and where the applications were made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51070/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Details of the numbers of Tree Preservation Orders in force by area for the 2007-2012 period are available on the planning statistics section of my Department’s website at http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications/PlanningStatistics/. It is a function of the relevant planning authority to make tree preservation orders, where deemed necessary, under section 205 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.

Property Taxation Administration

Questions (151)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

151. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reasons behind the change in decision to now redistribute revenue from the local property tax through the Central Government Fund despite recommendations from the commission to have approximately 80% of taxes raised distributed through local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51072/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

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 considerable impact on local authority financing.

The Government has indicated an intention to move to 80% retention of all Local Property Tax receipts within the local authority area where the Tax is raised. The establishment of Irish Water presents local government with significant organisational and financial challenges in 2014. Service provision responsibilities will shift from the local authorities to Irish Water, infrastructure will be transferred, financing arrangements will alter and local authorities will operate on behalf of Irish Water under Service Level Agreements. These changes must be managed.

In this context, it has been necessary to defer defining a certain proportion of the proceeds of the Local Property Tax to be retained in each local authority until 2015. This approach allows maximum flexibility in allocating Local Property Tax in 2014 in the form of General Purpose Grants, with the priority to support those local authorities with weaker funding bases. This decision has been taken in the context of Budget 2014. The 2014 Local Government Fund General Purpose Grants will be announced in due course.

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.

Departmental Legal Costs

Questions (152)

Finian McGrath

Question:

152. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount that has been spent on legal costs, that is, fees, expenses and so on by his Department and any agencies under his remit; and if he will provide a breakdown of the individual agencies and costs incurred by them for the years 2009 to 2012, inclusive. [51077/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

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