Community Employment Schemes Administration

Questions (1502)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

1502. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a reply will issue to queries by a person (details supplied) on an extension of a community employment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20019/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Following a review of this case, local management are happy to offer an extension of participation on the community employment scheme to the person concerned.

My officials will contact the community employment sponsor and the participant to advise them of the position.

Social Welfare Appeals Delays

Questions (1503)

James Browne

Question:

1503. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the position regarding lengthy delays processing successful social welfare appeals when returned to the relevant social welfare payment section, for example, disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20030/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.

Where a customer’s appeal is successful, every effort is made to implement the decision of the Appeals Officer (AO) within 3 weeks of notice of the decision being received from the Social Welfare Appeals Office. There has been a higher number of appeals in the fist quarter of 2019, a reflection of a higher number of claims received which  has impacted negatively on implementation processing times.

The processing time is kept under continuous review and additional staff have been assigned to this work. It is expected that the DA will be back on target in the next few months.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Question No. 1505 answered with Question No. 1391.

Questions (1504)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1504. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to a change of address in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20044/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The new address of the person concerned is already known to the Department and updated on all departmental records.  The child benefit payment also continues to issue as normal to the person concerned.

By way of information, any person with a verified MyGovid account can update their address using the mywelfare.ie online service by selecting the 'my details' section and following the steps outlined therein. 

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 1505 answered with Question No. 1391.

National Minimum Wage

Questions (1506)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

1506. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the widespread practice of contracted private companies providing homecare packages under the HSE home support service not paying travel time or mileage for care assistants travelling between house calls; when a case (details supplied) will be legislated for; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20092/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The HSE Home Support Service is a matter for the Department of Health and the HSE and I have no role in the matter.

It would not be appropriate for to provide a legal interpretation of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. Alleged breaches of the National Minimum Wage legislation should be taken up with the Workplace Relations Commission directly by the affected parties.

Irish Water

Questions (1507)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1507. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if an exemption from state aid rules has been sought from the EU for Irish Water and its assets; the reason he has not sought a referendum for the public ownership of Irish Water to be held in May 2019; the annual income of Irish Water; the loans Irish Water entered into; and the annual cost of servicing these loans. [18690/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

State aid refers to forms of public assistance, using taxpayer-funded resources, given to undertakings on a discretionary basis, which may have the potential to distort competition and affect trade between Member States. Ireland has not notified the European Commission of any State aid exemption in the case of Irish Water as the conditions for seeking such an exemption do not arise.

The Government is firmly committed to public water services remaining in public ownership, as reflected in the Water Services Acts and in the Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025. This position is consistent with the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services (April 2017) which supported the concept of a referendum, while recommending that the status of group water schemes and private wells remain unchanged.

Provisions for a referendum are contained in the Private Member's Bill initiated by Deputy Joan Collins, currently at Dáil Committee Stage. Detailed examination of the Bill, undertaken in consultation with the Attorney General, has highlighted a number of unacceptable risks which I have shared with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government. The Office of the Parliamentary Legal Adviser has separately advised the Committee in relation to the Bill.

My response has been to seek to bring forward appropriate amendments to the Bill. On 11 November last, I received Government approval for the priority drafting of proposed amendments which will focus on retaining the entity charged with the provision of public water services in public ownership.

Reflecting this position, and the work that needs to be completed, the referendum was not included amongst those identified by Government to be held in May 2019. The development of the wording is currently being given priority attention by the Office of the Attorney General. I will continue to keep the Joint Oireachtas Committee updated on progress in the matter.

Irish Water's Annual Reports and Financial Statements are laid before each House of the Oireachtas. The 2017 Annual Report outlines revenue of €1,012,880,000 (on page 90), borrowings of €824,802,000 (on page 88) and interest and finance costs of €17,132,000 (on page 84).

Local Authority Finances

Questions (1508)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

1508. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount issued annually over the past five years in compensation for malicious damage to property under the compensation scheme established under the Malicious Injuries Act 1981 and the Malicious Injuries (Amendment) Act 1986; the amount paid out annually over the past five years that specifically relates to compensation for the theft of ATM cash machines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19054/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Section 2 of the Malicious Injuries Acts 1981 and 1986 provides for recoupment of costs to local authorities in relation to malicious injury claims taken against them. Specifically, the Acts provide for full recoupment to local authorities in respect of expenditure where damage, the aggregate amount of which exceeds €127, is caused to any property;

(i) unlawfully by one or more of a number (exceeding two) of persons riotously assembled together, or

(ii) as a result of an act committed maliciously on behalf of an unlawful organisation, or

(iii) as a result of an act committed maliciously by a person, acting on behalf of an organisation outside the State, that engages in, or advocates the use of violence, for purposes related to the administration of the State of Northern Ireland.

These recoupments are made through my Department. Over the last 5 years, the following payments have been made:

-

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Total Expenditure

€260,479

€82,096

€322,939

€175,872

**€388,936

Of which concerns ATM theft and related costs

€257,863

€0

€0

€0

**€202,849

** the 2018 figures do not include the plaintiff's legal costs, which have yet to be settled.

Commissioner of Valuation

Questions (1509)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1509. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a matter (details supplied) will be reviewed; his plans to address the concerns raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19137/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The issue referred to is a matter for the Commissioner of Valuation. I have no function in this respect.

Arrangements have been put in place by all bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas. This provides a speedy, efficient and cost effective system to address queries of this kind. The contact email address for the Valuation Office is oireachtas.enquiries@VALOFF.ie.

Local Authority Rates

Questions (1510)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1510. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the rates bar set in Kingscourt, County Cavan, will be reviewed; if he will address concerns raised (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19177/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The issue referred to with regard to Kingscourt, Co. Cavan is a matter for the Commissioner of Valuation. I have no function in this respect.

Arrangements have been put in place by all bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas. The contact email address for the Valuation Office (VO) is oireachtas.enquiries@VALOFF.ie. This provides a speedy, efficient and cost effective system through which the VO can address queries of this kind.

Fire Service Staff

Questions (1511, 1593)

Mary Butler

Question:

1511. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason fire-fighters who are healthy, fit and have a good understanding of their job must retire at 58 years of age while other professionals do not have to retire until they 60 years of age or later; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19276/19]

View answer

Paul Kehoe

Question:

1593. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if retained fire-fighters are being allowed to remain in employment until 60 years of age if medically approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20027/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1511 and 1593 together.

A full time fire-fighter is statutorily required to retire at 55 under the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004. The retirement age is set at 55 due to the physically demanding nature of the fire fighter role. The retirement age for retained fire fighters is 55, with provision for an annual extension up to 58 years of age, subject to a formal application process including a compulsory medical assessment.

International research indicates that a retirement age of 55 is the optimum age to ensure that fire fighters are capable of satisfactorily performing the tasks expected of them. The retirement age of 55 was introduced because of health and safety considerations related to the job. Since the enactment of the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act 1989, and underpinned by subsequent legislation, every fire authority, as an employer, has a statutory duty to avoid placing employees at risk.

A collective agreement was reached between the Local Government Management Services Board and the relevant trade unions in November 2002. The collective agreement provided, inter alia, for the appointment of an Expert Group which would advise on the retirement age for retained fire fighters. The Expert Group's Report on Retirement Age recommended that the retirement age for retained fire fighters remain at 55, with provision for an annual extension subject to medical assessment, up to 58 years of age. A circular was subsequently issued by my Department in November 2003 setting out the age requirements in relation to retained fire-fighters in line with the Expert Report.

In general any changes proposed by either management or unions are negotiated using the established industrial relations processes. In this regard, the matter of increasing the age of retirement of fire fighters was included as part of recent preliminary discussions on a wide range of issues at the Workplace Relations Commission, between the Local Government Management Agency (representing the employers) and SIPTU.

Irish Water

Questions (1512)

Robert Troy

Question:

1512. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he approved the significant increases in the cost of domestic connections which came into effect on 1 April 2019. [19362/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. Responsibility for the independent economic regulation of the water sector is assigned to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). As Minister, I do not have a role in determining charging arrangements and must respect fully the statutory powers and functions which the Oireachtas has conferred on the CRU in relation to this matter.

I understand that the CRU, informed by a multi-stage public consultation process, published its decision on Irish Water’s Connection Charging Policy on 18 December 2018, and the approved Connection Charging Policy came into effect on 1 April 2019, subject to various time-bound transitional arrangements relevant to customers who had made their initial applications on or before 31 March 2019.

It may also be helpful to note that Irish Water 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 a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

Wind Energy Guidelines

Questions (1513, 1561)

Seán Fleming

Question:

1513. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when wind energy guidelines will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19446/19]

View answer

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

1561. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the updated guidelines for windfarms will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19414/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1513 and 1561 together.

My Department is currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines. The review is addressing a number of key aspects including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections.

As part of the overall review, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is being undertaken on the revised Guidelines before they come into effect, in accordance with the requirements of EU Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, otherwise known as the SEA Directive.

SEA is a process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes which act as frameworks for development consent, prior to their final adoption, with public consultation as part of that process. My Department appointed SEA experts in December 2017 to assist in this regard.

While the revised draft guidelines were to be published in Quarter 1 2019, some delays to the planned schedule arose, due to the recent publication of updated World Health Organisation (WHO) noise standards and the need to focus on certain Brexit-related planning issues. As part of the SEA process, there will be an 8 week public consultation on the revised draft Guidelines, together with the comprehensive environmental report with the aim of issuing the finalised Guidelines, following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions and views received during the consultation phase, later in 2019.

When finalised, the revised Guidelines will be issued under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. Planning authorities and, where applicable, An Bord Pleanála must have regard to guidelines issued under Section 28 in the performance of their functions generally under the Planning Acts. In the meantime, the current 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines remain in force.

Energy Efficiency

Questions (1514, 1529, 1530)

John Curran

Question:

1514. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homes in each local authority that have availed of the free energy efficiency improvement scheme in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19812/19]

View answer

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1529. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homes upgraded as part of all energy efficiency upgrades in each of the past five years; the amount provided to each local authority area in each of the past five years; if he is satisfied that targets in the National Development Plan will be achieved to upgrade up to one million homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18738/19]

View answer

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1530. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homes that have had their heating controls upgraded as part of all energy efficiency upgrades in each of the past five years; the amount provided across each local authority area in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18739/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1514, 1529 and 1530 together.

My Department's responsibility in relation to energy efficiency upgrades to the housing stock is focused on social housing, reflecting its responsibilities in relation to funding for social housing programmes. In that context, my Department provides exchequer funding for a programme of energy efficiency/insulation retrofitting to improve the insulation standards and overall energy performance of local authority social housing stock. The programme was launched in 2013 and is being implemented in two phases: Phase 1 provides funding targeted at the less intrusive cavity wall/attic insulation, while Phase 2 focuses on the fabric upgrade works to dwellings with solid/hollow block wall construction and includes the provision of heating upgrades. Consequently, the amounts allocated annually to local authorities reflect the implementation of the programme across the different phases.

Since the programme of support from my Department commenced, over 68,000 social homes have been insulation retrofitted, with a total exchequer spend of €128 million. The following is a breakdown, by local authority, of the funding drawn down and the number of social housing homes retrofitted under the Programme between 2013 and 2018:

2013

2014

2015

2016

Local Authority

Units Retrofitted

Funding Drawndown €

Units Retrofitted

Funding Drawndown €

Units Retrofitted

Funding Drawndown €

Units Retrofitted

Funding Drawndown €

Carlow

179

€329,763

262

€385,922

290

€788,864

53

€48,750

Cavan

180

€341,138

525

€850,818

598

€775,874

302

€327,346

Clare

366

€635,724

333

€498,635

298

€518,285

175

€260,960

Cork City

397

€1,091,105

950

€2,002,047

2,329

€3,260,660

2,128

€4,593,455

Cork County

510

€1,223,799

819

€1,079,181

1,181

€1,340,036

1,622

€2,913,930

Donegal

235

€325,561

526

€800,503

453

€891,633

380

€797,268

Dublin City

449

€3,131,363

3,303

€5,244,209

2,469

€3,828,503

496

€670,496

Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown

757

€1,351,270

1,058

€2,009,876

369

€957,237

75

€182,956

Fingal

2,135

€3,262,813

146

€1,897,600

326

€1,548,500

207

€983,250

Galway City

167

€321,828

319

€497,190

383

€777,569

874

€2,344,707

Galway County

802

€761,261

325

€390,515

290

€625,670

461

€774,437

Kerry

69

€494,824

538

€468,715

441

€549,315

108

€146,213

Kildare

201

€453,614

694

€1,528,046

311

€617,455

468

€1,224,403

Kilkenny

415

€776,234

212

€417,279

260

€396,662

21

€147,093

Laois

333

€482,937

512

€753,953

402

€555,936

51

€77,999

Leitrim

146

€258,978

164

€254,259

550

€308,382

158

€173,231

Limerick City and County

349

€801,046

545

€964,754

41

€65,000

0

€0

Longford

521

€1,147,820

227

€370,286

142

€321,974

0

€0

Louth

194

€182,866

430

€636,718

502

€879,880

761

€954,333

Mayo

193

€481,774

131

€410,361

216

€464,238

131

€330,567

Meath

185

€642,557

405

€676,837

577

€1,079,905

526

€874,625

Monaghan

213

€335,406

240

€419,118

336

€325,345

0

€0

Offaly

269

€360,276

217

€237,467

694

€553,963

287

€301,861

Roscommon

90

€186,232

422

€472,438

202

€232,886

107

€29,576

Sligo

189

€337,015

265

€344,450

624

€652,028

280

€243,399

South Dublin

223

€712,114

601

€1,828,879

390

€647,231

346

€748,330

Tipperary

1,220

€2,235,544

689

€1,301,342

0

€810,434

223

€326,827

Waterford City and County

354

€911,289

636

€766,288

605

€1,859,600

0

€0

Westmeath

753

€1,079,494

968

€859,733

200

€489,788

131

€863,517

Wexford

757

€971,133

1,263

€1,031,290

298

€446,196

59

€206,428

Wicklow

256

€1,324,927

285

€1,325,039

225

€334,732

873

€1,986,878

TOTAL

13,107

€26,951,705

18,010

€30,723,748

16,002

€26,903,781

11,303

€22,532,835

table cntd....

2017

2018

Totals

Local Authority

Units Retrofitted

Funding

Drawndown €

Units Retrofitted

Funding

Drawndown €

Units Retrofitted

Funding

Drawndown €

Carlow

59

€169,812

145

€236,883

988

€1,959,994

Cavan

54

€79,337

26

€22,197

1,685

€2,396,710

Clare

116

€65,522

116

€328,632

1,404

€2,307,758

Cork City

922

€1,761,898

406

€2,826,636

7,132

€15,535,801

Cork County

220

€384,102

1,193

€2,493,573

5,545

€9,434,622

Donegal

480

€754,856

0

€0

2,074

€3,569,821

Dublin City

1,440

€1,990,878

485

€1,825,182

8,642

€16,690,631

Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown

0

€0

0

€0

2,259

€4,501,339

Fingal

0

€0

309

€1,347,167

3,123

€9,039,330

Galway City

20

€44,936

0

€0

1,763

€3,986,230

Galway County

0

€0

0

€0

1,878

€2,551,883

Kerry

334

€311,106

138

€187,165

1,628

€2,157,338

Kildare

180

€393,189

177

€398,384

2,031

€4,615,091

Kilkenny

180

€312,184

170

€289,975

1,258

€2,339,427

Laois

0

€0

45

€121,840

1,343

€1,992,665

Leitrim

0

€0

0

€0

1,018

€994,850

Limerick City and County

0

€0

56

€748,800

991

€2,579,600

Longford

0

€0

0

€0

890

€1,840,080

Louth

120

€65,764

274

€484,910

2,281

€3,204,471

Mayo

48

€117,105

175

€477,236

894

€2,281,281

Meath

50

€113,920

243

€385,242

1,986

€3,773,086

Monaghan

25

€155,359

0

€0

814

€1,235,228

Offaly

0

€0

0

€0

1,467

€1,453,567

Roscommon

535

€444,813

0

€0

1,356

€1,365,945

Sligo

0

€0

0

€0

1,358

€1,576,892

South Dublin

391

€761,731

0

€0

1,951

€4,698,285

Tipperary

172

€282,233

305

€424,998

2,609

€5,381,378

Waterford City and County

0

€0

176

€236,250

1,771

€3,773,427

Westmeath

55

€434,441

6

€54,801

2,113

€3,781,774

Wexford

20

€22,082

8

€52,762

2,405

€2,729,891

Wicklow

0

€0

0

€0

1,639

€4,971,576

TOTAL

5,421

€8,665,268

4,453

€12,942,633

68,296

€128,719,970

Mayoral Election

Questions (1515)

Micheál Martin

Question:

1515. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will report on the upcoming plebiscite on the mayoral elections. [19820/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

On 24 May 2019, the electors of the administrative areas of Cork City, Limerick City and County and Waterford City and County Councils will have an opportunity to vote in a plebiscite on the Government’s proposal for a Mayor, or Lord Mayor in the case of Cork City, with executive functions to be directly elected by the people.

The Local Government Act 2019 provides the statutory basis for the holding of the plebiscites. Under the Act, if the proposal, details of which are available at this link is approved by a majority of voters, in any of the three areas, the Minister, within 2 years, must prepare and submit to each House of the Oireachtas a report specifying proposals for the enactment of a law providing for a directly elected mayor of the administrative area in respect of which the plebiscite was held. The Oireachtas will then consider the legislation and once the required legislation is passed, an election for Mayor/Lord Mayor with executive functions will take place for the area concerned.

In order to facilitate and oversee the provision of impartial and factual information to the electorates in the three areas concerned, regarding the plebiscites, an independent Committee was established, chaired by Henry Abbott, retired High Court judge, and including representatives from the three local authorities concerned, my Department and the Local Government Management Agency, and an independent legal advisor.

The Committee’s public information campaign is well underway in each local authority area across a range of platforms. In this regard, media briefings were held in each area; advertisements have been placed in local and national newspapers, on local radio and on social media; posters are being displayed in public offices in the three areas, and a guide for voters is currently being distributed to every household in the three areas and is available in public offices.  Furthermore, public information meetings, chaired by the Committee Chairman, will take place on the following dates:

- Tuesday 14 May 2019 (19.30) - Cork City Council

- Wednesday 15 May 2019 (19.30) - Waterford City and County Council

- Thursday 16 May 2019 (19.30) - Limerick City and County Council

The Committee’s information for voters is also available on the website www.mayors.gov.ie.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

Questions (1516, 1553, 1573)

Seán Fleming

Question:

1516. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason tenants who wish to purchase their local authority houses under the tenant purchase scheme are excluded from the scheme if they are in houses that were built under the Part V process in view of the fact that this rule did not exist in relation to previous tenant purchase schemes; the reason he does not consider it good policy for persons that live in local authority housing that were acquired specifically under the Part V process be allowed to purchase their homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18383/19]

View answer

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

1553. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the final report on the review of the tenant purchase scheme will be available; the reason this has not been published to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19149/19]

View answer

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

1573. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the review of the first 12 months of the tenant (incremental) purchase scheme 2016 has been published; and the findings and recommendations in this regard. [19608/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1516, 1553 and 1573 together.

The Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015 set the commencement date as 1 January 2016 for the introduction of the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme for existing local authority houses.

The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

The provisions of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, are designed to enable the development of mixed tenure sustainable communities. Part V homes are excluded from the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme 2016 to ensure that homes delivered under this mechanism will remain available for people in need of social housing support and that the original policy goals of the legislation are not eroded over time. The continued development of mixed tenure communities remains very important in promoting social integration.

Local authorities may also, within the provisions of the Regulations, exclude certain houses which, in the opinion of the authority, should not be sold for reasons such as proper stock or estate management. It is a matter for each individual local authority to administer the Scheme in its operational area in line with the over-arching provisions of the governing legislation for the scheme, and in a manner appropriate to its housing requirements.

In line with the commitment given in the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, a review of the operation of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase (Incremental) Scheme has been completed and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations.

Following consideration of a number of implementation issues arising, I expect to be in a position to publish the Review very shortly. Indeed, it is intended that a wider package of social housing reform measures will be brought to Government in the near future and the relevant recommendations made in the Review of the Tenant Purchase Scheme will be progressed as part of that process.

Disability Support Services

Questions (1517, 1518, 1519)

Gerry Adams

Question:

1517. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans in place across County Louth to ensure there is clear access and sharing of information to persons with disabilities regarding a range of add-on measures that enable them to vote in advance of the upcoming elections in May 2019. [18384/19]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

1518. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if awareness training is provided to returning officers at official polling stations in County Louth to ensure that persons with disabilities are fully supported when they are voting in the May 2019 elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18385/19]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

1519. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if plans are in place to ensure that official polling stations currently inaccessible to persons with a disability can be made fully accessible in advance of the upcoming elections in May 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18404/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1517 to 1519, inclusive, together.

Recognising that people with disabilities have particular needs, my Department endeavours to ensure that the voting process is as accessible and inclusive as possible across all constituencies.

In the run up to polling day at elections and referendums, my Department publishes information in national newspapers at key stages of the process that are of particular relevance to voters with disabilities. Soon after polling day has been determined my Department places an advertisement in national newspapers, reminding voters with disabilities about their entitlement to be included in the supplement to the postal and special voters lists, as appropriate to their circumstances, if they are not already included in the postal and special voters lists. Later on, a further advertisement is placed reminding voters who have difficulty gaining access to their local polling station that they may apply to have their vote transferred to a more accessible station in their constituency/local electoral area.

In my Department’s Memorandum for the Guidance of Returning Officers, which issues in advance of electoral events, advice is provided about the selection of polling stations having regard to the needs of voters with disabilities. Where it has not been possible to acquire premises for polling stations that are or can be made accessible to wheelchair users, Returning Officers must give public notice of these premises as soon as they are selected as polling stations. They are advised to do so as soon as possible but, as a minimum, they are required to do so no later than 8 days before polling day so as to give electors adequate time to apply to have their vote transferred to an alternative accessible polling place if they so wish. The Guidance advises Returning Officers that the form of public notice could include advertising in national and local newspapers, use of appropriate websites, use of local media and communicating with local disability groups as well as other relevant local and national groups.

My Department’s Memorandum for the Guidance of Returning Officers also addresses the need for awareness regarding the needs of voters with disabilities. Returning Officers are required to provide at each polling station an appropriate table and chair, located in such a position as to ensure secrecy in voting, at which electors such as wheelchair users, persons with a physical disability, persons with vision impairment or the elderly can mark their ballot papers if they find it more convenient. Where feasible, they are asked to consider installing a low height voting compartment to facilitate voters who use wheelchairs or those who are short of stature.

My Department’s Manual for Presiding Officers, which also issues to Returning Officers in advance of electoral events for use in their polling stations, draws particular attention to the needs of voters with disabilities. The Manual sets out a number of practical measures in this regard and refers to an online training module that is available on the website of the National Disability Authority. More generally, the Electoral Acts contain measures to assist voters with particular disabilities. Voters who are blind or vision impaired or who are otherwise so physically incapacitated or are unable to read or write to such an extent that they are unable to vote without assistance may avail of companion voting or voting with the assistance of the Presiding Officer. Other measures in place include the requirement to have on display at the polling station a large print version of the ballot paper and the inclusion of candidates' photographs and party emblems on the ballot paper. Blind and vision impaired voters will also have the option at the forthcoming elections, referendum and plebiscites to use a ballot paper template to enable them to vote independently. Local Returning Officers are responsible for providing necessary training for their staff, including Presiding Officers, in advance of polling day.

While comprehensive arrangements are in place to assist participation in the electoral process by individuals with physical disabilities, nonetheless my Department continues to seek to improve these arrangements and to have regard to the special needs of such persons. In this context, I set up a working group on disability voting at the end of 2018, which includes representatives from the Irish Wheelchair Association, the Disability Federation of Ireland, the Blind Legal Alliance and the National Disability Authority. The group is working on improving accessibility to polling stations for voters with physical disabilities, particularly wheelchair users, with the goal of all polling stations being fully accessible as soon as possible. The group is also tasked with other initiatives including the development and improvement of ballot paper templates for the European and local elections; reviewing and updating, as required, the Department’s ‘Accessible Voting Checklist’, which addresses improved accessibility within polling stations; and in promoting measures to advance voting accessibility, as set out in Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Architects Register

Questions (1520)

Catherine Martin

Question:

1520. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he receives reports from an organisation (details supplied) on complaints regarding poor performance by architects; if there is oversight of architects outside of their representative body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18554/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Building Control Act 2007 provides for the registration of persons entitled to use the professional title of architect. Neither I nor my Department has any direct role in the operation of this register, nor do I or my Department receive reports in relation to complaints regarding poor performance by architects. This is a matter for the professional body designated as the relevant competent registration authority for the purposes of European and National law, namely the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) in respect of the architectural profession.

A person wishing to make a complaint about the professional performance of a registered architect may make a complaint to the Professional Conduct Committee of the RIAI. The complaints procedure is set out in the Rules of the Professional Conduct Committee, which are available on the RIAI website at the following link: www.riai.ie/uploads/files/Rules_of_the_PCC_20_Dec_2018.pdf and are also set out at Part 6 of the Building Control Act 2007.

Section 73 of Building Control Act 2007 provides that the registration body shall prepare an annual report on proceedings under the Act. Each year, the RIAI publishes an Annual Report, which includes information about the previous year’s activity. Included in that Annual Report is a Registration Report, which gives information about the activity of the four statutory boards/committees: the Professional Conduct Committee, the Admissions Board, the Technical Assessment Board and the Appeals Board. Statistics about the number of complaints and the outcomes of those complaints is included in the information about the Professional Conduct Committee. These Annual Reports are available to view or download on the website of the RIAI at www.riai.ie/about/riai_annual_reports/.

Separately, under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014, Building Control Authorities have strong powers of inspection, enforcement and prosecution. Powers in relation to enforcement include the serving of enforcement notices, orders of the courts, and the powers of prosecution. A person found guilty of an offence under the Act may be liable for fines (up to €50,000) and/or imprisonment (up to 2 years) and be disqualified from signing and submitting certificates of compliance.

Building Regulations

Questions (1521)

Catherine Martin

Question:

1521. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will consider consumer friendly and cost-effective redress and dispute resolution for homeowners dealing with defects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18555/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In the first instance, I would like to acknowledge the stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes.

However, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved: the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme. In this regard, it is incumbent on the parties responsible for poor workmanship and/or the supply of defective materials to face up to their responsibilities and take appropriate action to provide remedies for the affected homeowners.

It is important to note that while my Department has overall responsibility for establishing and maintaining an effective regulatory framework for building standards and building control, it has no general statutory role in resolving defects in privately owned buildings, including dwellings, nor does it have a budget for such matters.

Under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014, primary responsibility for compliance of works with the requirements of the Building Regulations rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. Enforcement of the Building Regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities who have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts and who are independent in the use of their statutory powers. When a building is constructed and occupied, statutory responsibility for fire safety is assigned by section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 & 2003, to the ‘person having control’ of the building. In multi-unit developments, the "person having control" is generally the owner management company. Under the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011, the owner management company must establish a scheme for annual service charges and a sinking fund for spending on refurbishment, improvement or maintenance of a non-recurring nature of the multi-unit development.

With regard to the proposal of the Deputy, it is not possible for the State to take on responsibility/liability for all legacy issues. Nor would it send the right message to the industry regarding their responsibility for compliance.

Stronger compliance with building standards has been a key priority for Government in response to the building failures that have emerged over the last decade and my Department has advanced a robust and focused Building Control Reform Agenda, including:

- Amendments to the Building Control Regulations;

- Establishment of the Nation Building Control Management Project and a National Building Control Office; and

- The ongoing development of new legislation through the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill.

These reforms have already brought, and will continue to bring, a new order and discipline to bear on construction projects, creating an enhanced culture of compliance with the Building Regulations

This focus on strong and effective regulation in the building control system and the construction industry, and on improving compliance in the building regulations, reduces the risk and the incidences of defective buildings and has provided insurance underwriters with sufficient confidence to introduce new latent defect type products in Ireland, despite a general retrenchment and conservatism in the wider insurance industry. These new products are first party insurance policies, which cover damage and non-damage (breaches of building regulations) claims, to varying degrees. This means that the purchaser does not have to make a claim through the builder but can submit a claim directly to the insurer. This is of particular benefit to a homeowner in circumstances where the builder or developer has ceased trading.

Construction Industry Register Ireland

Questions (1522)

Catherine Martin

Question:

1522. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when he will introduce a regulatory system for builders that is independent of the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18556/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Government has committed to placing the Construction Industry Register Ireland, or CIRI, on a statutory footing. CIRI was established on a voluntary basis in 2014 and over 850 building and contracting entities are currently included on the register.

The Government approved the draft heads of a Bill to place the CIRI on a statutory footing and the Bill was referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Committee’s report has since been received and my Department is currently working through the Committee’s recommendations.

It is proposed that the operation of CIRI will be vested in the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) in the same way that statutory registration of Architects was vested in the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), pursuant to the Building Control Act 2007. The independence and objectivity of the registration board will be critical to the success of CIRI and a number of provisions are included in the draft Bill to uphold the independence of the registration system.

The main objective of the legislation is to develop and promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with Building Regulations within the builder community of the construction sector. The establishment of a robust, mandatory, statutory register of builders and specialist contractors is an essential consumer protection measure giving those who engage a registered builder the assurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant operator. In addition, it will complement the reforms made through the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and contribute to the development of an enhanced culture of competence and compliance in the construction sector. My Department is working with the Attorney General's Office with a view to achieving publication of the Bill later this year.

Development Contributions

Questions (1523)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1523. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the value of development levies accrued in each local authority in each of the years 2016 to 2018, in tabular form. [18573/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Development contributions are levied as conditions attached to planning permissions and are payable prior to commencement of development or as otherwise agreed by the local authority. Commencement notices are issued by the developer to the local authority and these generally trigger the raising of the charge. Local authorities may facilitate the phased payment of contributions, such as when units are completed or when a particular stage is reached in the development.

In order to avoid inconsistencies in recognising income and the raising of invoices that would be unlikely to be collected in the near future, a pragmatic approach to accounting for income has been adopted. When a commencement notice is received, contributions collectable within the next 12 months are usually treated as income and a short-term debtor is raised. Those contributions not deemed collectable in the next twelve months, are treated as deferred income, with potential debtors not collectable in the next twelve months being treated as long-term debtors. Deferred income is treated as a long-term creditor and is match against Long-term development contribution debtors in the Annual Financial Statement (AFS). This accounting treatment acknowledges that long-term debtors are not income in the current period, and they may or may not become due depending on the progress of the development and are thus deferred to future periods.

Local Authorities operate on an accrual accounting basis and recognise income and expenditure as incurred, regardless of the cash transactions. The AFS do not separately show the amount of cash on hand in relation to development contributions but instead show the amount of development contributions due to local authorities.

Appendix 5 of the amalgamated AFS shows a total income of €211.5m for Development Contributions for the financial year ending 31/12/2017, which is the most recent year for which audited figures are available. The development contribution income for each local authority for both 2016 and 2017 is set out in the table below.

Local Authority

Development Levy Income 2017

Development Levy Income 2016

Carlow Co. Co.

911,007

-498,340

Cavan Co. Co.

730,685

1,261,453

Clare Co. Co.

1,398,498

1,621,299

Cork Co. Co.

1,580,595

2,117,737

Cork City Council

13,141,201

9,338,755

Donegal Co. Co.

1,304,931

7,945,913

Dublin City Council

55,631,274

25,747,442

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Co. Co.

25,522,953

10,754,177

Fingal Co. Co.

41,071,965

62,377,961

Galway Co. Co.

-889,267

1,057,771

Galway City Council

1,252,929

-872,673

Kerry Co. Co.

1,681,055

3,076,027

Kildare Co. Co.

812,756

295,812

Kilkenny Co. Co.

1,211,561

2,141,546

Laois Co. Co.

2,053,226

1,179,670

Leitrim Co. Co.

458,584

169,782

Limerick Co. Co.

3,102,386

4,442,972

Longford Co. Co.

-375,693

17,727

Louth Co. Co.

4,739,599

2,230,135

Mayo Co. Co.

1,014,385

682,822

Meath Co. Co.

11,812,633

3,236,310

Monaghan Co. Co.

309,912

1,569,828

Offaly Co. Co.

922,514

1,251,980

Roscommon Co. Co.

827,106

2,902,487

Sligo Co. Co.

550,945

10,471

South Dublin County Council

25,170,780

20,472,033

Tipperary Co. Co.

2,132,744

2,357,949

Waterford Co. Co.

2,339,566

2,245,827

Westmeath Co. Co.

674,929

-158,736

Wexford Co. Co.

3,008,844

881,594

Wicklow Co. Co.

7,463,736

5,122,363

Total

211,568,338

174,980,094

Commercial Rates Valuation Process

Questions (1524)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

1524. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the revaluation of commercial rates process will commence for County Donegal; if he has considered expediting the process for the county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18627/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Section 9(10) of the Valuation Act 2001 (as amended) provides that the Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions, and decisions with regard to the selection of rating authority areas for revaluation is his sole prerogative and the statute does not accord me, as Minister, any role in this regard. The Commissioner has responsibility under the Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015 to maintain a valuation list for each local authority, of all commercial properties in that local authority area, which is used to calculate the rates due from individual ratepayers.

The Valuation Office is currently engaged in a national revaluation programme, the immediate objective of which is to ensure that the revaluation of all rating authority areas is conducted across the country, as soon as possible, and on a phased basis. This is a welcome and positive development which is long overdue and on which considerable progress has been made in recent years.

The purpose of revaluation is to bring more equity, fairness and transparency into the local authority rating system and to distribute the commercial rates liability across businesses more equitably, based on modern circumstances. Following revaluation there is a much closer and uniform relationship between contemporary rental values of property and the commercial rates liability of properties. In essence, the exercise aims to ensure that each ratepayer bears a fair share of the business rates burden relative to the modern rental value of the property that they occupy.

The national revaluation programme currently underway is a very significant undertaking and involves the valuation of some 150,000 commercial rateable properties. Completing the first revaluation since the middle of the 19th century and getting properties in every Local Authority area onto the 5-10 year cycle of revaluations provided for in the legislation represents a sea-change for the rateable valuation system. I am informed by the Commissioner of Valuation that the first revaluation of rateable commercial and industrial properties has already been completed in the Carlow, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, South Dublin and Westmeath County Council, and Dublin City Council, Waterford City and County Council and Limerick City and County Council, rating authority areas.

I am pleased to confirm that significant progress has been made and the programme has established a momentum which is now being built upon as the current phase of work known as “Reval 2019” is well underway and scheduled to conclude by September 2019. This phase of the overall national programme covers the following counties - Cavan, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow rating authority areas. The Fingal County Council rating authority area is also undergoing a second revaluation in 2019, having initially been the subject of a revaluation in 2009. The new valuations for the eight areas undergoing revaluation will be published on 17 September 2019, and become effective for rates purposes from 2020 onwards.

As previously mentioned, the legislation accords solely to the Commissioner the function of selecting counties for the various phases of revaluation to be conducted nationwide and, in this regard, I understand that the Commissioner intends to sign a Valuation Order before the end of 2019 to commence the revaluation of all rateable properties in Counties Donegal.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Questions (1525)

Joe Carey

Question:

1525. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if consideration will be given to having his Department as the lead agency in the provision of a new funding programme for the provision of sewerage schemes in small towns and villages in conjunction with Irish Water, local authorities and the Department of Rural and Community Development; if consideration will be given to introducing a number of pilot schemes as part of the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18632/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. I understand that Irish Water will be bringing forward proposals for a Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme which will support a number of the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes under the National Planning Framework. The Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme is intended to provide water and wastewater growth capacity in smaller settlements which would not otherwise be provided for in Irish Water’s Investment Plan. Irish Water will work with local authorities across the country in ensuring the investment is made where it is needed most, aligned to local authority core strategies.

Irish Water is subject to regulation by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). The proposals from Irish Water in this regard form part of the submissions from Irish Water to the CRU on its detailed investment plans under the Irish Water Investment Plan 2020 to 2024. These submissions are currently being considered by the CRU and a decision is expected from the CRU in the second half of 2019.

In addition, my Department notified local authorities on 8 February 2019 of the measures being funded under the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2019 to 2021. The composition of the new multi-annual programme is based on recommendations from the Working Group that I established in April 2018 to conduct a review of investment needs and rural water services. The Working Group, which is chaired by my Department, includes the National Federation of Group Water Schemes, Environmental Protection Agency, Health Service Executive, Department of Rural and Community Development and local authorities, through the County and City Management Association. It has also consulted with other key stakeholders, including Irish Water.

The 2019-2021 funding cycle consists of eight measures. Most are further broken into sub-measures. These measures reflect the key challenges currently facing the rural water sector.

Measure 6, Community Connections (Water and Wastewater), facilitates the continued expansion of the coverage of piped water supplies and central wastewater collection systems by extension off the public network. It includes a sub-measure, Community Connection: Wastewater Network. This sub-measure will support wastewater collection for population clusters, currently on deficient individual wastewater treatment systems (septic tanks), immediately adjacent to towns and villages, through the development of community wastewater connection networks as extensions to the existing public (Irish Water) wastewater collection system.

The Working Group is continuing its work and is now considering the more complex longer-focus issues surrounding the long-term future resourcing of the rural water sector. I expect a further report from the Group later in 2019. The long-term needs of rural towns and villages in respect of wastewater infrastructure is something that I expect the Working Group will be examining in this phase of its work.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (1526)

Michael Harty

Question:

1526. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when a Rebuilding Ireland home loan which was approved on 1 October 2018 for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18655/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is provided by local authorities in accordance with the Housing (Rebuilding Ireland Home Loans) Regulations 2018, which broadly set out the eligibility criteria to avail of the loans as well as the obligations of the local authorities and duties of borrowers in respect of the Scheme. In accordance with the regulations, as Minister, I have issued a statutory credit policy which obliges each local authority to establish a credit committee to assess and decide on applications and an appeals mechanism for those who are not satisfied with a decision of the credit committee.

To support local authorities in operating the Scheme, the Housing Agency provides a central assessment service to the authorities and makes recommendations to them in respect of each application submitted to it. The final decision on loan approval is a matter for each local authority and its credit committee to make on a case-by-case basis. Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the Regulations and the statutory credit policy, having regard to the recommendation of the Housing Agency, in order to ensure consistency of treatment for all applicants.

Under legislation, a local authority is independent in the performance of its functions and as Minister, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any individual case with which a housing authority is or may be concerned. I am therefore not in a position to comment on or deal with an individual case.

The person concerned should therefore contact the local authority to which they applied for the loan for an update in relation to their application.