Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Questions (224, 225, 226, 232, 238)

Clare Daly

Question:

224. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the recent meetings he has had with officials, ministerial colleagues or others regarding the community employment supervisors pension claim and the implementation of the 2008 Labour Court recommendation. [18934/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

225. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will meet with representatives of community employment supervisors to discuss the implementation of their pension scheme. [18935/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

226. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason the high-level forum agreed under the Lansdowne Road agreement to discuss community employment supervisors pensions has not met since December 2017. [18936/19]

View answer

Brian Stanley

Question:

232. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding a pension scheme for community employment supervisors; if a scheme will be put in place for them; and his plans to deal with this issue. [19114/19]

View answer

Niamh Smyth

Question:

238. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for community employment supervisors' pensions as in the case of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19448/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 to 226, inclusive, 232 and 238 together.

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.

In the context of the scoping out exercise referred to below this matter was the subject of extensive deliberation at the appropriate governmental level involving the relevant parties concerned. At Departmental level this particular matter has been considered in briefings with officials. However it remains the position that the community sector personnel concerned are not public servants and their terms and conditions of employment including the payment of pensions do not fall within public service provision.

Furthermore there has been extensive discussion of this issue at the Community Sector High Level Forum which was reconvened to examine certain matters pertaining to the Community Employment sector and in particular to ensure that the issues in question were fully examined having regard to both costs and precedent. The implications arising from this claim extend beyond the CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors cadre and impact across the entire Community and Voluntary sector.

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 exposure for the State of between €188 million per annum and €347m depending on the size of the sector which is difficult to ascertain, were consequential demands to be made to fund employer pension contributions for all similar State funded Community and Voluntary organisations. This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension for those imminently retiring, as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, give rise to a further Exchequer cost exposure of up to €318 million.

The Forum met in the period subsequent to the conduct of the scoping exercise where relevant matters in respect of this issue were discussed in comprehensive detail with the members of the Forum. These discussions provided a clear understanding to each of the parties of their respective positions in relation to this matter and in this context the formal engagement process between the parties was accordingly concluded on this basis.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and accordingly it is not for the State to provide funding for occupational pension scheme provision.

Prison Service Staff

Questions (227)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

227. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to the particulars of a case concerning a prison officer on unpaid leave from the Irish Prison Service since May 2011 (details supplied); if he will engage with the prison officer on the matters concerned; if he has considered the issue of awarding an injury warrant in respect of the person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18965/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I can confirm that the attention of my office has been drawn to the particular circumstances of this case, and that my office has responded to correspondence received from the individual concerned.

While the matter of making an award under the provisions of the Civil Service Injury Warrants is one that would fall ultimately to my Department, the initial application would be raised in the first instance with the Officer’s employer, the Irish Prison Service. The relevant Statutory Instruments governing the Injury Warrants lay down a cumulative set of conditions that must be complied with in order for an Injury Warrant allowance to be approved in any case. No recommendation in regard to such an award in respect of the individual in question has been referred to my Department for consideration.

Departmental Funding

Questions (228)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

228. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his specific responsibilities with regard to the Cork event centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18978/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

While my Department sets the capital allocations for Departments and the delegated sanction arrangements under which Departments make their spending decisions, the actual roll-out of particular capital projects and programmes is, of course, managed by the individual line Departments and their agencies who are responsible for project and programme delivery.

In regard to the Cork Event Centre, overall responsibility for the management and delivery of this project lies with Cork City Council, with Exchequer grant funding being administered through the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

I am advised by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht that discussions are ongoing with Cork City Council about various elements of the project.

Pension Provisions

Questions (229)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

229. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will address a matter regarding a pension increase in relation to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19097/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Under the current pension increase policy agreed as part of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 (PSSA), pay increases applied to serving staff over the course of the Agreement, including the 1% increase applied to all salaries on 1st October 2018 and the 1% increase applied to salaries up to €30,000 on 1 January 2019, are passed on to those pensions awarded under pre-existing public service schemes where the salary on which the pension is based does not exceed the salary of serving staff with the same grade and scale point, after the pay increase has been applied. If it qualifies, the pension is eligible for an increase to the extent that this will ensure alignment with the pay of serving staff.

Not all pension recipients will be due these increases. This is partly due to protections in place (known as ‘grace periods’) for public servants retiring after the application of pay cuts under the FEMPI legislation, whereby the pensions of those public servants were calculated using the higher pay rates that were in effect prior to the application of the pay cuts. Similarly, the pensions of many of those who retired before the imposition of pay cuts are still based on higher salary rates than the salaries of serving public servants, and so those pensions don’t qualify for pension increases.

The administrative procedures for applying the pension increase policy are not straightforward. They require an examination of the salary on which an individual’s pension is based and the salary of those still serving in the same grade and on the same payscale point after the pay increase is applied, which I am advised is largely a manual process. The grace periods to which I refer above, a valuable protection for the pension entitlements of the public servants concerned, inevitably impose an additional hurdle to be addressed in the identification of qualifying pensions, and the application of due pension increases.

Responsibility for implementing the increases, within the context of the administrative issues I have outlined above, lies with the various public and civil service pension/payroll providers. In the case of the individual whose details have been raised by the Deputy, this is the Payroll Shared Service Centre. I am advised that work is underway, with the assistance of the HR Unit of the individual’s former employing Office, to calculate and pass on all relevant increases to those qualifying pensions in payment, including for the individual in question, and that this will include the calculation and payment of arrears backdated as appropriate.

River Basin Management Plans

Questions (230)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

230. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on the dredging works which recently took place in the Ward River Valley Park in Swords, County Dublin; if the OPW had permission to cut trees and bushes down during nesting season; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19104/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has statutory maintenance responsibility for those Catchment Drainage Schemes completed by the OPW under the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995. The section of the River Ward referred to forms part of the Broadmeadow and Ward Arterial Drainage Scheme and is included in the OPW's 2019 maintenance programme. Work includes the removal from the channel of debris and overhanging branches which are obstructing the flow of the river. No dredging of the river is taking place.

The OPW operates within a system of Environmental Management Protocols and Standard Operating Procedures for its drainage maintenance operations.

The OPW also notifies Inland Fisheries Ireland and National Parks and Wildlife Service prior to commencing its annual planned maintenance programme.

Pension Levy

Question No. 232 answered with Question No. 224.

Questions (231)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

231. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position in respect of the civil and public service levy; when civil servants can expect to have their PSPR reduced in their pensions as agreed; when the arrears from 1 January 2019 will be paid to retired civil servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19110/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The National Shared Services Office has informed me that the implementation of the PSPR restorations to some pensioners has been delayed primarily due to impaired or missing data that has prevented automatic processing.

A dedicated project team is working full time to review each file for every pensioner potentially impacted to correct any data inaccuracies in their records and ensure all arrears due are paid as soon as possible. Over 90% of pre-2019 PSPR restorations have been applied, and the process in respect of PSPR for 2019 has just commenced and will be dealt with as soon as possible.

Communication with impacted pensioners is being handled by telephone and the NSSO will write to all affected pensioners this month to explain the situation, apologise for the delay and set out the timeline for restoration. In addition, the NSSO met with the Retired Civil & Public Services Association (RCPSA) in February 2019 to apologise for the delay and its impact on pensioners and to explain the core difficulty in processing the arrears. I understand that the RCPSA is being kept informed on the matter and communicated with regularly.

Question No. 232 answered with Question No. 224.

Flood Relief Schemes Status

Questions (233)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

233. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of a number of proposed flood risk management schemes in areas (details supplied) in County Donegal; when the OPW will provide further details to the local authority with regard to the design and construction of these schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19136/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Very good progress has been made on the implementation of new flood relief schemes in County Donegal since I announced, in May 2018, 29 Flood Risk Management Plans for all the main river basins. These Plans identified a total of 118 flood relief projects to protect the main flood risk areas throughout the country, 15 of which are in County Donegal These Plans and projects are a key part of the overall flood risk management strategy set out in the National Development Plan 2017 - 2028 involving total investment of almost €1 billion over the ten year time frame of that Plan. As it is not possible to implement all of the 118 projects at the one time, a total of 57 projects have been prioritised for the initial tranche of investment and delivery based on the level of risk and number of properties to be protected.

Following consultation and discussions between the OPW and Donegal County Council, six of the 15 Donegal projects have been identified to be progressed in the first phase of implementation. Steering Groups for the projects have been established and much work is being done to make preparations for the appointment of consultants over the coming months for these projects. The OPW and Donegal County Council will work closely to ensure that the projects that are not in the initial tranche of projects to be progressed will be commenced as early as possible in the coming years and within the 10 year timeframe for the programme of investment.

The proposed flood relief schemes at Downings and Carrowkeel (Kerrykeel) are included in the 31 small projects under €1 million, and are being progressed directly by Donegal County Council with full funding from the OPW.

The proposed projects for Ramelton, Letterkenny and Rathmullan are not part of the first phase of projects to be advanced, but the OPW and Donegal County Council will work closely to ensure that they will be commenced in the coming years and within the ten-year timeframe for the programme of investment.

Public Appointments Service

Questions (234)

Bobby Aylward

Question:

234. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to implement a recruitment campaign for HEO and third secretary posts within the Civil Service in quarter 2 of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19159/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Public Appointment Service (PAS) is the independent recruiter for the civil service.

I understand from PAS that an open Third Secretary competition was held in 2018 and 30 people were assigned from the panel to the end of February 2019. As part of ongoing workforce planning the question of holding a further open Third Secretary competition in 2019 will be considered. Third Secretaries are only recruited through open competitions.

PAS are in the process of completing an interdepartmental HEO competition which is open to civil servants only and which closed on 24 March 2019. Panels from such competitions, depending on the demand for staff, may be in place for 18 months to 2 years.

Individual departments and offices may of course recruit HEOs internally but this is a matter for individual departments having regard to their delegated sanction regarding staff numbers and sequences that apply for HEO competitions.

Flood Relief Schemes

Questions (235)

Mary Butler

Question:

235. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when persons (details supplied) will be contacted in relation to the home relocation scheme; the expected timeframe for the process to be completed; the supports available to applicants in the interim until relocation is facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19163/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

In 2010 and 2017, the Office of Public Works (OPW), through its Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme, provided Waterford City and County Council with financial support to allow flood mitigation measures to be completed in the form of the construction of earth bunds around part of the perimeter boundary of the property referred to by the Deputy.

The Voluntary Homeowners Relocation Scheme (VHRS) is a once off scheme targeted at those homeowners whose primary residence flooded during the flooding event in December 2015 and January 2016.

Before the VHRS can be considered, it is necessary to determine if there is a feasible engineering solution to the issue. The OPW and the Local Authority have commenced a further technical assessment of the subject property.

Pension Provisions

Questions (236)

Seán Fleming

Question:

236. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position in relation to the restoration of a public service pension to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19231/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I am taking it that the question refers to the impact of the Government’s pension increase policy, and not to the amelioration and eventual abolition of the Public Service Pension Reduction.

As the Deputy will be aware, pay cuts were imposed on serving public servants under the FEMPI legislation in 2010 and 2013. The pension recipient in this case was protected from the effect of the 2013 pay cut by the operation of what is known as the ‘grace period’, whereby his pension benefits were calculated based on the pay rates that applied prior to the 2013 cut (i.e. based on the rates of pay in place after the 2010 cut had been applied).

To answer the question fully, reference must first be had to what is happening in relation to the pay of serving public servants. Apart from pay restoration under the FEMPI legislation, which has now returned pay rates to the levels that applied prior to the 2013 pay cuts, pay increases in 2016 and 2017, and from 2018 on under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 – 2020 (PSSA), have the effect of bringing the salaries of serving public servants back up towards (or in the case of lower paid public servants, in excess of) the rates of pay that applied before the 2010 pay cut was applied.

Under the Government’s current pensions increase policy agreed as part of the PSSA, a pay increase is passed on to a ‘qualifying pension’ if the pensionable pay on which the pension is based is lower than the rate of pay of a serving member of staff (assuming the pension relates to the same grade and scale point) after the pay increase has been granted. Similar to the process that I have described for serving staff, the effect of those pension increases for a ‘qualifying pension’ is to bring the rate of pension up towards the pension rate that applies to an equivalent pension recipient with the same grade and scale point who retired prior to the FEMPI pay cut of 2010.

I can confirm that the individual in question is in receipt of a ‘qualifying pension’. Accordingly, he has qualified for, and been paid, pension increases on foot of both the 1 January 2018 and 1 October 2018 pay increases to the salaries of serving staff, and I can confirm that he will continue to qualify for further pension increases as the relevant pay increases are paid to serving staff under the terms of the PSSA.

Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service

Question No. 238 answered with Question No. 224.

Questions (237)

Barry Cowen

Question:

237. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the annual cost of running the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service; the number of persons working for the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19427/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Irish Government Economic and Evaluation service (IGEES), established in 2012, is an integrated, cross Government service that aims to support better policy formulation and implementation in the civil service through policy analysis and evaluation. IGEES is not a standalone service. IGEES staff are an integral part of each Department, adding their skill set to the varied expertise working on policy analysis and formulation as directed by Departmental business plans. The IGEES network consists of civil servants working in policy analysis and evaluation prior to the establishment of IGEES, as well as those newly recruited through the IGEES stream.

The number of IGEES staff increased from approximately 30 in 2012 to over 160 in 2018. The majority of IGEES staff are employed at Administrative Officer (AO) grade. From 2012 to 2016, costs were almost entirely related to pay – for each Department’s existing and newly recruited analysts – and formed part of each Department’s overall pay allocation as presented in the Revised Estimates Volume.

In 2017, an IGEES budget line was established to support the implementation of the IGEES Medium Term Strategy 2016-19. Total expenditure for the IGEES programme line in 2017 and 2018 was €178,111 and €156,491 respectively, while the allocation in 2019 is €350,000. The IGEES programme line supports the delivery of:

- IGEES Learning and Development Framework (accounted for just under 50% of expenditure for the period 2016-17 and delivered a wide range of training courses such as cost-benefit analysis, statistical programming, counterfactual impact evaluation etc.)

- IGEES Research Fund, which supports cross-Departmental research projects (accounted for 30% of expenditure for the period 2016-17 and co-funded two projects on housing conducted collaboratively by the Department of Housing and Department of Finance, which involved commissioning of the survey field work)

- Civil Service analytical capacity building through IGEES recruitment and IGEES internship

- IGEES events including conferences and seminars.

Question No. 238 answered with Question No. 224.

National Monuments

Questions (239)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

239. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the OPW will undertake to fund urgent restoration work required at Terreraght Castle, a Norman tower house, in New Ross, County Wexford; if the attention of the OPW has been drawn to the condition of this historic monument which in its present condition has necessitated the closure of a local important link road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19540/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Office of Public Works is funded to protect designated National Monuments which are defined in legislation. Along with many other similar structures, Terreraght Castle is not a designated National Monument and therefore OPW has no responsibility or funding to undertake any works required at it.

Office of Public Works Properties

Questions (240)

Catherine Martin

Question:

240. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will clarify with the OPW when the original gates will be returned to the entrances to the Phoenix Park; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19575/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

In preparation for the Mass for the World Meeting of Families 2018 in the Phoenix Park, a number of historic Park gates were removed for health and safety reasons to ensure the safe and free movement of people attending the Mass. As part of the project plan for the temporary removal and reinstatement of the gates, under Section 5 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, the Office of Public Works is required to undertake conservation work at a number of the entrances.

This is a very significant conservation project and the work is highly complex. It is not possible at this stage to provide a definitive completion date for the works including the reinstatement of the original gates. Significant work will commence during 2019, largely off site, on the conservation of the original gates, features, etc. Progress updates will be made available to the public as the project advances on the Phoenix Park website www.phoenixpark.ie and on OPW social media pages.

Intestate Estates

Questions (241)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

241. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of residential properties that the State has inherited as the ultimate intestate successor in each of the years 2011 to 2018; the number of units sold off by year; and the number of units that are retained by the State, both in use and vacant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19609/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Section 73 of the Succession Act 1965 provides that where a person dies intestate and without known next-of-kin the estate of that person shall be taken by the State as ultimate intestate successor. The functions under the Succession Act 1965 were transferred from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under Statutory Instrument 318 (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order 2015.

As well as the above, all or part of the estate of a deceased person might fall to the State where certain provisions of a will are defective or where persons who otherwise would be entitled to succeed have disclaimed their right to do so.

Upon notification to the State of the death of a person who has died intestate and without obvious next-of-kin, the Attorney General generally nominates the Chief State Solicitor to extract a Letter of Administration.

As part of the process, the Probate Office will direct as to advertising requirements seeking next-of-kin. Where next-of-kin come forward, the Grant in favour of the State can be revoked if it has been obtained or if the Grant has not been obtained then the Chief State Solicitor withdraws from the proceedings in favour of the next-of-kin.

Section 73(2) of the 1965 Act gives the Minister the right to waive the State's interest in an estate which has fallen to the State under the Succession Act 1965. The Department seeks the advice of the CSSO on applications for a waiver of the State's interest under Section 73 of the Succession Act 1965. The Chief State Solicitor’s Office, in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office, deal with the legal issues involved and the Minister makes his decision following consideration of the Attorney General’s advice.

My Department is currently engaging with the CSSO in relation to the information sought by the Deputy. Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide a response in the time available as this involves an individual review of each file. A response will be provided to the Deputy at the earliest opportunity.

Government Expenditure

Questions (242)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

242. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the Government expenditure in each of the years 2007 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19736/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

As set out in the most recent fiscal monitor, total gross voted expenditure to end-April 2019 amounted to €20,247 million. This is 5.4% or €1,031 million higher than the same period in 2018 and €146 million, or 0.7%, behind profile. Gross voted current expenditure is up 4.1% or €740 million in year-on-year terms and is 0.8%, or €143 million, below profile. Gross voted capital is 25.7%, or €291 million, higher than the end-April 2018 position and is -0.2%, or €3 million, behind profile.

Table 1 below sets out gross voted expenditure for the years 2007 to 2019. The data provided here is broken into gross voted current and capital expenditure for each year. A Departmental breakdown of this expenditure data can be found on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s databank, which can be found at databank.per.gov.ie. This website provides detail on expenditure back to 1994.

Table 1

Year

Current

Capital

Total

€m

€m

€m

2007

48,607

7,819

56,426

2008

53,384

9,011

62,395

2009

55,719

7,333

63,051

2010

54,179

6,385

60,564

2011

52,847

4,515

57,362

2012

52,149

3,809

55,958

2013

50,986

3,387

54,373

2014

50,501

3,597

54,098

2015

50,864

3,730

54,594

2016

51,775

4,212

55,987

2017

54,019

4,601

58,620

2018*

57,052

5,928

62,979

2019**

59,291

7,342

66,633

*Provisional Outturn. Does not include capital carryover from 2017 into 2018 of c. €70m.

**Revised Estimates and Further Revised Estimates.

Civil Service Staff Data

Questions (243, 244)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

243. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the specific locations of Departments in County Kildare to which persons could be assigned to as principal officer positions that were advertised under www.publicjobs.ie. [19948/19]

View answer

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

244. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a list of principal officer positions that are based in County Kildare will be provided; the exact locations in the county of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19949/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 and 244 together.

The information requested regarding the number of Principal Officer positions in County Kildare is not available in my Department.

As the Deputy will be aware, Government departments have been working under delegated sanction arrangements for their recruitment and staffing issues since 2015. Under these arrangements, there are multi-annual pay ceilings agreed and set and thereafter decisions about recruitment and promotion and overall grade composition up to and including Principal Officer level are devolved.

In general selection competitions within the Irish Civil Service take place by way of;

- competitions confined to particular departments (Internal promotion) or

- from competitions open to candidates from all departments (Interdepartmental promotion) or

- from open competitions to all eligible candidates including members of the public

Candidates who are successful at a competition are ranked in order of merit and are placed on panels to await appointment when and if a vacancy arises. Recruitment and promotions are made on the basis of an agreed method of sequence. Within the civil service, sequences vary for each grade and usually involve a combination of open, interdepartmental and internal panels.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Public Appointments Service (PAS) is an independent, statutory body which provides professional recruitment and selection services to the civil and public service.

I am informed that PAS currently has panels in place for the grade of Principal Officer from competitions held in 2017. These competitions, both standard and higher, were held in order to create panels of qualified individuals from which departments could draw when filling vacancies. I understand 53 people were taking from both panels up to the end of February 2019. I understand that there were no PO vacancies in County Kildare.

The establishment of a panel for a location(s) is based on demand as notified to PAS. Vacancies will be filled, including vacancies in County Kildare, if any, as and when required by employing departments.

Pension Provisions

Questions (245)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

245. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason public service retirees who retired after 28 February 2012 have their pension increases linked to the pay restoration timetable of their serving colleagues (details supplied); if their pension rights will be restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20083/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Deputy will appreciate that it is necessary to distinguish between pension restoration, which refers to the amelioration and eventual abolition of the Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR), and the pension increase policy agreed as part of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 – 2020 (PSSA).

Regarding the first of these, the Deputy will be aware that the FEMPI cuts imposed on salaries were not passed on to pensions in payment, but rather the PSPR, governed by the FEMPI 2010 Act (as amended), imposed a reduction on certain public service pensions from 1 January 2011, subject to various exemption thresholds and rate bands. The FEMPI 2015 Act and the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 Act substantially lessened both the impact of PSPR and the numbers of pension recipients affected by it in 2018 and 2019, and the effects will extend even further in 2020. Since 1 January 2018, the majority of public service pensions have not been subject to PSPR.

On the other hand, the majority of the salaries of serving staff have not yet been restored to the levels in payment prior to the first round of FEMPI cuts in January 2010.

As regards the pension increase policy for pre-existing pension schemes agreed as part of the PSSA, I would note that this policy is essentially a time-limited (expires end-2020) resumption of the non-statutory pension increase arrangements, sometimes known as pay parity, which formerly prevailed, but which lapsed in 2010. Under that policy, pay increases applied to serving staff over the course of the PSSA are passed on to those pensions where the salary on which the pension is based, in any case, does not exceed the salary of a serving staff member with the same grade and scale point, after the pay increase has been applied. If it qualifies, the pension is eligible for an increase to the extent that this will ensure alignment with the pay of serving staff.

For former public servants who retired before March 2012, their pension was calculated on the higher salary rates that were in payment prior to imposition of the FEMPI cuts. As the salary rates of the majority of serving public servants have not yet been restored to those levels, in the main, this cohort of pension recipients have not yet qualified for increases. By contrast, former public servants who retired from March 2012 onwards had the 2010 FEMPI cut reflected in the salary used to calculate their pension. Accordingly, as PSSA pay increases are granted to serving staff, bringing their pay rates closer to pre-FEMPI levels, this cohort of pension recipients will benefit, over the course of the PSSA, from consequential increases to their pensions with the same effective date as the pay increases applied to their colleagues still in service.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Questions (246)

Robert Troy

Question:

246. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to support the development of a national hairdressing apprenticeship by an organisation (details supplied). [18561/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The development of a new national apprenticeship in hairdressing is almost complete. The apprenticeship was proposed by the Hairdressing Council of Ireland (HCI) with Limerick and Clare, Education and Training Board (ETB) as the coordinating provider. The consortium leading the development of the apprenticeship is made up of industry representatives from the HCI, Synergy Hair Group, the Irish Hairdressing Federation and Peter Mark.

The three year programme will be offered at level 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications and is expected to be underway by quarter 3, 2019. It is proposed that there will be a pilot of the apprenticeship in 6 ETBs and following this it will be rolled out nationally.

The proposed new hairdressing apprenticeship programme will meet skill needs in the industry by providing a sustainable stream of long term suitable employees.

School Transport

Questions (247)

John McGuinness

Question:

247. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the maintenance charges on the Bus Éireann school transport fleet are charged on a per mile basis in accordance with the 1975 agreement or on a per bus basis; if not, the date on which his Department agreed to a change in this per mileage charge; and the date the change was implemented. [18745/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the 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 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements remain as the current arrangements in operation and they offer significant benefits. The arrangements allow the State to leverage available transport management and tendering expertise within an established semi-State company for the benefit of an exchequer funded scheme.

On an annual basis Bus Éireann provides the Department with the projected cost of school transport services together with a provisional spread of payments. These costs are broken down under the headings agreed in the 1975 arrangement which include payments to contractors, maintenance, Bus Éireann driver costs and the transport management charge.

In terms of maintenance, Bus Éireann vehicles are brought into the garage every six weeks for a full maintenance check. The maintenance charges for these vehicles are based on identified required works and are allocated on a per vehicle basis.

Bus Éireann report the maintenance costs to the Department on a monthly basis as part of the monthly operational meetings.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Questions (248)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

248. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been offered an apprenticeship course in Gaoth Dobhair, County Donegal, instead of either Shannon or Athlone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19456/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The SOLAS apprenticeship scheduling management system aims to call apprentices for their off-the-job training, on a longest waiting basis on the day of scheduling to the nearest available Education and Training Board or Institute of Technology. Whilst every effort is made to eliminate unnecessary travel, unfortunately for some apprentices it is impossible to avoid having to attend training facilities that are not in their locality. All apprentices are advised of this process at their mandatory induction briefings. The system ensures that apprenticeship training facilities are used in the most efficient way possible.

In situations where apprentices are required to move from their current place of residence, in order to take up an offer of a training place, they are entitled to make an application for an accommodation allowance, in addition to their weekly training allowance, for the duration of the course.

In this case, training places for Shannon and Athlone had been allocated on the longest waiting basis on the day of scheduling in accordance with SOLAS policy.