State Properties

Questions (143)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

143. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 71 of 9 October 2018, if the matter will be expedited with the Chief State Solicitor's Office, CSSO, in view of the fact that Sligo County Council has indicated that all the required paperwork is now in order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8979/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I refer the Deputy to my responses to his previous questions on 3rd July 2018 and 9th October 2018 in relation to this matter. I previously outlined the power that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has to waive his interest in property if he thinks it would be proper to do so in all the circumstances of the case. In my most recent reply I stated that the CSSO were awaiting material required to support an application for waiver of the Minister’s interest in the piece of land identified.

I can now confirm that a set of documents was received on 13th February 2019, by the CSSO on behalf of Sligo County Council. These documents are being examined by the CSSO and the OPW, and a response will issue to representatives of Sligo County Council.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Questions (144)

Pat Casey

Question:

144. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to uphold the Labour Court decision of 2008 under which community employment supervisors should be granted access to a public pension in view of the current industrial dispute and the ten year campaign to secure justice in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9260/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

As Deputies will be aware this issue relates to a claim by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

The matter was the subject of discussion at the Community Sector High Level Forum which was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the Community Employment sector and in particular to ensure that the matter was fully examined having regard to costs and precedent.

A detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues under consideration.

The scoping exercise clearly illustrated that this matter presents very significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost to the State of between €188 million per annum and €347m depending on the size of the sector which is difficult to ascertain, in respect of funding to enable an employer pension contribution in State funded Community and Voluntary organisations. This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and that it is not for the State to provide funding for such pension scheme provision. The employees in question are, or were, employees of private companies notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, in receipt of State funding.

Garda Stations

Questions (145)

Brendan Smith

Question:

145. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when Bawnboy Garda station, County Cavan will reopen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9714/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The deliberative process between An Garda Síochána and OPW to finalise proposals for the re-opening of Bawnboy Garda Station is on-going. Upon final 'sign-off' by An Garda Síochána, OPW will submit the necessary Part 9 planning application and progress the procurement of works required to re-open the Station, which it is expected will take place in 2019.

Flood Relief Schemes

Questions (146)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

146. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason the property of a person (details supplied) is being flooded for 14 years and the problem has not been resolved. [9038/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The location referred to by the Deputy does not form part of any Arterial Drainage Scheme, which would fall under the remit of the Office of Public Works (OPW) under the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act. The OPW therefore has no responsibility for the maintenance of channels in this area. I also understand that, while the area surrounding the residence of the person mentioned by the Deputy has flooded in the past, the residence itself is not known to flood.

Local flooding issues are a matter, in the first instance, for each Local Authority to investigate and address, and Kerry County Council may carry out flood mitigation works using its own resources. The Office of Public Works, however, also operates a Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme to fund solutions that can be readily identified and achieved in a short time frame. This administrative Scheme's eligibility criteria, including a requirement that any measures are cost beneficial, are published on the OPW website. It remains open to Kerry County Council to submit a funding application under this Scheme. Any application received will be considered in accordance with the overall availability of resources for flood risk management and the scheme's eligibility.

Flood Relief Schemes Status

Questions (147)

Joe Carey

Question:

147. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when a flood defence project will be funded (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9056/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I am advised that in 2015, Clare County Council received funding of €65,000 from the OPW, under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Coastal Protection Scheme, to undertake a coastal erosion & risk management study for Quilty to Miltown Malbay, which made recommendations for works at Spanish Point, Co Clare.

In September 2018, following the recommendations of that study, Clare County Council made an application to the OPW under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Coastal Protection Scheme for the provision of rock armour to protect against cliff erosion caused by waves and tides at Spanish Point. This application is currently under consideration. As soon as a decision is made on this application, this will issue to the council.

Flood Relief Schemes

Questions (148)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

148. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if rock armour will be put in a gap in the flood defences at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9071/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Callinafercy Pier, Callinafercy, Co. Kerry is managed and maintained by Kerry County Council. In this regard, the matter should be raised with the local authority.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (149)

Joan Burton

Question:

149. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of conferences staff of his Department have attended in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the number of staff that attended each conference; the cost of same in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9174/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In answer to the Deputy's question and following on from receipt of clarification from the Deputy, I have outlined in the table below the number of staff who have attended conferences that involved a fee, the number of conferences attended and the amount that has been spent on staff attending conferences in 2018 and to date in 2019.

2018

No. Conferences Attended

No. Staff that Attended Conferences

Cost

51

190

€69,104.56

2019

No. Conferences Attended

No. Staff that Attended Conferences

Cost

7

12

€7598.05

Continuous professional development for staff within my Department is actively encouraged and supported so as to ensure that every staff member’s capacity to aspire, grow and contribute is nurtured both professionally and personally in delivering on the organisation’s strategic business requirements. Attendances at conferences and seminars is a key component of this professional development.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (150)

Joan Burton

Question:

150. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount spent on advertising and-or sponsorship in respect of conferences, external and internal, respectively in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, by conference; the aggregate amount for each year; the amount available in the remainder of 2019 to fund same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9191/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

In response to the Deputy's question I have set out in the table below the amount spent on advertising and or sponsorship in respect of conferences in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019. At present, there are no figures available for the projected spend on conferences for the remainder of 2019.

2017

Conference

Amount Spent on Sponsorship and Advertising

Predict 2017

€1,845.00

2018

Conference

Amount Spent on Sponsorship and Advertising

Digital Government Conference (Dublin)

€1,637.13

Women In Tech, Convention Centre, Dublin

€5,000.00

ISME Annual Conference, City West, Dublin

€2,460.00

Predict 2018

€2,275.50

DojoCon 2018

€1,500.00

Total

€12872.13

Departmental Data

Questions (151)

Joan Burton

Question:

151. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of staff in his Department that attended a summit (details supplied) in Dublin in 2017 and 2018, respectively; the cost to his Department or agency under the remit of his Department; if his Department or an agency under the remit of his Department undertook advertising or sponsorship in respect of the summit; the cost in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9208/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table.

Year

No. Staff Attending

Cost

Amount Spent on Sponsorship or Advertising

2017

25 *

€9,450.00 **

€0

2018

0

€0

€0

* Attendees in the main were senior officials from across a range of Government Departments and Offices that are involved in the Civil Service Renewal Programme. The places at the conference were funded by the Civil Service Renewal Programme in the context of supporting leadership development of the Senior Public Service cadre.

** This number and the associated costs includes two staff from the National Shared Services Office, which is a body under the aegis of my Department.

Brexit Expenditure

Questions (152)

Michael McGrath

Question:

152. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the current and capital expenditure for each Department; the amount spent or expenditure committed to be spent in 2019 to deal specifically with a no-deal Brexit scenario (details supplied) in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9217/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Dedicated measures to prepare for Brexit were announced in Budgets 2017, 2018 and 2019, to ensure that Ireland is in the best possible position to respond to the challenges that Brexit will bring.

In Budget 2019 increased resources of €25 million were provided across a range of Departments and Offices. This will enable the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport, the Department of Health and the HSE implement necessary measures including in the areas of customs, SPS and food safety controls.

The €300 million Future Growth Loan Scheme, jointly funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation and the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, provides a longer-term facility to support strategic capital investment by business at competitive rates in a post-Brexit environment.

A €71 million package has been provided for the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine and its agencies, Teagasc and Bord Bia, to further strengthen the agriculture sector’s ability to become more resilient in addressing the challenges of Brexit.

An increase of €14 million in the allocation for the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation will enable it to continue to plan for the impact of Brexit on the business sector, including the expansion of Departmental and regulatory agency capacity, the expansion of its agencies' global footprint and additional Brexit information campaigns and supports.

€5 million has been allocated to the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade to enable it to continue to address the challenges posed by Brexit across a range of headings, including building capacity across strategic European locations and developing outreach responsibilities through public and stakeholder engagement and EU alliance enhancement. In addition, additional funding of €13 million will support the opening of new markets for our businesses and a higher international profile though our Global Ireland 2025 strategy, which aims to strengthen Ireland’s global footprint.

At its meeting on 11 December 2018, the Government decided to give greater immediate priority to the preparations for a no-deal Brexit. This work is being co-ordinated by the Department of the Taoiseach in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, and involves all Government Departments and agencies.

Given the proximity of the date of Brexit, contingency planning has moved to taking actions to mitigate the risks of a no-deal Brexit, without prejudice to the Government’s priority of finalising the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. Last week, on 22 February 2019, the Government published the Brexit Omnibus Bill which contains measures to protect our citizens and support the economy, enterprise and jobs, particularly in key economic sectors.

The Government will continue to prepare for a no-deal scenario, including detailed consideration of the additional resources to mitigate the impacts of such a scenario.

Public Procurement Contracts Data

Questions (153)

Alan Kelly

Question:

153. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the contracts, the duration of each and values that have been awarded to companies (details supplied) for the restoration of Leinster House; the person or body that awarded each contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9351/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Following a public procurement process advertised in the Official Journal of the EU, the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland awarded a contract to Duggan Brothers (Contractors) Ltd on 13th November 2017 for the role of Main Contractor for works relating the Conservation and Restoration of Historic Leinster House. The Contract award amount was €11,301,248.15 (€12,818,951.65 incl VAT) based on a Contract Programme of 54 weeks.

Following a similar tender process, Oldstone Conservation Ltd was identified as the successful tenderer for the role of Reserved Specialist – Stone Repairs, for these works. The responsibility for entering into a contract with Oldstone Conservation Ltd resided with the appointed Main Contractor i.e. Duggan Brothers (Contractors) Ltd. based on a Contract award amount of €1,035,116.88 (€1,173,687.57 incl VAT). The full value of this Reserved Specialist Contract is included in the Contract award amount of the Main Contractor, as indicated above.

In relation to Stoneclean, this specialist/sub-contractor would have been appointed directly by the Main Contractor i.e. Duggan Brothers (Contractors) Ltd. and accordingly the Office of Public Works would not have any of the details of this contract, its duration or the contract amount pertaining to this engagement.

A project budget of €14.878m was approved for this project to allow for any other costs arising such as VAT, Design Team fees, % for art, contingency allowance, etc.

Office of Public Works Projects

Questions (154)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

154. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 18 September 2018, when planning permission will be sought for the State data centre; when tenders will be sought for construction; when construction will commence; the estimated construction time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9551/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

A planning application was lodged for the State Data Centre on the 21-2-2019. The programme for detailed design, tender and construction is under review at present but it is expected that tenders will be sought in Q3 2019 and construction should commence in Q4 2019/Q1 2020. The construction period is expected to be 12 to 18 months.

Flood Risk Assessments

Questions (155)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

155. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 72 of 9 October 2018, if consultants have been hired to complete the reassessment of the local hydrology of the area and the operation of the local drainage network; the expected date for completion of the studies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9554/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Hazelhatch area of Celbridge, County Kildare was assessed as part of the Eastern Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study. The Flood Risk Management Plans identified the need for a further study of the area to help identify any feasible option to manage the existing flood risk.

This further study, being commissioned by Kildare County Council, is carrying out a detailed technical/hydro geological assessment. The Council expects that the completed report will be available towards the end of Quarter 2, 2019 and will help inform the management of the flood risk in this area.

Flood Relief Schemes

Questions (156)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

156. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason the raising of a road was not funded by the OPW as part of a flood relief scheme; the arrangements being put in place to raise the road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9558/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The raising of roads in three areas was proposed as part of the Claregalway Flood Relief Scheme. While it has been possible to carry out this work in two locations (Montiagh South and a further stretch of the Montiagh North Road), it has not been possible to identify any practical working solutions to the difficulties associated with raising the third section of road which provides access for the residents in Gortcloonmore, without putting the existing road at risk of collapse.

Following further discussions, Galway County Council (GCC) agreed to carry out an independent review of the proposed road design at Montiagh North (Gortcloonmore) and to examine potential alternatives to see what level of road raising could be undertaken, without putting the existing road at risk of collapse. GCC has completed this review but unfortunately, it has not been able to identify any practical working solutions to the difficulties associated with raising this road. The Council’s findings were based on looking at a wide range of construction techniques and the results were in line with the original findings of the OPW.

In a further effort to find a solution to this access problem, Galway County Council commissioned Consulting Engineers to complete a report into the possibility of providing an alternative access route - to and from the N84 - for the four residential dwellings in Gortcloonmore as an alternative means of emergency access during a severe flood event. However, the report which was finalised recently, failed to identify a practical alternative route.

The OPW has advised the residents individually of the difficulties as outlined above and of the fact that road raising at Gortcloonmore section of road is being omitted from the Claregalway Flood Relief Scheme as Confirmed. The OPW has also advised the four residential property owners that it is prepared to meet again with their representatives in order to explore any further mitigation measures that might be considered to ameliorate the fact that we are not in a position to complete road raising in Gortcloonmore.

EU Funding

Questions (157)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

157. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the breakdown of funds received by his Department or channelled through his Department from EU funds in 2017; and the programmes these funds supported. [9576/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

No EU receipts were received by or channelled through my Department in 2017.

My Department normally receives EU receipts in relation to the funding it provides for Technical Assistance for the two North South cross-border PEACE and INTERREG programmes. However no receipts were received in 2017 as the current round of programmes were at an early stage of implementation.

My Department is also responsible as Member State for the two national ERDF programmes, Southern and Eastern Regional Operational Programme and Border, Midland and Western Regional Operational Programme. EU receipts for these programmes are remitted directly to the Exchequer and are not channelled through the Department. In 2017 receipts in the amount of €23,577,660 were remitted directly to the Exchequer.

School Transport

Questions (158, 159, 160)

Robert Troy

Question:

158. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if Bus Éireann has a preferred bus type or model, for example, 53 seater single deck, when tendering for the school transport scheme. [9019/19]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

159. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the points system that is used to evaluate tenders placed for the provision of school transport services. [9020/19]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

160. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the safety standards of his Department regarding which types and years of models of buses used to deliver school transport services including irregular transport for school trips and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9021/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 158 to 160, inclusive, together.

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department. There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually. The safety of children and those on board school transport vehicles is the number one priority for the Department and Bus Éireann.

The school transport fleet is made up of both Contractors Vehicles and Bus Éireann vehicles. Bus Éireann procures vehicles to operate school transport services on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. The categories of vehicles procured are as follows:

- Taxi – up to 8 seats

- Minibus – 9 to 18 seats

- Medium bus – 19 – 34 seats

- Large bus – 35 + seats

The vehicle sourced for any given route is dependent on the route travelled, the number of pupils requiring transport, and the individual requirements of the child, as in the case with transport for children with Special Educational needs.

Contracts for School Transport Services are awarded based on the most economically advantageous tender. The most economically advantageous tender is evaluated based on the weighted criteria set out in the Conditions of Tendering document. A total of 1000 marks (100%) is available. The Quality/Price ratio is 40:60. A minimum quality threshold of 60% applies to each of the quality criteria. Only tenders which meet each Minimum Quality Threshold will be evaluated on Price. Scoring tables are provided in the Conditions of Tendering document with details on how marks are awarded for each of the quality criteria.

In regard to safety, in order to be considered roadworthy a bus must pass an annual Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Test (CVRT), conducted under the auspices of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) at approved test centres around the country. Bus Éireann school transport providers are contractually obliged to ensure that their vehicle has an up to date roadworthiness certificate issued by an RSA accredited test centre when a contract is signed. The contractor is obliged to keep their roadworthiness certificate current and up to date at all times and provide Bus Éireann with evidence of this. All school buses in service - procured by Bus Éireann to provide services under the School Transport Scheme - that are subject to roadside inspections must have current roadworthiness certification at the time of inspection.

A detailed contract is put in place for all contracted services – which includes numerous safety-related items. There is a strict process in place before any vehicle or driver is added to the approved list for provision of services under the School Transport Scheme. Required documentation is checked and copies are held by Bus Éireann offices. This documentation includes insurance and insurance indemnity, valid Road Passenger Transport Operator Licence (with required vehicles added), valid Certificate of Roadworthiness (CRW), appropriate valid Public Service Vehicle licence (large/small) (PSV) and evidence of Tax Clearance. Bus Éireann contracts also include a stipulation that requires all contractors to have planned maintenance programmes, with checking intervals of not more than six weeks.

Every Contractor is also responsible as an individual bus operator, licensed by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, to ensure they comply with legislation in all respects.

In addition to statutory requirements, Bus Éireann arranges for additional sample auditing of contractors vehicles operating under the Scheme, throughout the year. These additional quality assurance checks are carried out by independent vehicle inspection auditors, on both a targeted and random basis. Almost one in five buses contracted to the School Transport Scheme are audited under these quality assurance checks, which are designed to monitor the condition and roadworthiness status of each vehicle checked. Vehicles that fall short of the standards required during the audits are immediately withdrawn from further service until all identified issues are rectified by the contractor. If contractors are found not to have carried out the required improvements to their fleet and systems, they face penalties up to and including termination of contract.

Bus Éireann vehicles are brought into the garage every six weeks for a full maintenance checks.

Tax Code

Questions (161)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

161. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he has taken to communicate with substitute teachers regarding the pay and tax issue; and when he expects to have the matter resolved. [8971/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department issues salary and pension payments to approximately 120,000 payees a fortnight on four payrolls: primary teachers, post primary teachers, non-teaching staff and retired teachers, spouses and children.

The Revenue Commissioners have introduced real time PAYE (PAYE modernisation) which went live on the 1st January 2019. This was the biggest change to the PAYE system since the1960s. From the 1 January 2019, employers are required to report their employees’ pay and statutory deductions to Revenue for each payroll issue.

The issue related to the taxation of the substitute staff and is confined to those who were paid in the first three payrolls of 2019 – payment issue dates of the 3rd, 10th and 17th January. A cessation date was included in the payroll files sent to Revenue on the

3rd and 17th January for post primary substitute teachers and on 10th January for primary and non-teaching staff. The new Revenue system updated the employees’ records immediately and assigned zero credits to them which meant that when they were next paid, for some substitutes, there were no tax credits available to be applied to the salary.

The payroll software was amended in mid-January to prevent an end date transferring to Revenue for future payments. This meant that any substitute staff paid for the first time in 2019 after the 17th January do not have problems with tax credits.

However this software amendment did not correct the issues that arose for the staff who were paid already in the first three payrolls of 2019.

My Department and Revenue accorded the highest priority towards a correction of the tax issues for those substitute staff impacted in the first three payrolls and refunds have now issued to 69 post primary payees, 533 primary payees and 177 non teaching staff payees. The refunds range in value from €0.24 to €1,281.71.

Approximately 600 additional refunds will be issued through the post primary payroll this week ( 28th February).

My Department is also making arrangements to ensure that refunds, where due, are generated for those that have not worked since the payrolls issued in January.

Substitute staff experiencing financial hardship can contact my Department and seek a letter that they can submit to financial institutions. The letter will give background details on the issue. My Department is responding to emails being received and has three dedicated email addresses that are being monitored for substitute staff with queries. There are also dedicated phone lines for substitute staff to contact my Department.

Where a substitute teacher/non-teaching staff member has more than one employer, the Revenue Commissioners will issue Revenue Payroll Notifications (RPNs) based on the information available to them. Employees may have more than one source of taxable income and may assign credits to more than one employment. Tax credits and taxable basis are decided by Revenue and notified to the employer to apply to payrolls. Any refunds of tax to staff are based on the information supplied by Revenue.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (162)

James Browne

Question:

162. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding applications for additional accommodation by schools in County Wexford including extensions and new builds; the type and extent of each application; the status of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8973/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

To assist, schools, Deputies and the general public, my Department publishes on its website monthly updates on all major projects included on the Department’s Capital Programme 2016 -2021 including the type and extent of each project. Similar details are also published in respect of all approved additional accommodation projects and this list is updated on a weekly basis.

There are two Additional Accommodation applications on hand in respect of Co. Wexford that have yet to be assessed.

When these applications have been assessed the school authorities will be informed of the outcome and if approved, details will be published on my Department’s website as outlined above.