State Bodies

Questions (442)

Seán Fleming

Question:

442. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of State agencies and public bodies that have been merged or abolished in each year since 2011 under the remit of his Department; the annual savings associated with each body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21790/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government, on completion of a wide ranging review of State Bodies, published its decision on the rationalisation of such Bodies in November 2012. In relation to my Department, the Ordnance Survey of Ireland (OSI) will be merged with the Property Registration Authority and the Valuation Office which will, this year, see it transfer to the Department of Justice and Equality, who are leading on the transfer process. Medium term savings are likely to be achievable in the areas of common back office functions such as HR, conventional (non-specialised) IT systems, Financial Management and Corporate Services. There may also be potential savings in the areas of accommodation and software licences. In the longer term, greater efficiencies/synergies in delivery of the merged organisation’s services may lead to further savings in operational areas. Additional commercial revenues which would reduce the burden on the State may also be achievable in the medium to long term. The Digital Hub Development Agency (DHDA) will transition to Dublin City Council (DCC) pending the enactment of legislation. Arrangements for the transitioning of DHDA to DCC are underway with a view to completing the transition this year.

There is provision for certain back-office administrative functions of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) to be merged. It should be noted that neither BAI nor ComReg is Exchequer funded and any savings achieved would not reduce Exchequer expenditure.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (443)

Seán Fleming

Question:

443. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the current average age of full-time staff in his Department; the way this compares with the average age of public servants in each year from 2010 to 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21844/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I understand that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will provide the information sought in respect of Civil Servants. The information sought regarding staff in the Agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter for each agency. I will request the relevant bodies to reply directly to the Deputy with the information requested in respect of their organisation.

Diplomatic Representation

Questions (444)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

444. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details of all official foreign trips he and Ministers of State in his Department intend to take between now and the end of 2014; if he will detail whom they will be meeting with on these trips; the purpose of the trip; the duration of the trip; if there are plans to use all of these trips to promote Ireland as a good place for doing business and as a destination for foreign direct investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21855/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I have set out the following tables details of all official foreign trips currently scheduled between now and the end of 2014, for both myself and Minister of State O'Dowd. Where the diary allows, our Offices liaise with the relevant Embassy/Consul General regarding our availability to undertake any trade or FDI promotion opportunities.

Minister Rabbitte

Date

Location

Duration

Purpose

15 May

Athens

Overnight

Attendance at Informal Meeting of EU Energy Ministers

5 June

London

4 hours

Meeting with Qatar Energy Minister H.E. Dr. Mohamed bin Saleh Al Sada

5 June

Luxembourg

Overnight

Attendance at EU Telecoms Council

13 June

Luxembourg

Possible Overnight

Attendance at EU Energy Council

Minister of State O'Dowd

Date

Location

Duration

Purpose

15 May

London

Overnight

London Irish Business Society (LIBS) Panel Embassy Event - Oil and Gas, the Opportunities for Ireland

4 June

New York

4 Days (still in the planning stages)

Sustainable Energy for All Forum (UN Event)

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (445)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

445. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to the recent publication of the National Reform Programme 2014, if he is currently lobbying the European Commission for an overall reduction in Ireland's headline 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21018/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

As is noted in the National Reform Programme 2014, the setting of Ireland’s target for the year 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the non-traded sector by 20 per cent compared to 2005 levels was associated with significant methodological issues. Nonetheless, despite its very challenging nature, this target is now part of legally binding European Union law in the form of the 2009 Effort Sharing Decision (Decision No 406/2009/EC of 23 April 2009). There are currently no plans to seek a reduction in this headline target: instead, our efforts are focused on engaging with the European Commission and Member States on proposals in respect of climate and energy policies and targets for 2030 and on securing agreement on an overall emissions reductions framework that is fair, transparent and cost-effective, taking due account of Member States’ specific circumstances and mitigation capacities.

Motor Tax Collection

Questions (446)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

446. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to review the current motor taxation system in view of the fact that there are many more efficient cars on the road now than when the system was introduced and of the penalising effect on those who cannot afford to upgrade their cars to newer models; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21164/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The system of motor tax based on CO2 emissions applies only to cars first registered from 1 January 2008 onwards. Cars registered prior to that date continue to be taxed on engine capacity. CO2 data on the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) for vehicles registered prior to 2008 have not been validated for business purpose, and it would not be safe to apply charges on the basis of such data. The average increase in motor tax for cars taxed on engine capacity was 7.5% in Budgets 2012 and 2013, compared to the increases in 2012 ranging from 7.5% to 53.8%, and the increases in 2013 ranging from 4% to 22.2%, for vehicles charged on the basis of CO2 emissions. I have no plans to change the system of motor tax based on engine capacity for pre-2008 cars and CO2 emissions for 2008 and later cars.

Water Charges Administration

Questions (447, 476, 480, 481)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

447. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the projected yield from domestic water charges in 2015 to 2019, inclusive. [21640/14]

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Róisín Shortall

Question:

476. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the projected operational and capital costs of Irish Water over each of the next five years; the methodology employed to arrive at these figures; the projected sources of funding for Irish Water over each of these years with the amount expected from each source for each of the years; the methodology employed to arrive at these figures; and the basis on which these figures were used to determine the average figure for domestic water charges in 2015 and 2016. [21399/14]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

480. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the current cost of providing water services in Ireland; the total revenue; and the total State subsidy with a breakdown by local authority. [21403/14]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

481. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his position in respect of limiting the total State funding to be provided to Irish Water; the total State subsidy in 2014, 2015 and 2016; the proportion of costs this represents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21404/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 447, 476, 480 and 481 together.

Irish Water's costs in the coming years will be funded through a mix of revenue from the domestic and non-domestic sector, third party finance (such as the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, EIB, bank lending and capital markets facilities) and State support which may be in the form of both equity and subvention. The Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 assigns responsibility for the independent economic regulation of Irish Water to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). In performing this role, the CER must ensure, inter alia, that Irish Water provides water services in an economical and efficient manner, that it operates in a commercially viable manner and that it can meet all reasonable demands for water, both current and foreseeable.

As part of their role, the CER will approve a water charges plan submitted by Irish Water. The CER has commenced the process leading to the submission of the first water charges plan of Irish Water, with public consultation underway on the approach to tariff structures and design. They plan to engage in public consultation on Irish Water’s proposed water charges plan and the underlying operational and capital costs in June 2014. As part of this process, the detailed costs and revenue proposals for Irish Water for the first regulatory period to end 2016 will be outlined. Details of the public consultation plans of the CER are set out on their website (www.cer.ie).

As the free allowance and the level of funding to be provided by the Government to Irish Water will have a strong bearing on the net charges to be met by households, recent Government decisions on these matters provide greater visibility on the expected level of charges in advance of the final determination of all aspects of the water charges plan by the CER. The Government have decided to provide the following funding to Irish Water in 2015 and 2016:

- An average subvention of €537m in each of the two years, conditional on the annual average domestic water charges to end 2016 for households with both supply of water and treatment of waste water not exceeding €240; and

- Provision of just over €400m in 2015 and 2016 to support increased investment in public water services, including the provision of a “first fix scheme” by Irish Water.

The Government decisions on levels of funding and the approach to free allowance were informed a high level financial model prepared by NewERA, which was based on inputs provided by my Department and Irish Water. This model envisages that the total amount to be billed to domestic customers in 2015 will be approximately €300 million, which factors in properties with only one service and holiday homes. The high level funding model is based on average operational costs, excluding interest costs and depreciation, over the period 2014 to 2016, estimated to be in the range of €775m to €800m per annum. The proposed operational costs by Irish Water will be the subject of careful scrutiny by the CER to ensure that only efficient costs are incurred. Similarly, they will review the proposed capital plans of Irish Water, which entail almost €1.8 billion in proposed capital projects over the 3 year period, as well as the metering programme and establishment costs. Irish Water are considering the appropriate financing package to fund these costs, taking into account the capital funding which will amount to just over €640m over the period 2014-2016, in addition to the operational subvention. The detailed plans in this regard will form part of the water charges plan, which will be published by the CER for public consultation in June 2014.

Irish Water’s Water Charges Plan as approved by the CER will take account of these Government Decisions and ministerial policy directions. This plan will provide the detailed position on costs and proposed revenues from different sources, and will have to be developed on the understanding that the average annual tariff for domestic customers with both supply of water and treatment of waste water will not exceed €240. The CER will announce its decision on the approved water charges plan in August 2014.

It is proposed that from its inception, Irish Water should be classified as a Market Corporation under Eurostat rules and, as a result, will not, other than in relation to Government operating subvention, be included in the calculation of the General Government Balance. This is determined through the application of the Market Corporation Test which requires that income from customers (ex VAT where applicable) be greater than 50% of production costs (including consumption of fixed capital and including interest). The operational subvention agreed by Government for 2015 and 2016 is set in this context and represents just under 50% of the anticipated production costs of Irish Water.

This funding package for 2015 and 2014 builds on the funding being provided to Irish Water in 2014, which includes a proposed €240 million equity investment from the Central Fund which subject to Eurostat confirmation would not impact the General Government Deficit as this amount would be treated as an acquisition of equity rather than a capital transfer. The investment will be used to primarily fund the core capital expenditure programme of Irish Water.

In addition, Irish Water will receive a subvention of €486.5 million from the Local Government Fund in 2014 which will fund water related expenditures incurred heretofore by local authorities and met by local authorities from their own resources, non-domestic water charge revenues and general purpose grants from the Fund. It is anticipated that Irish Water will finance other costs from non-domestic water charge revenues of some €190m and from borrowing, which will be the subject of appropriate ministerial consents in due course. As subvention and equity provision is based on funding provided to Irish Water, a breakdown by county of proposed expenditure is not available.

The first regulatory cycle is viewed as an interim regulatory cycle, with a full six year regulatory cycle to commence from 2017. The CER will engage in full and detailed public consultation on the proposed water charges plan, and associated costs and revenues of Irish Water well in advance of that cycle commencing. As it is anticipated that Government subvention to Irish Water will continue beyond 2016, decisions will have to be made in a budgetary context on the level of Government support to Irish Water beyond 2016.

Regeneration Projects Funding

Questions (448)

Joan Collins

Question:

448. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide in tabular form the funding his Department has allocated to each regeneration project here in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20831/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The National Regeneration Programme targets the country’s most disadvantaged communities; those defined by the most extreme social exclusion, unemployment and anti-social behaviour. My Department currently supports an ambitious programme of regeneration projects which seek to address the causes of disadvantage in these communities through a holistic programme of physical, social and economic regeneration. This year, some €70 million is being provided to support regeneration programmes at six locations across the country. Funding has been provisionally allocated in respect of each of these projects and definitive allocations will be notified to local authorities once discussions on the 2014 regeneration work programmes have been completed. Details of the amounts provisionally allocated are set out in the following table:

Regeneration Project

Amount

Dublin City Council (incl Ballymun)

€25m

Cork City Council

€10m

Limerick Regeneration

€28m

Sligo Borough Council

€2m

Tralee Town Council

€3m

Dundalk Town Council

€2m

Total

€70m

Unfinished Housing Developments

Questions (449)

John Lyons

Question:

449. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department will clarify that certain estates (details supplied) were issued with unfinished housing estates waivers in 2012 in respect of the household charge; and if his Department can communicate this information to the Revenue Commissioners as householders are being issued with non-payment letters from the Revenue Commissioners for this charge despite the waiver. [20874/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Schedule to the Local Government (Household Charge) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 lists the unfinished housing estates to which a Household Charge waiver applies – this can be reviewed at the following link: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2013/en/si/0342.html. The Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2013 converted any arrears of HC that remained on 1July 2013 to a Local Property Tax (LPT) liability. T he Revenue Commissioners received the Household Charge register from the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) and are developing a Register of Residential Properties, drawing from a range of sources including the LGMA, Household Charge data, its own databases and data from utility companies. Data from the various sources are being cross-checked to ensure that the Register is as accurate as possible.

If a person who owns a property to which a waiver from the Household Charge should apply receives correspondence from the Revenue Commissioners seeking payment of arrears of household charge or Local Property Tax, it is recommended that they contact the Revenue Commissioners’ LPT Helpline at 1890 200 255, or alternatively they can update their “Household Charge Arrears Record” using Revenue’s online system at www.revenue.ie, by attaching their certificate of waiver. Full information on this process is available at the following web link: https://www.householdcharge.ie/Faq.aspx.

Environmental Regulations

Questions (450)

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

450. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason an Irish company attempting to develop a concrete sceptic treatment tank has to send their product to Germany for EN standards approval at a cost of over €30,000 for tanks in their range of products; if he will consider setting up an accredited testing facility here as some universities are already in a position to support such a facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20884/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

There is an onus on the installers, manufacturers or suppliers of wastewater treatment systems , including septic tanks, to demonstrate that their systems are capable, having regard to operating conditions in Ireland, of meeting the required EU and Irish performance standards. All new septic tanks and other domestic wastewater treatment systems must comply with the standards set out in the Building Regulations (Part H Amendment) Regulations 2010 and the accompanying Technical Guidance Document (TGD H 2010). TGD H 2010, specifically requires, among other things, that septic tanks must conform to I.S. EN 12566 Part 1 or 4, including their national annexes.

Where a harmonised European standard, such as I.S. EN 12566, exists, all Member States must comply with its requirements and all relevant products must be tested in accordance with the requirements of that standard prior to being placed on the market. I have no discretion in relation to such matters. Neither I nor my Department has a direct role in relation to the testing or certification of construction products and there are no plans under consideration by my Department in relation to setting up an accredited testing facility along the lines suggested. A venture of this nature is most likely to stem from collaboration between industry stakeholders and a relevant third-level educational institution. I would welcome any developments in this regard that may lead to the provision of cost effective testing facilities in Ireland.

Semi-State Bodies

Questions (451)

Seán Fleming

Question:

451. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of commercial semi-State companies under the aegis of his Department; the current value of the pension fund assets held by each commercial semi-State company; the latest funding position of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20904/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Irish Water is the only commercial semi-state company under the aegis of my Department. Irish Water was asked by my Department to put in place specific arrangements to address the queries which public representatives may have in relation to matters pertaining to the operation of water services under the new utility.  I understand that Irish Water has made contact with Oireachtas members to outline the arrangements for addressing such queries in a timely manner. Irish Water has confirmed to my Department that it has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives.  They may be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on 1890 278 278.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Administration

Questions (452, 455, 484)

Michael McGrath

Question:

452. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a new tenant purchase scheme will become operational; the way the discount on the market value of the property will be calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20940/14]

View answer

Seamus Kirk

Question:

455. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is considering introducing a tenant purchase scheme in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21072/14]

View answer

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

484. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will introduce an incremental purchase scheme for council tenants wishing to purchase their homes; the plans in place for council tenants to be able to buy their homes from the council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21422/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 452, 455 and 484 together.

The Housing (miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014, presented to Dáil Éireann on 7 May 2014, will, among other things, underpin a new tenant purchase scheme to replace the 1995 scheme for existing local authority houses, which closed for new applications at the end of 2012. The new scheme will be similar to the incremental purchase schemes currently in operation, relating to newly-built local authority houses and local authority apartments, respectively.

I expect that the Bill will be enacted by the summer, following which I will prescribe the commencement date and the detailed terms of the scheme. I intend to relate the purchase price of the house to its market value with replacement cost also being taken into account. The Bill provides for discounts on the purchase price linked to tenant income, but consideration is also being given to the possibility of retaining length of tenancy as a discount criterion in certain circumstances.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Provision

Questions (453)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

453. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding water and sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21004/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Schemes and contracts listed to start in the most recent Water Services Investment Programme included an estimated cost. This figure was derived from the needs assessment exercise carried out by local authorities in 2009, and is based on estimated contract costs. The estimated cost does not include costs incurred in the planning phase of a scheme. From 1st January 2014 Irish Water has responsibility for the delivery of water services capital infrastructure and it has prepared a Capital Investment Plan for 2014 – 2016. The further progression of all water services capital projects is now a matter for Irish Water.

Irish Water has confirmed to my Department that it has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email at oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on 1890 278 278.

Leader Programmes Administration

Question No. 455 answered with Question No. 452.

Questions (454)

Seamus Kirk

Question:

454. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding Leader companies across the country; his plans for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21067/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The changes that I am bringing forward under the reform of local government and arising from the Local Government Reform Act 2014 will see the establishment of Local Community Development Committees in each local authority area. In line with the plans to enhance the role of local government in local and community development, these committees will oversee community and local development programmes funded by my Department.

These programmes will continue to be delivered locally and I envisage a continued significant role for Local Development Companies (LEADER companies) in the delivery of the LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme. Furthermore, Local Development Companies are expected to be members of Local Community Development Committees, which will also involve stakeholders from local government, state agencies and the community and voluntary sector through the new public participation networks and they will play a key role in the development of the local economic and community plan.

Question No. 455 answered with Question No. 452.

Building Regulations Qualifications

Questions (456)

Mick Wallace

Question:

456. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will instruct his Department to create a register of suitably qualified architectural technologists with a view to including this register as a statutory register along with the proposed statutory register of contractors next year. [21090/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

New Building Control Regulations came into effect on 1 March 2014 requiring, inter alia, that statutory certificates of compliance be given by construction professionals in respect of the design and construction of new buildings. The statutory certificates of compliance must be signed by a registered professional i.e. a person who is included on the statutory registers of architects or building surveyors maintained in accordance with the Building Control Act 2007 or on the register of chartered engineers established under the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (Charter Amendment) Act 1969. Architects, Building Surveyors and Chartered Engineers are the construction professions typically involved in the design of construction works in Ireland and reference to these professions in regulation is entirely appropriate.

Depending on their personal circumstances, it may be open to persons who are Architectural Technologists and who possess the requisite experience and competence in the design of buildings, to seek inclusion on one of the statutory registers referred to, which would enable a person to sign statutory certificates of compliance as provided for under the new regulations. My Department has no plans at present to provide for the establishment of a stand-alone register of suitably qualified architectural technologists along the lines suggested.

My Department has also been approached by the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists in relation to the recognition of persons who have reached its chartered level of membership. In this regard, I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 523, 529 and 530 of Tuesday 18 February 2014 which comprehensively sets out the position in relation to this aspect of the matter which remains under consideration.

Water Charges Administration

Questions (457, 458, 464, 477, 478, 479, 492, 494)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

457. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position in respect of the charging for domestic water in circumstances where the quality is poor and the householder has to keep the tap running for a period before the water can be used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21103/14]

View answer

Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Question:

458. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a person owns a holiday home which is not used commercially, is he or she required to pay water charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21126/14]

View answer

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

464. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to his announcement of an average annual household bill for water of up to €240, if he will confirm the total number of households to which this average will apply; the planned total amount of water charges that Irish Water expects to raise from direct customer billings each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21211/14]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

477. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the projected average, median, range, and lower and upper quartiles of water charges in respect of each of the following family groups, single person, couple without children, couple with two children, family of five adults. [21400/14]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

478. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the indicative charge per cubic metre of water that he was imputing when he indicated that the charge for a family with five adults would be typically €450 per annum based on current water usage. [21401/14]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

479. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way he proposes to ensure that the average bill for water will not exceed €240 in 2015 and 2016. [21402/14]

View answer

Seamus Healy

Question:

492. Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the announcement by him that a single healthy adult living alone will get a free annual allowance of 30,000 litres of water, if he will state the free water allowance a household, in which three healthy employed adults dwell, will receive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21516/14]

View answer

Seán Kyne

Question:

494. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in the context of water charges, if his attention has been drawn to the additional water consumption faced by Mná na Tí and such households which form an integral part of the summer Gaeltacht programmes; and if consideration will be given to this particular category in the establishment of the water pricing structures. [21548/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 457, 458, 464, 477 to 479, inclusive, 492 and 494 together.

With effect from 1 January 2014, Irish Water is responsible for public water services. The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that Irish Water can collect charges from its customers in receipt of water services provided by it. The Act also provides that responsibility for the independent economic regulation of the water sector is assigned to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers. 

Under the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulation, 2014, 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 (EPA) is the supervisory authority with responsibility for monitoring Irish Water’s compliance with these regulations.

In the event of non-compliance with the quality standards set out in these Regulations, the water supplier will investigate the cause and, in consultation with the EPA and, if a potential risk to human health may exist, the Health Service Executive, ensure that the appropriate remedial action is taken.

The Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 requires the CER to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of the customers of Irish Water. This is similar to the CER’s statutory role in respect of the gas and electricity sectors. I fully expect that the CER will consider compliance with statutory standards by Irish Water in the discharge of its functions.

The Government has decided, following consideration of proposals in relation to the funding model for Irish Water and taking account of the work of the Inter-Departmental Working Group, which was established to advise the Government on the appropriate method for addressing affordability issues which may arise with the introduction of domestic water charges, to provide a free allowance of 30,000 litres of water supplied and waste water treated per annum for a primary residence on a public supply. The Government has also decided to provide for an additional free allowance to cover the normal usage of water services by every child in their primary residence based on the same qualifying conditions as child benefit, such that water charges will in effect only apply to adults in such households. The normal consumption is estimated at 38,000 litres annually per child of water supplied and waste water treated and so the allowance being provided will be up to 38,000 litres per annum. This level of consumption will be verified over time through actual data from metering. There are no plans to provide additional allowances, other than those announced in the Government decision.

I intend to use my powers under the Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 to issue a policy direction to the CER in relation to a number of matters relating to domestic water charges, including to ensure the water charges plan makes provision for circumstances where the quality of water services provided by Irish Water to customers is impaired or where services are reduced or restricted (e.g. customers with boil water notices). I also intend to provide in the policy direction that for social and environmental reasons, there will be no standing charge for domestic customers. Owners of holiday homes who are customers of Irish Water will be required to pay water charges when they are introduced in October 2014; while there will be no standing charge, a minimum charge may apply to properties such as holiday homes which are not permanently occupied. Currently, if holiday homes are used commercially, they are already subject to non-domestic water charges.

The approach to charging will be outlined by Irish Water in a water charges plan to be submitted by it to the CER in line with the provisions of the Act. The CER will be responsible for approving the water charges plan which will set the approaches to charging domestic and non-domestic customers. Irish Water funding will be conditional on the average charge for households being €240 per year.

In making its decision on the approval or otherwise of the first water charges plan, the CER will take into account the decisions made by Government on the funding model for Irish Water and the policy direction issued under the Water Services (No.2) Act. The tariffs for 2015 and 2016 will be announced by the CER in August 2014. It is estimated that Irish Water will have some 1.35 million domestic customers and the projected bills for different customers will depend on the volumetric charges and assessed charges set by the CER within the parameters of the Government decisions.

The CER has already undertaken public consultations on the development of the economic regulatory framework for water services. It is also carrying out a number of public consultations on the water charges plan. Currently, consultation is taking place on the approach to the design of domestic water tariffs for both metered and unmetered properties and the draft Irish Water customer handbook. Further consultations are planned for June in relation to other aspects of the water charges plan to be submitted to the CER by Irish Water. Full details of the CER’s public consultation plans are available on its website (www.cer.ie).

Water Charges Exemptions

Questions (459)

Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Question:

459. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a person has dug their own well and there are no services available such as piping, lighting and so on, does this person have to pay the water charge; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21130/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question Nos. 119 and 127 of 1 May 2014. The position is unchanged.

Local Authority Housing Eligibility

Questions (460)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

460. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a response will be issued in respect of correspondence sent to him regarding a person living in affordable housing (details supplied) in County Dublin. [21157/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local Authority Housing

Questions (461)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

461. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide information as to the reason Dublin City Council has failed to meet its contractual requirements and transfer title to a company (details supplied). [21160/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Gateway development of private and social housing units was provided on publicly owned lands as part of the Ballymun regeneration project. My Department understands from Dublin City Council that the disposal and transfer of the common areas is the responsibility of the developer in accordance with the terms of the Development Agreement between that developer and Ballymun Regeneration Ltd, as agent of the City Council.

Motor Tax Collection

Questions (462)

Michael McGrath

Question:

462. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason a motorist is required to pay significantly extra if they choose to tax their vehicle for three months or six months as opposed to annually; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21201/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) Act 1952 provides that the rate of duty for quarterly payment of motor tax must not exceed 30% of the annual duty applicable and sets no upper limit for a half-yearly payment. The rates of duty currently applicable to the quarterly and half-yearly payments are 28.25% and 55.5% of the annual rate, respectively. These relativities have remained generally constant since the 1960s.

Tax rates for non-annual transactions take account of the extra workload for the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) and motor tax offices, and the resultant higher administrative and printing costs. In addition, reminders are issued on each renewal. While costs may have reduced in respect of those paying on-line, they are not negligible.

The estimated annual income from the increased charges for half-yearly and quarterly vehicle licences is in the region of €50m. A loss in income from this source would have a negative impact on the Local Government Fund and consequently on grant allocations to local authorities from the Fund, and would have to be borne elsewhere in the motor tax system, or through the taxation system generally.

Shared Ownership Scheme

Questions (463)

Joan Collins

Question:

463. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason there is a difference in the calculation of both the interest rate and rent charged to shared ownership accounts pre-2003 and post 2003. [21208/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government’s 2011 Housing Policy announced the standing down of all affordable housing schemes in the context of a full review of Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2013. Details regarding the review are available on my Department’s website at the following web link:

www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/PublicConsultations/

I expect to be in a position to finalise future policy approaches and actions in relation to affordable housing in the near future. Under the shared ownership scheme, a house is acquired by a local authority and leased to a shared owner, who purchases at least 40% of the value of the house and rents the remaining equity from the local authority. The local authority finances the transaction by borrowing from the Housing Finance Agency. The shared owner must purchase full ownership within 25 years. The Pre 2003 Index Linked Loan was introduced in 1991.  The loan is split between annuity and rental portions.  The annuity loan is repaid on the prevailing variable interest and capital basis.  Rent is charged at 4.3% on the rental equity balance.  The rental equity balance is adjusted in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) each year.

In January 2003, the Shared Ownership scheme was changed for all loans taken out from that date.  The loan continues to be split between annuity and rental portions.  Again, the annuity loan is repaid on the prevailing variable interest and capital basis.  Post 2003, rent was charged as follows:

- Rental Equity is treated as a capital loan

- The Rental Equity reduces or increases according to the amount of rent paid over the amount payable on the going interest rate. 

- Initially rent is charged at 4.3% on the rental equity balance and is increased by 4.5% on 1 July each year thereafter.

The rent is used to repay the cost of the local authority equity to the Housing Finance Agency and, depending on the level of mortgage interest rates obtaining, may also increase or decrease the capital outstanding on the local authority share at the end of each year. These arrangements represent a significant improvement on the previous terms of the scheme for the shared owner. The main differences in the schemes are in the treatment of the rental equity. In the Pre 2003 scheme, the rental equity balance is index linked to the CPI. In the Post 2003 scheme, the rental equity balance is treated as a capital loan and can be paid down over time if the rent repayments exceed the interest amount due.