Housing Adaptation Grant Data

Questions (102)

Colm Keaveney

Question:

102. Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a county breakdown of the total number of housing adaptation grants distributed in 2010 to 2013, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5020/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under the terms of the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, which is administered by the local authorities, grants are available to assist households to have necessary repairs or improvement works carried out in order to facilitate the continued independent occupancy of their homes. Three separate schemes are available :

(i) Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability (HAG) which assists people with a disability to have necessary adaptations, repairs or improvement works carried out in order to make their accommodation more suitable for their needs. Grants for up to €30,000 are available for works including the provision of access ramps, stair lifts, accessible toilet and shower facilities, wheelchair access and extensions,

(ii) the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme (MAG) is available to fast track grants of up to €6,000 to cover a basic suite of works to address the mobility problems of a member of a household. Qualifying works include the provision of stair lifts, level access showers, access ramps, grab rails and some minor adaptation works.

(iii) the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme (HAOP) provides grants of up to €8,000 to assist older people living in poor housing conditions to have necessary repairs or improvements carried out. Grant eligible works include structural repairs or improvements, re-wiring, repairs to or replacement of windows and doors, provision of water supply and sanitary facilities, provision of heating, cleaning, painting etc.

I propose to circulate in the Official Report a tabular statement setting out (a) the number of grants paid under Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability (HAG) scheme per Local Authority from 2010 – 2013 and (b) the number of grants paid under the other two schemes.

Table A

Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability (HAG) 2010 - 2013 HAG

County/City Council  

2010

2011

2012

2013

Carlow

68

51

50

44

Cavan

57

48

41

36

Clare

133

112

58

47

Cork

214

110

151

144

Donegal

183

32

63

38

DL /Rathdown

175

89

101

102

Fingal

161

146

85

134

Galway

107

52

25

34

Kerry

133

112

104

79

Kildare

186

51

132

143

Kilkenny

56

72

60

64

Laois

74

73

50

36

Leitrim

49

35

23

12

Limerick

111

95

76

65

Longford

32

25

26

23

Louth

167

68

65

60

Mayo

54

54

49

42

Meath

87

53

34

26

Monaghan

82

44

54

44

North Tipp

53

47

48

36

Offaly

78

45

23

18

Roscommon

95

96

58

76

Sligo

69

69

52

43

South Dublin

234

126

158

112

South Tipperary

103

139

158

53

Waterford

89

83

43

27

Westmeath

95

82

56

42

Wexford

56

48

66

46

Wicklow

55

44

30

21

Cork City

137

131

47

108

Dublin City

992

808

980

667

Galway City

42

74

52

39

Limerick City

101

40

52

34

Waterford City

19

19

18

11

Table B

Mobility Aids Grant Scheme (MAG) & the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme (HAOP) HOAP & MAG

County/City Council

2010

2011

2012

2013

Carlow

136

206

142

79

Cavan

138

138

113

81

Clare

306

397

115

156

Cork

1021

998

1196

251

Donegal

458

302

142

73

DL /Rathdown

45

62

40

35

Fingal

137

116

147

45

Galway

323

511

486

282

Kerry

603

662

505

201

Kildare

356

306

138

16

Kilkenny

241

308

189

95

Laois

235

139

174

77

Leitrim

123

83

85

20

Limerick

266

231

200

162

Longford

245

212

166

120

Louth

77

83

13

9

Mayo

780

583

573

478

Meath

115

81

91

7

Monaghan

140

155

174

99

North Tipp

181

149

106

60

Offaly

85

87

34

48

Roscommon

286

195

93

20

Sligo

203

131

170

38

South Dublin

155

93

117

79

South Tipperary

252

283

173

74

Waterford

127

85

94

13

Westmeath

226

144

125

64

Wexford

464

401

363

109

Wicklow

133

100

90

55

Cork City

265

356

96

177

Dublin City

590

300

257

116

Galway City

32

108

121

61

Limerick City

273

329

268

169

Waterford City

197

133

118

60

Irish Water Administration

Questions (103, 438)

Barry Cowen

Question:

103. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total cost of the Water Services Transition Office in 2013 and the estimate for 2014; the number of staff employed; if the costs are paid directly to the Local Authorities Members' Association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5017/14]

View answer

Catherine Murphy

Question:

438. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if any staff at the Irish Water Services Transition Office were seconded from existing roles in the public service or local authorities; if so, the number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4922/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 438 together.

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 Transition Officer 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 prepared a detailed business case setting out its proposed role, functions and funding requirements. A Memorandum of Understanding was agreed between my Department and the WSTO setting out the common understanding between the parties in relation to the role and functions of the WSTO during 2013 and 2014 and the agreed funding mechanism.

€5.7m funding was provided to the WSTO in 2013. Some €1.7m was paid in respect of the staff from local authorities seconded to work in the dedicated transition office in two locations - Dublin and Waterford. Some €3.5m was paid in 2013 for the recoupment of costs for an average of 2-3 staff in individual local authorities who liaised with the transition office in collating and analysing the information necessary to support the transfer of functions, assets and liabilities to Irish Water. The balance of approximately €0.5m was incurred by the WSTO on non-pay related costs. Of this €278,285 was paid to a variety of companies who provided specialist advice on legal, financial, health and safety and IT aspects of the transition as it impacted on local authorities. The balance of €213,252 was incurred on general office running costs for services including rent, utilities and security. The 2014 budget for WSTO is €1.6m.

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) and 5 staff at its lowest (January 2013).  At year end there were 13.6 staff assigned to the WSTO. In addition, an average of 2-3 staff in individual local authorities liaised with the transition office. The WSTO managed the overall budget during 2013 and submitted claims for recoupment of costs on behalf of the 2 office locations and the 34 local authorities to the Department. Funds were paid to Fingal County Council who in turn recouped the individual local authorities.

Planning Issues

Questions (104)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

104. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider reviewing section 42 of the Planning and Development Act and Article 45 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2000-2013 with a view to making amendments to allow planning authorities to request further information to be sought on substantive planning issues and to allow conditions to be imposed on the extended permission to address planning inadequacies in the original permission, so as to facilitate a situation where grants of permission can be extended particularly in circumstances where financial difficulties prevent a person from availing of the permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4843/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Section 42 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 was amended in 2010 to provide for the extension of the duration of planning permission even where substantial works had not been completed, or the development had not even commenced, in cases where the planning authority is satisfied that there were considerations of a commercial, economic or technical nature beyond the control of the applicant which substantially militated against the carrying out of the development.

This is, however, subject to the qualification that there has not in the period since the original planning permission been a new county development plan, or new or revised statutory Ministerial Guidelines under section 28 of the Planning Act, as a result of which the proposed development is no longer consistent with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

I do not envisage making any change to the planning law which would allow substantial planning issues to be addressed by way of what would in essence be a modification of a previous permission; where substantial planning issues are concerned, I consider it appropriate that the public and prescribed bodies should be enabled to make submissions, which would essentially require a new application.

I am prepared to consider, however, in the context of the Planning Bill which I intend to bring forward as soon as possible this year, whether it would be appropriate to provide for a mechanism whereby the relevant planning authority could approve a modification of an existing permission without a new planning application, where the proposed modification is considered minor in nature.

Building Regulations Amendments

Questions (105)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

105. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider deferring the coming into operation of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 due to a wide range of concerns having been advanced about certain aspects of the regulations as currently drafted. [5054/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The new Building Control Amendment Regulations 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.

I am satisfied that arrangements for a smooth transition to the new regulatory environment on 1 March 2014 are well in hand and my Department will continue to work with all parties to ensure they understand their obligations and the steps necessary to meet them.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Provision

Questions (106)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

106. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the exact status of the Fethard Burncourt water treatment scheme; if he will provide a commitment that work will begin on the project as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4928/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Fethard Burncourt Water Supply Scheme Water Treatment Plants Contract was included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010 – 2013 as a scheme to start during the period of the Programme. On 3 December 2013 I approved funding of €12.3m to enable South Tipperary County Council award the Contract for the Fethard Burncourt Water Treatment Plants DBO Contract. Irish Water is now responsible for the delivery of water services capital infrastructure. It is currently preparing a Capital Investment Plan for 2014 – 2016 that will provide for the transition of projects included in the 2010 - 2013 Water Services Investment Programme.

Local Government Reform

Questions (107)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

107. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason that, even though the report of the working group on active citizenship is imminent, the working group did not carry out any consultation with the community sector, those involved with community work or community groups; the reason his Department also bypassed the structures established by the State itself, including the community and voluntary pillar, when establishing the membership of the working group, disregarding the normal arrangement for participation, transparency and accountability in the drafting of the Local Government Reform Bill 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4929/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I set up the Working Group on citizen engagement with local government, under the chairmanship of Fr. Sean Healy, in September 2013 to make recommendations on more extensive and diverse input by citizens into the decision-making process and to allow for facilitation of input by citizens into decision making at the local government level. The members of the group were chosen for their extensive experience and expertise in community engagement over many years; indeed a number of the group engage with my Department on an on-going basis through the community and voluntary and environmental pillars. I am satisfied that the Group used that experience and expertise wisely in their deliberations over the months during which they met. I received the working group's report towards the end of December 2013 I am currently considering it in the context of the Local Government reform programme. I intend that it will be published on my Department's website at an early date.

In this connection, the Local Government Reform Act 2014 has been a major undertaking involving input from a range of sources, including the community and voluntary sector. Section 46 of the 2014 Act replaces section 127 of the Local Government Act 2001 with a new section which enables local authorities to take all appropriate steps to consult with and promote effective participation of local communities in local government. One of the principal implementing provisions will be the adoption by each local authority, in accordance with Regulations to be made under the Act, of a framework for public participation in local government, which will set out the mechanism by which citizens and communities will be encouraged and supported to participate in the decision-making processes of the local authority.

It is clear to me that the participation of citizens and communities in local government, whether as individuals or as members of local sectoral, community or other groups in public life and their right to influence the decisions that affect their lives and communities is at the centre of democracy. Open and inclusive policy-making, enhances transparency and accountability, and builds civic capacity.  I am satisfied that the new Local Government Reform Act 2014 facilitates local authorities in building more effective and inclusive relationships with all sections of society and that consultation and participation will, as part of the overall reform, be at the heart of our local government system.

Irish Water Staff

Questions (108, 128, 435, 468)

Barry Cowen

Question:

108. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has calculated the rate of natural attrition loss of the 4,300 employees covered by service level agreements over the next 12 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5018/14]

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Clare Daly

Question:

128. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding claims of alleged significant levels of over-staffing in Irish Water; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5023/14]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

435. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the level of workforce planning that was undertaken in advance of the recruitment of new staff to Irish Water; if he will make public documentation relating to this planning process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4918/14]

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Eoghan Murphy

Question:

468. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the creation of Irish Water will lead to any local authority staff responsible for water services being made redundant or being re-allocated within the authority to non-water services functions; and if not, the reason for same. [5311/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

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.

Vehicle Registration

Questions (109)

Mick Wallace

Question:

109. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties faced by haulage companies regarding declaring their vehicles off-road (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5027/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

In accordance with the provisions of the Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Act 2013, the minimum period for which a vehicle can be declared off the road is three months. However, the Act also provides that an owner can return the vehicle to the road early, if circumstances require, by applying for a vehicle licence for the vehicle. The vehicle licence will commence from the month in which the application to tax the vehicle is made and the end date of the Declaration of Non-Use will be changed to the end of the month before the vehicle licence commences. There is no requirement to pay arrears for earlier months.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Questions (110)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

110. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide in detail by local authority, the number of houses to be built under the capital programme for social housing; the number of houses to be acquired from the National Asset Management Agency for the purposes of social housing; the number of units to be funded in co-operative housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4925/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In terms of delivery of new social housing in 2014, I expect the final output across all social housing programmes to be in the region of 5,000 new housing units. I recently indicated a return to modest levels of new social housing construction over the next two years. I expect up to one thousand new starts over that period. Some 400 of these will be delivered under the local authority housing programme, 250 will be delivered by Approved Housing Bodies and 350 new homes will be provided under regeneration. I will be making more detailed announcements with regard to each of these measures, and the individual projects to be advanced, in due course.

My Department and the Housing Agency will continue to work with NAMA in identifying suitable housing units and bringing them into social housing use. My Department and NAMA have set a delivery target of 500 units, through all funding mechanisms, for 2014.

Leader Programmes Funding

Questions (111)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

111. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the funding provided for projects under the Leader programme 2007-13; the expenditure to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4841/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The current value of the Axes 3 and 4 elements of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is €370 million. In addition, €5 million has been provided for an Axis 1 Agri-food measure. Of this, up to a maximum of 20% can be spent on administration expenses leaving a minimum of 80% of the funding available for projects and animation expenses. To date €183 million has been spent on projects, €11.6 million on animation expenses and €51 million has been spent on administration.

Rental Accommodation Scheme Administration

Question No. 113 answered with Question No. 97.

Questions (112)

Brian Stanley

Question:

112. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the crisis in the rental accommodation scheme where many tenants in the scheme are being evicted or face eviction through no fault of their own and the local authority responsible is refusing to house them as agreed; the action he will take to stop these evictions happening and to house those who are evicted. [5033/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under the Rental Accommodation Scheme local authorities enter into contractual arrangements on behalf of tenants with accommodation providers, primarily in the private rented sector, to secure medium to long-term availability of rented accommodation. The lease on these units can vary from 1 year to over 10 years. Accommodation provided under the Scheme is governed by the terms of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended. The grounds upon which a tenancy in the private rented residential sector may be legally terminated are clearly set out in the 2004 Act. The Act provides the main regulatory framework for the private rented residential sector and provides for security of tenure. It also specifies minimum obligations for landlords and tenants under a tenancy.

My Department understands that some local authorities are currently experiencing a number of landlords leaving the scheme through not renewing their RAS contracts. Various reasons have been cited by landlords including their selling the property, financial difficulties they have encountered, that they themselves are seeking to move back to the property, or they need to accommodate other family members. The reasons given, while understandable, are presenting significant difficulties for both the sitting tenant and the authority. As the Rental Accommodation Scheme is now deemed to be a social housing support, local authorities retain the responsibility to source further accommodation for a RAS household, should the dwelling that the household is living in become unavailable through no fault of their own.

Local authorities, with the co-operation of the tenants, will make every effort to source alternative accommodation as quickly as possible. In seeking replacement accommodation a local authority will attempt to source a suitable alternative within or close to the area in which the tenant is residing. However that may not always be possible because of the scarcity of suitable properties available to let in the areas affected. In all cases, not just where a tenancy is under threat, there is no bar on RAS households from sourcing alternative accommodation themselves, if they so desire, independent of the council. Such accommodation must meet the household’s needs and be of an acceptable standard to the authority.

Question No. 113 answered with Question No. 97.

State Bodies Mergers

Questions (114, 417)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

114. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide in tabular form, the professional advice obtained from external consultancies in relation to the merger of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland; the budget assigned to the merger working group; if he will provide an itemised breakdown of the amount spent to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4977/14]

View answer

Catherine Murphy

Question:

417. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will indicate, in tabular form, the professional advice obtained from external consultancies in relation to the merger of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland; the budget assigned to the merger working group; if he will provide an itemised breakdown of the amount that has been spent to date; if he will indicate all costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5052/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 and 417 together.

My Department has not engaged any external consultants regarding the merger of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. My Department, however, provided €70,000 in capital funding to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 for the merger. In addition, there is an allocation of €696,000 for current funding and €223,000 in capital funding for 2014 in respect of merger costs. This expenditure is required to facilitate the updating of human resource, ICT and financial systems along with accommodation facilities to ensure a smooth operational transition to the merged organisation.

The Merger Working Group (MWG) is an administrative group established in January 2013 to oversee the successful implementation of the merger of these two bodies. This Group comprises officials from the two agencies as well as my Department and meetings are held on a regular basis to deal with issues arising in relation to the merger. This Group has no specific budget assigned to it. Any expenses are met by the individual business units as expenses incurred are minimal.

The Government, as part of its Comprehensive Spending Review of all areas of public expenditure, considered the expenditure on State Agencies and also the separate Programme for Government commitment to reduce the number of State Bodies. A Government Decision in November 2011 provided for the rationalisation of 48 bodies across the State by end 2012 and the critical review of 46 other bodies by end of June 2012; the potential merger of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) was included in this list of critical reviews to be completed. In October 2012, following completion of the review, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform announced that the EPA and the RPII would be merged in accordance with Government policy.

Noise Pollution

Questions (115)

David Stanton

Question:

115. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to a phenomenon known as the hum, persistent low frequency noise; the incidence of same; the possible solutions or remedies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5025/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Over many years, there have been reports of low level, low frequency noise, which can be perceived a hum, from various places around the world. By its nature low frequency noise can be transmitted over long distances, and at low level it can be difficult to distinguish from other sources. Reported 'hums' have been extensively investigated in both the UK and the USA, where studies found that generally less than 10%, or even as low as 2%, of the population will experience any noise. Generally, specific noise sources have not been identified as the origin of any particular 'hum' and in the absence of a known noise source, no noise abatement solution or remedy can be applied.

Any complaints concerning environmental noise, including low-frequency noise, should be directed to the relevant local authority. The reported noise source determines how a complaint is investigated and addressed by the local authority.

A public information leaflet How to Make an Environmental Complaint has been prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist members of public by advising whom they should contact regarding environmental complaints and what details should be provided to help resolve the problem. This leaflet can be viewed on the EPA website, www.epa.ie.

Irish Water Administration

Questions (116, 121)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

116. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide details of the executive and board structure of Irish Water; the number of executive and board members, the salaries and pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4924/14]

View answer

Seán Kyne

Question:

121. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the level of engagement the management and board of Irish Water have with the Oireachtas; if he will share the view that Irish Water should engage and provide progress updates to the Oireachtas by way of Oireachtas committee on a monthly basis during the establishment phase; and if he will confirm that any profits made by Irish Water will be used to reduce customer bills for investment in the water network. [4930/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 121 together.

The Water Services Act 2013 provided for the establishment of Irish Water as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis Éireann (BGE) and that the new company should be formed and registered under the Companies Acts. The Memorandum and Articles of Association, which were adopted by Irish Water on its incorporation in July 2013, provide that the appointment of directors to the Board of Irish Water is the responsibility of the Board of BGÉ with the approval of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Twelve directors have been appointed to the Board of Irish Water by BGÉ and these appointments were approved in advance by me, as Minister, and by my colleague, Minister Pat Rabbitte.

The fee payable to the Chairman of Irish Water is €30,000 per annum and the fee payable to the non-executive Board Members is €15,000 per annum as approved by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and in line with Board remuneration in the semi-state sector. The company management Board Members are not in receipt of any fee.

The 2013 Act also provides that Irish Water must maintain all accounts necessary to comply with the provisions of the Companies Acts. Irish Water, as a commercial State body within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group, is subject to all the normal governance and accountability rules which apply to such a public utility including external audit.  The Act provides that Irish Water will be required to keep accounts of all moneys received or expended by it and must submit an annual report on the performance of its functions each year to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The Act also requires that the annual report is to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

As Irish Water is a commercial utility, neither I, nor my Department will necessarily have access to details of, or direct accountability for, expenditure and other organisational matters in relation to the company. In this context, and to support and assist public representatives in their role, my Department has requested Irish Water to take early action to ensure that public representatives are regularly briefed on matters pertaining to the organisation and operation of Irish Water. Irish Water is currently considering how best to support and respond to the Parliamentary and public representation needs of elected representatives at national and local level.

The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) will be responsible for the independent economic regulation of Irish Water.  The Act requires the CER to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of the customers of Irish Water. It also requires that the CER should have regard to the need for Irish Water to provide water services in an economical and efficient manner.

Irish Water Administration

Questions (117)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

117. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if Irish Water will accept applications for the takeover and maintenance of group water schemes; the billing process for customers of group water schemes when water charges are introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5057/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013, provides for the transfer of water services functions from the 34 water services authorities to Irish Water. Under the legislation Irish Water now has the powers previously held by local authorities in relation to the takeover of Group Water Schemes and this means that Irish Water may acquire by agreement a waterworks or waste water works, but subject to not fewer than two thirds of those entitled to dispose of it (typically the members of a group water services scheme) giving their consent.

Where Local Authorities had, at the request of Group Water Schemes, already taken them into charge before 31 December 2013, the schemes' networks now form part of the public water supply network being transferred to Irish Water.  Group Water Schemes that are supplied by way of a connection to the public water supply network will now become customers of Irish Water, having previously been customers of the relevant local authority. Private Group Water Schemes that own their own water sources will not be customers of Irish Water and will continue to operate as before.

Water Services Provision

Questions (118)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

118. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the policy that will be followed to repair leaks in water infrastructure at housing estates which have not been taken in charge by local authorities but remain unfinished with no prospect of remedial works being carried out by the original developer; if in such cases any liability will fall on the homeowners in these estates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4976/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013, which came into effect on 1 January 2014, provides for the transfer of responsibility for the delivery of water services from the water services authorities to Irish Water. Section 12 of the Act provides that the Minister can transfer water services infrastructure from a water services authority to Irish Water by order. Irish Water is not responsible for infrastructure which has not been taken in charge. However, it does have the authority, under the powers and functions transferred to it from the water services authorities, to take actions to prevent the misuse of a water supply or to ensure the conservation of water. There is no question of homeowners in estates not taken in charge being liable for leakage outside of their property.

Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 sets out the process by which a planning authority can take a development in charge and determine whether or not the development is in compliance with the conditions of the relevant planning permission. In advance of taking an estate in charge, it may be necessary for a planning authority to utilise its enforcement powers to require a developer to comply with planning conditions. When an estate has been taken in charge by the planning authority, the water services infrastructure will subsequently be transferred to Irish Water. In this regard, the planning authorities will consult with Irish Water on the takeover of water services infrastructure.

Irish Water Staff

Questions (119)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

119. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the precise stages of the recruitment process which has been utilised by Irish Water in the recruitment of staff; if this pattern was followed in respect of hires at all grades within the new utility; if he will describe the differing recruitment process at each grade level; the number of staff that have been recruited to date under each differing process; the number of staff that have been seconded and the grades of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4979/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Staff recruitment to Irish Water is an operational matter for the company and I have no role in such matters. I understand from Irish Water that the staffing requirements of the company were defined based on the requirements of a high performance utility model. The roles required were identified, job descriptions were developed and positions then advertised.

Due to the scale, volume and deadlines involved in establishing Irish Water, recruitment agencies were selected under the normal procurement rules to assist with the recruitment process. In June 2013 it was agreed by the Steering Group for the Water Sector Reform Programme that, in order 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 and Maintenance would be restricted to staff in the three partner organisations (i.e. Bord Gáis Éireann, Local Authorities and DECLG), in the first instance. If these particular roles are not filled by this process they then proceed to open competition.

The candidates for positions in the company were screened and shortlisted to proceed to interview. The interview is a competency based interview conducted by Irish Water. Competency interviews are a well established structured interview technique designed to allow the candidate to draw on their past experience to illustrate their suitability for the role.

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.

All 9 Executive roles were filled through open competition and were prominently advertised in 6 national newspapers. Relevant people across the UK and Northern Ireland water utility sector were identified, and exploratory discussions took place with approximately 90 people. In almost all cases, those approached in the UK/NI water utility sector were not interested in pursuing the opportunity primarily because they were not interested in a career move, or in relocating, or because the salary on offer was not attractive vis-à-vis their existing salary and terms of employment. Each member of the 9 person Executive Team was appointed after competing against candidates from the open market.

Climate Change Policy

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 116.

Questions (120)

Micheál Martin

Question:

120. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his Department's role in climate change policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2217/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 141, 142, 143 and 150 of 22 January 2014 which sets out the position in this matter. As outlined in that reply, in addition to a direct involvement in the sectoral element of the roadmapping process related to the built environment, my Department's responsibility for overall co-ordination of national climate policy, in respect of both mitigation and adaptation, constitutes a major contribution to the development of national greenhouse gas emission reduction policies and actions. Having facilitated the comprehensive open consultation at the outset of the national policy development programme, my Department will also lead and co-ordinate the open consultation on the draft National Low-Carbon Roadmap and Strategic Environmental Assessment which will conclude the programme later this year.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 116.

Community Development Initiatives

Questions (122)

Seán Kyne

Question:

122. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Galway Volunteer Centre's funding will be maintained at the existing 2013 level for this year to enable the organisation to continue its effective work at promoting and facilitating voluntary work in Galway; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the centre has facilitated over 208,000 volunteer-hours to various community programmes and initiatives in County Galway since 2006. [4931/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government continues to advance a range of measures that support volunteering and active citizenship and my Department funds a network of twenty one Volunteer Centres, including Galway Volunteer Centre. These Centres act as 'brokers' between potential volunteers and organisations seeking volunteers, and they are linked by a common database and a common best practice approach. They also work with organisations to develop their volunteer management capacity and facilitate Garda vetting for smaller organisations.

While there are encouraging signs of improvement in the economy, difficult decisions continue to be necessary and allocations in most expenditure programmes remain constrained for 2014. My primary concern has been to make every effort to ensure that the daily front-line services, including volunteer centres, provided with funding from my Department, are protected to the greatest extent possible. In this regard, I am currently considering options to minimise any reduction in the volunteering support budget to all volunteer centres.

Irish Water Administration

Questions (123, 467)

Barry Cowen

Question:

123. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he held any discussions with Bord Gáis in relation to the system of bonus payments before establishing Irish Water as a subsidiary of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5014/14]

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Eoghan Murphy

Question:

467. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if pay scales in Irish Water were set in line with pay scales in Bord Gáis Energy; and if salaries for staff in Irish Water were benchmarked against contracts in BGE that are based on pre-2009 salary levels. [5310/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 467 together.

The employment terms and conditions for Irish Water staff are a matter for the company and I understand that the terms and conditions are in line with the arrangements applying with Bord Gáis Éireann. Bord Gáis has in place a competitive market based pay model. The model offers market based pay ranges for all employees which includes a pay at risk element called Performance Related Award (PRA). A pay freeze will remain in place until 2016 as this is a key element of reducing overall payroll costs within the Group.  As such, Irish Water does not pay increments or any form of automatic pay award; the pay model applied allows for part of salaries to be placed at risk and this element of pay is only earned subject to performance.

In this model, where an employee does not meet expectations they will not be eligible for a performance award and underperformance will be dealt with under the Irish Water Disciplinary Procedure and will lead to sanctions up to and including dismissal. Performance pay will be based on a structured performance review and requires company performance, business unit performance and individual performance metrics to have been met.

I also understand that no bonuses have been paid to Irish Water staff, but I have asked the company to set out the basis and content of the model as applied to Irish Water contracts of employment, including the criteria against which high performance will be evaluated and the kinds of targets (at company and division or grade levels) against which such performance may be bench-marked. The amount of the performance pay will be a function of corporate performance, business unit performance and individual performance.

Rural Development Programme Funding

Questions (124)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

124. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will seek funding for the provision of high speed broadband in rural areas under the rural development fund 2014-2020; the rate of EU co-funding being sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4113/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under Ireland's Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP), the LEADER programme will primarily address Priority 6 of the European Union priorities for rural development which is promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas.

Preparatory work for the RDP, including the needs analysis processes and the research conducted by CEDRA, the Commission on Economic Development of Rural Areas, present similar areas of need within rural Ireland that could be supported through RDP interventions. These areas include the need to support and enhance national communication initiatives, to improve broadband and communications infrastructure with a particular focus on the needs of rural areas.

In this context my Department held a stakeholders' consultation meeting on the LEADER elements of the Programme on 30 January and will be holding an open public consultation meeting on 6 February in Tullamore.  Following these consultations the Programme will be prepared for submission to the European Commission in late Spring.