I propose to take Question Nos. 108, 128, 435 and 468 together.
Irish Water is being established to accelerate capital investment in water services and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of water services delivery. The organisation needs to be appropriately resourced to fulfil this task but will not be over-staffed. Irish Water is currently recruiting to build up the required internal capabilities and the number of staff employed is an operational matter for the organisation. I understand that the numbers and competencies were determined through a detailed planning process. It was agreed by the Steering Group for the Water Sector Reform programme that, to ensure skills within the sector were fully availed of in building up the new organisation, competitions for positions in asset management, capital delivery and operations would be restricted to staff in the partner organisations i.e. Bord Gáis Éireann, local authorities and my Department in the first instance. Open competitions are held for all other positions and details of these are available on Irish Water's website.
Irish Water has entered into service level agreements (SLA) with each of the 34 authorities for the provision of water services. Staff in local authorities conducting work under these arrangements will remain local authority employees. The SLA reflects the transformation agenda required for the sector, with provision for annual service plans which will set out required performance, budgets and headcount. The length of the service level agreement and the fact that the agreement will include a programme of change are reflected in a Framework document, agreed with the Trade Unions under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, and which is available on my Department's website. This agreement, and the Water Services No. 2 Act 2013 provides that, in the event of an SLA coming to an end, the staff covered by that agreement will become Irish Water employees and their terms and conditions and superannuation arrangements will be protected by legislation.
The headcount provided for water services under the SLAs for 2014 is 4319.6 full time equivalents subject to alignment with the budgets notified by Irish Water to each local authority. This headcount will be reviewed each year as part of the preparation and approval of the following year's annual service plan.
While this number will reduce over time, the actual headcount requirement is intrinsically linked to the levels of investment within the sector in automation, rationalisation and infrastructure and operational upgrades. The SLA provides for the development of joint approach to long-term staff and workforce planning which will facilitate the implementation of the transformation programme. The establishment of Irish Water will lead to improved efficiency and effectiveness of water services delivery, and progress in these regards, leading to staffing reductions, will be closely monitored in the context of annual service plans.