State Properties

Questions (424)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

424. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there is a national carbon control strategy for all the buildings in the State portfolio. [5442/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question Nos. 444 and 445 of 21 January 2014 in which I set out the position from my Department’s perspective. There is no national carbon control strategy specific to buildings, whether in State ownership or otherwise. In view of the fact that the carbon impact of buildings generally relates the use and management of energy, I also referred to the specific responsibilities of my colleague , the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in relation to energy efficiency and renewable energy. In addition, the Office of Public Works has relevant functions in relation to ownership, management and efficiency of State buildings.

Motor Tax Rates

Questions (425)

Derek Nolan

Question:

425. Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce a scaled tax rate for pre-2008 cars that relates directly to their CO2 emissions as is the case with cars manufactured since 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5584/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I have no plans to bring in legislation to change the basis for charging motor tax for vehicles registered prior to 2008 to the CO2 system. The question of applying the new CO2 based motor tax system to all cars was subject to detailed discussion during the debate on the Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Act 2008, when the CO2 system was being introduced. Any retrospection would not be possible, as the CO2 data for the pre-2008 car fleet have not been authenticated for business purposes. The cost of any retrospection could be substantial were it possible, depending on how it applied, and could have direct implications for the revenue base of local government. Any loss in revenue would have to be compensated for elsewhere in the motor tax system, or through the taxation system generally.

State Bodies

Questions (426, 427, 428)

Barry Cowen

Question:

426. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the budget allocated from his Department to Philanthropy Ireland; the number of staff currently employed by Philanthropy Ireland; the total budget allocated for staff in Philanthropy Ireland; the selection process and criteria relating to the chairman and chief executive officer, CEO, of Philanthropy Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4846/14]

View answer

Barry Cowen

Question:

427. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide, in tabular form, the expenditure of Philanthropy Ireland on public relations, consultancy fees and external expertise since 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4847/14]

View answer

Barry Cowen

Question:

428. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress made by Philanthropy Ireland in its mission to increase the level of philanthropic activity here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4848/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 426 to 428, inclusive, together.

The Government established the Forum on Philanthropy in May 2006 to promote a culture of philanthropy in Ireland. The Forum initially comprised the Departments of An Taoiseach (in the Chair), Finance and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, as well as five private philanthropic organisations, including Philanthropy Ireland, the independent representative body for all philanthropic organisations and interests engaged with the development of philanthropy and giving in Ireland. On 1 May 2011, responsibility for the Forum was transferred to my Department. I broadened its focus to support the development of both philanthropy and fund-raising. During 2012, the Forum set out ambitious plans to increase philanthropic giving from its current estimated level of approximately €500 million per annum to €800 million by 2016. The drivers for this increase in giving fall under four overarching themes: a national giving campaign, fiscal and infrastructure recommendations, fund-raising capacity improvements and a social innovation fund.

In order to make progress on implementing the proposals recommended under each of these four themes responsibility has been assigned to existing organisations, including Philanthropy Ireland, with the necessary expertise and capacity to take the lead in delivering on the recommendations of the Forum to grow and develop the philanthropy and fund-raising sectors. Very significant progress has been made on the implementation of the Forum’s plans. A National Giving Campaign, the one percent difference, has been launched – details of the campaign are on the website www.onepercentdifference.ie. The tax treatment of donations to charities has been simplified and decoupled from business tax incentives, a road map has been set out for the implementation of the Charities Act, including the setting up of a Charities Regulator, and the Social Innovation Fund, which is in the early stages of development.

My Department continues to support the Forum. In this respect, funding of approximately €1.9 million over a three-year period, beginning in 2012, is being allocated to Philanthropy Ireland on the basis that it is matched with funding from philanthropic sources. My Department oversees the contractual arrangements in relation to the funding to Philanthropy Ireland in respect of their work on behalf of the Forum. Details in respect of 2012 are set out in the table. Details in respect of 2013 are not yet to hand in my Department. As Philanthropy Ireland is a private company, my Department has no role in relation to its operations or its board membership.

I share the Forum’s view that, even in these difficult times, we have the opportunity to increase substantially the level of private investment in the philanthropic and fund-raising sectors. It is not intended to substitute for Government investment, but to supplement it. As well as unlocking significant private funding to address fundamental social and economic challenges, increased private giving to good causes will also support the Government’s strategy to increase employment.

Table

Philanthropy Ireland Limited, National Giving Campaign for the year ended 31 December 2012

National Giving Campaign

Expenditure

General Events

€6,942

Research

€57,562

Public Relations

€77,332

Advertising

€19,355

Travel and Subsistence

€1,635

Printing, stationery and postage

€5,156

Sundry expenses

€96

Legal and professional (including procurement process)

€25,458

Legal and professional (Soc Inn Fund)

€5,063

Project management fees

€30,996

Books and Subscriptions (Tax and Regulation)

€232

Total

€229,827

Library Services

Questions (429)

Clare Daly

Question:

429. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department has conducted any research into staffless libraries; his views that this is a direction in which the local authorities should proceed, in view of the fact that the savings in staff are often replaced by significant cost in relation to security and surveillance hardware. [4869/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

An ’open libraries’ initiative will begin on a pilot basis in May 2014, to run for one year in six library branches. Staff hours and levels will not change from the present levels during this pilot, when access to the libraries concerned will be from 8am to 10pm. Research undertaken by the Local Government Management Agency on similar initiatives in other countries has informed the development of this initiative. Significant additional costs are not involved in this initiative. A range of developments already underway in libraries – such as the introduction of self–service technology - support the implementation of open libraries. I very much support this initiative which has had positive outcomes in other countries. It has considerable potential to enhance the already excellent services offered through libraries and make them more accessible to the public.

I recognise that we will continue to depend on the expertise of our library staff to plan and deliver these services.

Housing Adaptation Grant

Questions (430)

Robert Troy

Question:

430. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the possible additional allocation of public occupational therapists in view of the recent criteria change when applying for housing adaptation grants through the local authority. [4880/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

In order to ensure that proposed adaptations and extensions under the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability scheme represent the most appropriate and cost-effective way of meeting the long-term nee ds of individual applicants, local authorities or the applicants themselves should obtain Occupational Therapist assessment of the proposed works. In cases where Occupational Therapist (OT) assessment is needed, the applicant may engage a private sector OT and costs of up to €200 may be recouped to the applicant. Alternatively, local authorities may obtain the services of an OT on a fee per case basis or the authority may enter into a service level agreement with the HSE to avail of OT services. Given the range and complexity of assistive technologies now available to support independent living by persons with physical, sensory and neurological disabilities, local authorities are increasingly seeking OT assistance in assessing the suitability of interventions a cross all the grant measures available to older people and people with a disability.

My Department will be issuing revised guidelines to local authorities shortly under all the grant measures, including in relation to OT assessment and measures to ensure that availability of OTs is not a barrier to progressing urgently needed works and adaptations. I have no function in relation to the deployment of additional OTs in the public service.

Planning Issues

Questions (431)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

431. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of applications for extension of time under section 42 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 that were made in each local authority area in 2013; the number of such applications that were granted or refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4888/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department collates and publishes a wide range of housing and planning statistics that inform the preparation and evaluation of policy, and those data are available on my Department’s website www.environ.ie. Data on number of applications for extension of time under Section 42 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 are included in this range and are broken down by local authority area. Data relating to applications granted and refused are also included. Data for 2013 will be available by June 2014.

Building Regulations Amendments

Questions (432, 434)

Jim Daly

Question:

432. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the options available to persons who wish to construct a home in stages using various subcontractors without employing a principal main contractor in view of the pending changes under SI No. 9 of 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4891/14]

View answer

Michael McCarthy

Question:

434. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with regard to the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 S.I No. 9 of 2014, if the new building regulations will preclude persons from building through direct labour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4915/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 432 and 434 together.

The new Building Control Amendment Regulations which come into operation on 1 March 2014 will greatly strengthen the arrangements currently in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates. The new regulations are necessary following the widespread instances of failure by owners, designers and builders to comply with their statutory obligations under the Building Control Act 1990 to design and construct buildings in accordance with the building regulations. These obligations apply to all sectors of the housing market, including the self-build sector.

Neither the Building Control Act or any regulations thereunder, including the new Building Control Regulations, place any restrictions on whom an owner may assign as a builder once the owner is satisfied that the builder is competent to undertake the works involved. An owner who intends to self-build, and who contracts out elements of the work to various parties, must assume legal responsibility for ensuring that the building or works concerned will comply with the requirements of the second schedule to the building regulations. The owner must also undertake to do everything necessary to achieve this and to ensure they are in a position to certify the building or works on completion thereby taking legal responsibility as builder. The new regulations also require an owner to assign a competent, registered professional to certify the design prior to commencement and to inspect the works during construction so that the assigned certifier is in a position, in conjunction with the owner-builder, to sign a certificate of compliance on completion. A building project cannot proceed until such assignments (which may be one and the same person) have been made. Confidence in the builder will be a key factor influencing a professional’s decision on accepting a role as assigned certifier, in particular, and owners who intend to self-build will need to be aware of this.

In regard to the references to direct labour and the use multiple contractors, it is my Department’s understanding that the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013, which do not come within my remit, require project supervisors in circumstances where a construction project involves more than one contractor, or a particular risk, or more than 30 days/500 person days. Owners should therefore be advised to have regard to all statutory obligations and to seek advice from competent builders and competent, registered professionals where necessary and appropriate.

Departmental Funding

Question No. 434 answered with Question No. 432.

Question No. 435 answered with Question No. 108.

Questions (433)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

433. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of money given to the new communities partnership in each year since the partnership was established; the person responsible for the partnership; if the money spent is audited; and if he will provide the details of relevant audits. [4905/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department is responsible for a range of programmes to support communities, including the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP) and the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO). Both of these programmes provide funding to support the work of the New Communities Partnership. The LCDP is one of my Department’s main social inclusion programmes. Its objective is to tackle poverty and social exclusion through partnership and constructive engagement between Government, and its agencies, and people in disadvantaged communities. The Programme is administered and managed by Pobal on behalf of my Department and delivered at a local level by the nationwide network of Local Development Companies and a small number of alternative delivery structures.

Following the closure, in 2010, of the Local Development Company for the Dublin Inner City area (Dublin Inner City Partnership), New Communities Partnership is one of a number of groups contracted directly by Pobal to deliver LCDP services in the Dublin Inner City Area. The following table provides details of the funding provided to New Communities Partnership under the LCDP.

Year

Funding provided

2010

€47,000

2011

€54,183

2012

€50,388

2013

€49,585

2014 Allocation

€50,163

While the Board has ultimate responsibility for running the Company, Pobal carries out audits of LCDP funded groups in line with arrangements agreed with my Department. Although the Group in question has not been selected for audit under the LCDP to date, it has been required to comply with the financial guidelines which underpin the programme.

The SSNO in the Community and Voluntary sector provides multi-annual funding to national organisations towards core costs associated with the provision of services. Priority is given under the Scheme to supporting national organisations which provide coalface services to disadvantaged target groups. Core funding refers typically to operating costs that will always need to be met, and are fundamental to the organisation's survival. The funding normally covers basic organisational and administrative costs of an organisation, and may include items such as salaries, facilities, equipment, communications, and the direct expenses of day-to-day work. The organisation in question was first funded under the SSNO which ran from 2008-2011, and is now funded under the current Scheme which commenced in 2011 and will finish on 30 June 2014. My Department conducts inspections on nationally funded schemes and programmes operated and implemented by the Department. A minimum selection of 5% of expenditure is examined each year across the Community & Voluntary Sector support programmes. To date, the Partnership has not been selected for inspection, although a system of checks is carried out prior to each payment.

The following table provides details of the funding to New Communities Partnership over the period 2008-2013.

Year

Funding provided

2008

€113,000

2009

€108,500

2010

€97,600

2011

€83,600

2012

€90,000

2013

€84,800

Question No. 434 answered with Question No. 432.
Question No. 435 answered with Question No. 108.

Local Authority Charges Collection

Questions (436)

Barry Cowen

Question:

436. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding unpaid water charges due to local authorities in the context of the transfer of functions to Irish Water; if the unpaid charges will be paid to local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4920/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Irish Water has agreed in principle to take over the net realisable non-domestic water debtor figure at the end of 2013, the value of which is to be based on a set of criteria that will be applied by each Local Authority to the customer balance as at 31 December 2013. A working group representative of my Department, the Water Services Transition Office (WSTO) and Irish Water was established to agree the appropriate criteria, and there are now being applied by Local Authorities as part of their preparation of the Annual Financial Statement. Once a value can be attributed to the net realisable debt, it will be included in the process of transferring assets and liabilities to Irish Water.

Irish Water Establishment

Question No. 438 answered with Question No. 103.

Questions (437)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

437. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of staff at Irish Water and the Irish Water transition office that have been seconded from existing roles in the public service or at local authorities; if such staff remain employed by Government Departments or local authorities; where the pension and PRSI liability for such staff lies; if such staff will be hired by Irish Water in the future and under what terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4921/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

A fundamental underpinning of the water reform programme is to ensure that the skills and experience built up over many years in local authorities are put to best use for the long-term benefit of the customer and that there is no negative impact on service to customers during the transition. Irish Water is currently recruiting to build up the internal capabilities required within the organisation and the number of staff employed is an operational matter for the organisation. Data supplied to my Department by Irish Water indicate that 346 staff have been recruited to up to 30 January 2014 - 125 from Local Authorities, 61 from Bord Gáis, 6 from my Department and 154 others. In the case of the local authority and Departmental staff who were successful in this competitive recruitment process, their initial period with Irish Water is on a secondment basis pending the establishment of the superannuation arrangements provided for under the Water Services No.2 Act, 2013. No other secondment arrangements are in place for the Irish Water organisation, but a number of staff have been seconded to the Irish Water Programme to assist in the metering programme and the establishment of Irish Water. Such staff remain employees of their parent authority or the Department at their existing salary levels and Irish Water recoups the relevant employer for the costs of secondment.

The Water Services Transition Office (WSTO) was established by the County and City Managers’ Association to assist with the implementation of the water sector reform process. The role of the WSTO is to support the delivery of the water sector reform programme on behalf of the local government sector, by co-ordinating the involvement of the 34 County and City Councils on a range of matters including standardised data gathering, financial analysis, HR negotiations, negotiation of SLAs and transition planning, all of which were required while daily water services operations were maintained. The WSTO was established in two locations - Dublin and Waterford - and is staffed by seconded local authority staff. During 2013, the average monthly WSTO staff complement across both locations was 17.7 staff, ranging from 21.1 staff at its highest (August 2013) to 5 staff at its lowest (January 2013). At year end there were 13.6 staff assigned to the WSTO. Arrangements are in place for the continuation of the WSTO into 2014 with proposals for staff numbers to be reduced to 10 people. WSTO staff costs will continue to be paid in the first instance by the parent local authority and are recouped by the Department in line with the approved budget for 2014.

Question No. 438 answered with Question No. 103.

Air Quality

Questions (439)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

439. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there was an air quality report performed during and after the recent fire in the Oxigen plant in the Ballymount industrial estate; and the outcome of the report. [4944/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was informed, via its emergency line, in the early hours of Saturday, 25 January of a serious fire outbreak at the Oxigen Environmental Waste Facility at Ballymount, Dublin 12. EPA officials were quickly on site and continued to attend the site each day, working in co-ordination with the Gardaí and Dublin Fire Brigade in managing the incident. While the smell of smoke from the fire was reported across Dublin immediately following the outbreak, the results from the EPA’s national ambient air quality monitoring network show that there was no breach of air quality standards at any of the monitoring stations in the network for the duration of the fire. This includes stations at Ballyfermot, Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Rathmines and in the city centre. It is thought that the strong winds assisted in the dispersion of the plume. Elevated pollution levels were recorded by the closest monitor, located at Ballyfermot Library, but these were still within prescribed pollutant limit values for the protection of human health set out in national and EU air quality legislation.

The EPA issued the following health related advice to local residents:

- Anyone in the path of the plume was advised to keep windows and doors closed.

- Adults and children with heart or lung problems should reduce strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.

- Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.

The EPA’s air quality health index was used to give advice to the public and was updated regularly via the twitter account @EPAAirQuality. The incident notification on the EPA’s website was also regularly updated - www.epa.ie/newsandevents/incidents/. EPA inspectors undertook additional air monitoring over the duration of the fire. While it is too early at this stage to provide a fully detailed air quality report, these results are being compiled and a report on the monitoring undertaken will be prepared by the EPA.

Irish Water Funding

Questions Nos. 441 and 442 answered with Question No. 101.

Questions (440)

Brian Stanley

Question:

440. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the €490 million subvention from the local government fund to Irish Water will have to be repaid. [4949/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The local government funding model has changed considerably in 2014 and , in particular, the establishment of Irish Water and its financial relationship with the local government sector has a considerable impact on local authority financing. The funding to be provided to local authorities for the provision of water services in 2014 will be governed by Service Level Agreements between Irish Water and individual authorities. The Revised Estimates Volume for Public Services 2014 estimates total income to the Local Government Fund of €1.779 billion in 2014, including estimated Local Property Tax income of €550m. The subvention to Irish Water from the Fund in 2014; will fund water related expenditures incurred heretofore by local authorities; operational costs of providing water services, estimated at just under €723 million, have been removed from the local government sector in 2014. These expenditures were previously met by local authorities from their own resources and general purpose grants.

Questions Nos. 441 and 442 answered with Question No. 101.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (443, 444)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

443. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will itemise, in tabular form, the occasions on which his Department has engaged the services of external professional advice such as a company (details supplied) on the appointment of persons to State boards; if he will list the fees paid in respect of such services; the persons who were ultimately appointed on foot of advice received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4986/14]

View answer

Catherine Murphy

Question:

444. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will identify any instances where a person appointed to a State board after recruitment advice was received from professional external consultants was subsequently deemed to be unqualified for the duties and responsibilities attached to the role; the costs incurred in obtaining advice in respect of each such instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5002/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 443 and 444 together.

My Department does not engage the company in question in respect of appointments to State Boards under its remit. All appointments to State Boards are made in accordance with the appropriate legislation governing appointments to each body. In some cases statutory selection procedures must be followed or nominations must be sought from independent nominating panels before appointments are made by the Minister or the Government, as appropriate. In a number of situations, only some appointments to the body concerned are made by the Minister, or appointments are made with the consent of another Minister.

My Department provides support to the company in order that it may continue to provide valuable assistance and expertise in the development of the community and voluntary sector by strengthening volunteer organisations’ boards and management committees. The company assists volunteer organisations in building links between corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors and encourages people from corporate and public sectors to sit on not-for-profit boards. It also enhances the skill sets on not-for-profit boards through the development of training packages and other supports for boards and board members.

Water Charges Introduction

Questions (445, 458, 470, 476, 490)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

445. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there are plans for waivers on water charges for people on low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5050/14]

View answer

Ann Phelan

Question:

458. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the quality of the water here that we are to be billed for in the future; if the quality of water is not deemed fit for human consumption, without additives, if that creates legal problems for Irish Water in charging for a product that is not fit for human consumption. [5206/14]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

470. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if persons will have access to the current reading of their Irish Water meters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5412/14]

View answer

Michael Conaghan

Question:

476. Deputy Michael Conaghan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will take into account when allocating the water measures for households that persons with chronic illnesses or disabilities will need the use of showers and/or washing facilities more often than able-bodied individuals. [5514/14]

View answer

Arthur Spring

Question:

490. Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which water charges will commence nationally; the time frame after that date that the first bills will be issued; if Irish Water will be using interim meter readings prior to that date to gauge average water usage per household; and if his Department will provide this data to CER when setting the charge. [5657/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 445, 458, 470, 476 and 490 together.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce water charges based on usage above a free allowance. The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has, therefore, decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. The Water Services Act (No. 2) 2013 provides for the transfer of water services functions from the local authorities to Irish Water. The Act also provides that the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) will be responsible for the independent economic regulation of Irish Water.  The CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers. The water charges levied by Irish Water will be subject to the approval of the CER.

An inter-departmental working group has been established to advise the Government on the appropriate method for addressing affordability issues which may arise with the introduction of domestic water charges. The group is examining the issues arising for those with specific medical conditions, which require high water usage, in the course of its work.  The group comprises my Department and the Departments of the Taoiseach, Social Protection, Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance. A final report will be submitted for consideration by Government when the group has completed its examination of the issues involved, and the Government will decide on the proposed approaches to be taken in relation to affordability, medical needs and the free allowance. The CER will be carrying out a public consultation on the approach to the design of domestic water tariffs in the coming months.  Domestic water charges will commence with effect from 1 October 2014 and Irish Water will issue the first bills to domestic customers from January 2015. It will be possible for a customer to access the meter to verify readings.

Under the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations, 2007, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas library, suppliers of drinking water are required to ensure that the water supplied is wholesome and clean. Water which is wholesome and clean is defined as water which is free from any micro-organisms and parasites and from any substances which in numbers or concentrations constitute a potential danger to human health, and which meets the quality standards specified in the Schedule to the Regulations.  The Environmental Protection Agency is the supervisory authority with responsibility for monitoring Irish Water’s compliance with these regulations.

The Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 also requires that Irish Water will prepare codes of practice, on a range of matters, including standards in relation to the performance by Irish Water of its functions and billing by Irish Water of persons in respect of water services provided.  Irish Water will also be required to prepare a code of practice on any matter considered necessary by the CER.  I expect that the CER will consider compliance with statutory standards by Irish Water in fulfilling its functions.

Land Issues

Questions (446)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

446. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the proposal to introduce a levy or tax on unused land, particularly land in prime urban locations. [1509/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

As Minister for Housing and Planning, my role in relation to the planning system is to oversee the provision and updating of the planning legislative and policy framework, including as articulated through statutory planning guidelines, to secure the proper planning and sustainable development of the country as a whole, including urban areas. While responsibility for the planning of cities, towns, urban and rural areas is a matter for local authorities within this framework, I am continuing to ensure that the most relevant legislative and policy framework is available to support authorities in the exercise of their planning functions and facilitate the adequate and appropriate provision of facilities, infrastructure and development to support residential and commercial developments within their areas. In this regard, I continue to keep under review the need for any further provisions, and where I am satisfied there is a sufficient evidence base, I will advance proposals accordingly, including any appropriate targeted measures for urban areas such as measures to encourage landowners or developers to bring forward sustainable urban development proposals. I remain committed to ensuring that the planning system supports our recovering economy, and sustainable communities, facilitating greater numbers of people to live in city centre areas and addressing the often visible eyesores associated with unused urban sites.