Help-To-Buy Scheme Expenditure

Questions (103)

Michael McGrath

Question:

103. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the cost of the help to buy scheme to date; the cost of the scheme by each year of its operation; if the cost of continuing the scheme in 2020 is already provided for in the base; his views on the continuation of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28856/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Help to Buy incentive (HTB) was announced in Budget 2017 and backdated to apply from 19 Jul 2016. I am advised by Revenue that the total cost of the incentive to 31 May 2019, the most recent month for which data are available, is in the order of €177.5 million.

I am also advised by Revenue that the cost of the scheme by each year of its operation is as follows:

Year

Cost (€M)

2019*

35.4

2018

73.2

2017

50.5

2016

18.4

*to 31 May 2019

The Help to Buy incentive (HTB) is scheduled to expire on 31 December 2019. This is provided for in Section 477C of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Accordingly, there is no provision in the current budgetary arithmetic in respect of the measure beyond end-December 2019. As is normal practice, the role and operation of the incentive will be examined in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill process. It would be premature at this point to anticipate the outcome of that examination.

State Banking Sector Regulation

Questions (104)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

104. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if State owned banks are investing in or lending to companies directly involved in fossil fuel extraction; if so, the extent of such commercial activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28862/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I wish to inform the Deputy that this information is not in the possession of my Department. Furthermore decisions in regards to commercial activities are the sole responsibility of the boards and management of the individual banks which must be run on an independent and commercial basis. The independence of these banks is protected by Relationship Frameworks which are legally binding documents that cannot be changed unilaterally. These frameworks are publicly available and were insisted upon by the European Commission to protect competition in the Irish market.

However the Deputy may find the annual AIB Sustainability Report useful (it can be found at https://aib.ie/content/dam/aib/personal/docs/sustainability/sustainability-summary-report-2018.pdf ). The PTSB annual report also contains information which may of interest (it can be found at https://www.permanenttsbgroup.ie/~/media/Files/I/Irish-Life-And-Permanent/Attachments/pdf/2019/2018-full-year-report-for-ptsbgh-27022019.pdf ).

Economic Competitiveness

Questions (105)

Robert Troy

Question:

105. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he has had meetings with the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council to discuss the National Competitiveness Council report Cost of Doing Business in Ireland 2019 since it was published; the actions or issues that were identified to implement urgently; the actions that will be taken to tackle the competitiveness deficiencies and increased cost of doing business across several sectors and metrics in the report; the immediate actions he will be taking in areas for which he has a policy remit; the meetings he has had with Ministerial colleagues and State agencies under his remit since the report was published regarding actions to be taken; and if further studies will be commissioned by him on competitiveness weaknesses in the economy and the cost of doing business. [28998/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Under the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) has been assigned responsibility for examining and reporting on the appropriateness of the fiscal stance in Ireland. This is in line with the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union.

One of its functions under the Act involves IFAC providing an independent assessment of the official macroeconomic forecasts of the Department of Finance. This is the so-called ‘endorsement function’ which requires that IFAC “endorse, as it considers appropriate, the macroeconomic forecasts prepared by the Department of Finance on which the Budget and Stability Programme will be based ”.

It is in this context that my officials meet with members of the IFAC Secretariat and Council as part of the Stability Programme Update (SPU) and the Budget process each year. However, beyond the Council’s statutory functions, as provided for under the 2012 Fiscal Responsibility Act, IFAC has no legislative role in the production or analysis of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) reports. I can confirm therefore that neither I nor my officials have had any meetings with the IFAC in this regard.

Separately, a representative from my Department attends the meetings of the NCC in an advisory capacity. However, policy responsibility for competitiveness issues lies with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (BEI) and as such, the NCC prepares and submits its reports to the Taoiseach and the Government, through the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

The Department of Finance perspective is that as a small open economy, it is essential that we maintain our competitiveness and ensure that the cost of doing business does not act as an impediment to this. In this regard, Future Jobs Ireland is an integral component of the Government’s over-arching plan for the future of the Irish economy. Given the central role that the NCC plays in informing competitiveness and productivity policy, in Future Jobs 2019 the Government has committed to responding to the NCC’s annual priority recommendations to enhance productivity and competitiveness performance.

As we look to the future, we must be cognisant of the risks to the outlook posed by Brexit, increasing protectionism and changes to the international tax landscape. Given these challenges over the horizon, the government remains committed to ensuring that our economy is as resilient in bad times as it is dynamic in good times.

As Minister for Finance, the best way to ensure that we chart a way forward through these uncertain times ahead, is through continued prudent budgetary policy, careful management of the public finances and by ensuring we focus on competitiveness-oriented policies.

Credit Union Regulation

Questions (106)

Denis Naughten

Question:

106. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he will meet with the president of an organisation (details supplied) with regard to the Central Bank legislation on the regulation of credit unions; the specific provisions in such legislation which recognise the fact that credit unions have a community remit rather than the shareholder remit of commercial banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29018/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have had extensive engagement with the credit union sector to date this year. In February, I held a credit union stakeholder engagement event which was attended by the President of the organisation that the Deputy refers to in his question. I also attended and spoke at that organisation's AGM in April. These events provided me with valuable feedback from the credit union sector itself. In addition the Credit Union Advisory Committee is currently conducting a survey of all credit union directors, which I hope will provide valuable data to inform future policy.

The Deputy will also be pleased to note that I intend to arrange a further stakeholder engagement session with the president of the organisation referred to, along with other credit union representative bodies, to cover a range of topics of importance to the sector including legislative and regulatory issues. Officials in my Department will engage with the organisation concerned in due course to arrange this meeting. The Deputy may also wish to note that officials within my Department have regular and extensive engagement with the sector, including the credit union representative bodies.

In terms of regulation, credit unions are regulated and supervised under the Credit Union Act, 1997. The Registrar of Credit Unions at the Central Bank is the independent regulator for credit unions. Within his independent regulatory discretion, the Registrar acts to support the prudential soundness of individual credit unions, to maintain sector stability, and to protect the savings of credit union members.

Real Estate Investment Trusts

Questions (107, 108)

Michael McGrath

Question:

107. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of dividend withholding tax paid by REITs here each year since REITs were established in Irish legislation; the amount of dividend withholding tax refunded to shareholders in each of these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29021/19]

View answer

Michael McGrath

Question:

108. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of dividend withholding tax paid by IREFs here each year since IREFs were established in Irish legislation; the amount of dividend withholding tax refunded to shareholders in each of these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29022/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 108 together.

In relation to the Deputy's question on Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), the rules on REITs in Ireland are set out in Part 25A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and were introduced by Finance Act 2013. Irish REITs are collective investment vehicles which invest in Irish property. The income and gains from Irish property are not taxed within the REIT but are instead taxed in the hands of the investor when distributed. REITs must distribute at least 85% of their property profits and gains to shareholders each year. A REIT is subject to corporation tax on any income or gains arising from any other business (i.e. non-property business) that it carries on.

Dividend Withholding Tax (DWT) at 20% must be applied to all distributions from REITs, other than those distributed to certain limited classes of investors such as pensions and charities as they are more generally exempt from tax. I am advised by Revenue that the available information is the net DWT collected in respect of dividends paid by REITs for 2015 onwards and is set out in the following table. Identification of the refunds of DWT specific to REITs payments is not readily available as it would require a review of the returns of individual taxpayers.

Year

Amount of DWT Collected

2015

€4.0m

2016

€7.8m

2017

€11.8m

2018

€12.4m

In relation to the Deputy's second question, Section 23 Finance Act 2016 introduced, and Section 18 Finance Act 2017 amended, the Irish Real Estate Fund (IREF) regime, which took effect for accounting periods commencing on or after 1 January 2017. Unit holders in an IREF are subject to IREF withholding tax at a rate of 20% on payments made to them by the fund. IREFs are required to declare and pay this withholding tax on an annual basis. I am advised by Revenue that the first return and payment of IREF withholding tax was due 31 July 2018, for funds having accounting periods that ended in the second half of 2017. The amount of IREF withholding tax collected on the distribution of profits by relevant IREFs was approximately €9m for this period.

Returns were due to Revenue in January in respect of funds with accounting periods ending in the six months to July of 2018. These returns are currently being analysed and information will be available in due course. As is the case with REITs, identification of the refunds of DWT specific to IREF payments is not readily available as it would require a review of the returns of individual taxpayers.

Tax Appeals Commission

Questions (109, 110)

Michael McGrath

Question:

109. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of times the Revenue Commissioners appealed Tax Appeals Commission decisions to the courts in each year since the establishment of the Tax Appeals Commission; the value of tax at the centre of those appeals; the outcome of those appeals; the number of appeals still awaiting a court decision; the value of those appeals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29023/19]

View answer

Michael McGrath

Question:

110. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of times taxpayers appealed Tax Appeals Commission decisions to the courts in each year since the establishment of the Tax Appeals Commission; the value of tax at the centre of those appeals; the outcome of those appeals; the number of appeals still awaiting a court decision; the value of those appeals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29024/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 110 together.

The Tax Appeals Commission was established on 21 March 2016. A party to an appeal which is dissatisfied with a Tax Appeals Commission determination on the grounds that the determination is erroneous on a point of law, may require the Appeal Commissioner to state and sign a “case stated” for the opinion of the High Court. A request for a case stated does not necessarily mean that an appeal will be filed at the High Court – the ultimate decision as to whether or not to lodge the appeal to the High Court rests with the party who requested the case stated.

I am advised by the Tax Appeals Commission that the following table shows the number of determinations which resulted in a request to state and sign a case stated by the Appeals Commissioner, since establishment:

Year

Request for cases stated

2016

0

2017

3

2018

11

2019

8

Total

22

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the following table contains information in relation to the years 2016 to date for the number of instances in which the Revenue Commissioners have appealed a determination of the Appeal Commissioners to the courts and the outcome of these appeals.

Year

No. appeals

Settled and/or withdrawn

Awaiting a hearing

Struck out

Awaiting a decision

Revenue unsuccessful

2016

1

1

2017

2

2

2018

2

1

1

2019

2

2

Total

7

Nil

2

1

2

2

The following table contains information in relation to the years 2016 to date for the number of cases in which a taxpayer has appealed a determination of the Appeal Commissioners to the courts and the outcome of these appeals.

Year

No. appeals

Settled and/or withdrawn

Awaiting a hearing

Struck out

Awaiting a decision

2016

0

2017

1

1

2018

6

3

2

1

2019

0

Total

7

3

3

Nil

1

I am further advised by both the Revenue Commissioners and the Tax Appeals Commission that neither are in a position to provide information on the value of the tax at the centre of these appeals in the time allowed for the reply to these questions.

The Revenue Commissioners however will carry out an exercise to obtain the information concerned and they will communicate directly with the Deputy in that regard. However, in that context, it is important to note that all taxpayers are entitled to confidentiality in the handling of their tax affairs, including in the case of matters that end up subject to the appeals process. Consequently, in providing any statistical information in relation to a relatively small number of cases that have been appealed to the courts, the Revenue Commissioners must be mindful that they do not inadvertently breach, or run the risk of breaching in the future, their statutory obligation under section 851A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to preserve a taxpayer’s right to confidentiality.

The Tax Appeals Commission do not keep a record of the value of tax in relation to these appeals. An application to the High Court following a case stated is a matter for the parties to an appeal and this information is not available to the Tax Appeals Commission.

Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland Data

Questions (111)

Michael McGrath

Question:

111. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number and value of Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland loans approved each year since it was established; the number and value of loans issued each year for the same years by sector in the economy in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29025/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) is Ireland’s national promotional institution. The purpose of the SBCI is to deliver effective financial supports to Irish SMEs, address gaps and potential failures in the Irish SME finance market, as well as encouraging competition and innovation, and facilitating the efficient and effective use of EU resources and financial instruments. The SBCI achieves this through the provision of low cost liquidity and risk-sharing guarantee activities that support the provision of appropriately priced, flexible funding to Irish SMEs.

Instead of lending directly to SMEs, the SBCI operates through partner finance providers, known as on-lenders. The SBCI has provided funding to a mixture of both banks and non-bank finance providers and currently has 6 on-lenders, 3 bank and 3 non-bank finance providers: AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, Finance Ireland Limited, Bibby Financial Services Ireland, and FEXCO Asset Finance.

The SBCI’s priority is meeting the credit needs of SMEs not currently being fully met by the private sector. Consequently, the SBCI’s lending to SMEs is largely driven by market demands. Figures provided by the SBCI to my Department show that, since the SBCI began its activities in March 2015, to the end of December 2018, the total amount of SBCI supported lending activity, through the provision of liquidity, was €900 million to 21,783 Irish SMEs supporting 141,658 jobs. Under the SBCI’s risk sharing schemes, €152 million has been drawn down by 4,278 SMEs, this has supported 6,572 jobs. The SMEs who have received SBCI finance are from a variety of business sectors with agriculture consistently representing the largest sector.

A breakdown of the SBCI’s supported lending for each year and broken down by sector is provided in the following tables:

2015

Liquidity Scheme: 4,558 loans drawn totalling €205,729,822

Sector

Number

Value

Accommodation & Food Service

6%

15%

Admin & Support Service

17%

10%

Agriculture

38%

23%

Construction

5%

2%

Manufacturing

5%

10%

Other

9%

15%

Professional & Scientific

4%

4%

Transport & Storage

3%

3%

Wholesale & Retail Trade

13%

18%

2016

Liquidity Scheme: 8,161 loans drawn totalling €367,896,310

Sector

Number

Value

Accommodation & Food Service

6%

14%

Admin & Support Service

16%

9%

Agriculture

37%

22%

Construction

7%

5%

Manufacturing

5%

7%

Other

9%

15%

Professional & Scientific

4%

5%

Transport & Storage

4%

5%

Wholesale & Retail Trade

12%

18%

2017

Liquidity Scheme: 6,099 loans drawn totalling €215,508,073

Sector

Number

Value

Accommodation & Food Service

5%

9%

Admin & Support Service

13%

12%

Agriculture

42%

28%

Construction

9%

9%

Manufacturing

4%

7%

Other

8%

12%

Professional & Scientific

3%

3%

Transport & Storage

4%

5%

Wholesale & Retail Trade

12%

15%

Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme: 4,247 loans drawn totalling €144,945,687

Sector

Number

Value

Beef

47%

39%

Dairy

38%

45%

Horticulture

1%

1%

Other

6%

5%

Pigmeat

1%

1%

Sheepmeat

3%

2%

Tillage

4%

7%

2018

Liquidity Scheme: 2,987 loans drawn totalling €110,636,574

Sector

Number

Value

Beef

47%

39%

Dairy

38%

45%

Horticulture

1%

1%

Other

6%

5%

Pigmeat

1%

1%

Sheepmeat

3%

2%

Tillage

4%

7%

Brexit Loan Scheme: 60 loans drawn totalling €13,645,025

Sector

Number

Accommodation & Food Service

2%

Agriculture (Non Primary)

2%

Construction Sector

3%Number

ManufacturingAccommodation & Food Service

30%2%

Other

30%

Professional & Scientific

6%

Wholesale & Retail Trade

27%

The SBCI continues to work on developing new innovative products, such as the Brexit Loan Scheme, and the Future Growth Loan Scheme. The Deputy may rest assured that the SBCI is working to develop a more diverse range of on-lenders and innovative products. This means it is constantly adapting to meet the evolving requirements of the SME finance market, and contribute to a sustainable, inclusive and competitive economy.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (112)

Michael McGrath

Question:

112. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the central bank (amendment) Bill to be introduced into the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29028/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

As I announced recently, I received the agreement of Government on 18th June to begin the process of drafting heads of a Central Bank Amendment Bill. This follows extensive preparatory work by my officials, in consultation with the Central Bank, over the past year.

The next step in the process is engagement by my officials with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to begin drafting Heads of Bill. The issues being addressed by this legislation are complex and are required to be constitutionally sound in the event of legal challenge. This will require careful drafting to ensure that the proposed legislation is robust, fit for purpose, and legally sound. It is my intention to bring forward draft heads of Bill to Government for approval later this year and to progress the Bill for debate in the Houses following this.

The proposed legislation is necessary and timely and will drive positive changes in terms of wider banking culture, greater delegation of responsibilities, and enhanced accountability while simplifying the taking of sanctions against individuals who fail in their financial sector roles.

It is intended that the legislation will give the Central Bank the power to make regulations intended to drive greater accountability in the financial sector, raising the standards of expected behaviour for individuals and firms, in order to achieve better outcomes for consumers and improve the sustainability of the financial system.

The draft Heads of Bill will provide for:

- Introduction of a Senior Executive Accountability Regime (SEAR) which places obligations on firms and senior individuals within them to set out clearly where responsibility and decision-making lies;

- Introduction of Conduct Standards for individuals and firms to provide for statutory powers to set and impose binding and enforceable obligations on all Regulated Financial Service Providers (RFSPs) and individuals working within them with respect to expected standards of conduct;

- An enhanced Fitness & Probity Regime which includes provisions to enhance its effective operation and its ability to support the Central Bank’s proposed individual accountability framework and the conduct standards for individuals and firms;

- Breaking the “Participation Link” which addresses the known deficiency in the legislation which requires the Central Bank to first prove a contravention of financial services legislation against a RFSP before it can take an action against an individual; and

- Technical amendments to improve existing legislation and clarify certain statutory processes.

I also intend to address the principles set forth in Deputy Pearse Doherty's Private Member's legislation, around the provision of false and misleading information to the Central Bank.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (113)

Michael McGrath

Question:

113. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when he plans to introduce amendment legislation regarding limited partnerships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29030/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The updating of the Investment Limited Partnership (ILP) Act, 1994 is a priority on the Government's legislative programme. The ILP Act has been in use since 1994 and it is widely acknowledged that it needs to be updated to fit the environment and its intended clientele. There have been significant changes in the financial area in the past 25 years and the revisions contained in the published Bill are aimed at modernising the legislation. In doing so, this will underpin one of the strategic priorities in the recently published 'Ireland for Finance' strategy document, which is to make Ireland a global location for private equity funds.

The Bill of the amendments to the 1994 ILP Act was recently published. The intention is to progress the Bill through the Oireachtas as soon as possible and with the cooperation of all concerned it is hoped that it will have passed all stages this year. With this in mind, I anticipate that the Bill will be introduced into the House in the early Autumn session.

Brexit Issues

Questions (114)

Gerry Adams

Question:

114. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union will have an effect on the ability of educational institutions based here to apply for INTERREG funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28817/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland and the UK are currently partners in two EU-funded cross-border Cooperation Programmes, PEACE and INTERREG, with a total value of €550 million over the period 2014-2020. These programmes are 85% funded by the EU through the European Regional Development Fund under the European Union's Cohesion Policy.

The two programmes are important drivers of regional development in a cross-border context. Through EU-funded cooperation, a range of organisations North and South, including educational institutions, have engaged in and benefitted from a variety of cross-border and cross-community projects.

The Irish Government has been clear and consistent about its commitment to the successful implementation of the current PEACE and INTERREG programmes and to a successor programme post-2020.

As regards the current programmes, the draft Withdrawal Agreement would enable them to be completed without interruption or amendment up to their normal closure. In the event of no agreement, the EU has adopted a special Regulation that will enable the two programmes to continue to be financed from the EU budget, under current management structures and with funding levels unchanged, until closure.

As regards a future programme, the European Commission has responded to the Irish Government’s support for a future programme with a proposal for a special new PEACE PLUS programme that will build on and continue the work of PEACE and INTERREG into the future.

Flood Relief Schemes

Questions (115)

Michael McGrath

Question:

115. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 89 of 26 April 2018, the status of plans for a flood relief scheme in Ballinhassig, County Cork; the funding committed; the next steps in the process; the timeline for the completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28821/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

A pre-feasibility study into the flooding issues in Ballinhassig has been completed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and has identified a preferred option for the area. Further assessment of the environmental impacts is currently being reviewed to inform the planning process, after which the project will progress to planning and detailed design. While it is not possible to provide a timeframe for the project at this time, provision has been made in OPW’s multi annual financial profiles for the progression of the scheme to implementation.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (116)

Michael McGrath

Question:

116. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has made a decision to enable more finance to be obtained for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; if not, when he expects to be in a position to make the decision; the extra amount he will authorise for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29027/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan launched in February 2018 with initial funding of €200m expected to issue over three years. The actual level of demand has been higher than expected, as result of which, the scheme requires a further tranche of funds to be borrowed by the HFA for it to continue.

The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and I have been in discussions regarding additional funding. The request is subject to the normal deliberations afforded to any request of such nature, which would include general government balance and debt considerations in the context of a uniquely challenging budgetary situation for 2020. Further information regarding the estimation of the amount of extra funding is a matter for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. It is anticipated that an announcement regarding further funding for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan will be announced shortly.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Questions (117)

David Cullinane

Question:

117. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the spend for capital projects in County Waterford in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by project and cost in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28658/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform I am responsible for setting the overall capital allocations across Departments and for monitoring monthly expenditure at Departmental level. The responsibility for the management and delivery of the individual investment projects, within the time period 2014 - 2019, rests with the individual sponsoring Department in each case.

Under the umbrella of Project Ireland 2040, the Government has allocated capital funding for the national priorities set out in the National Planning Framework (NPF). The three Regional Assemblies are responsible for co-ordinating, promoting and supporting the strategic planning and sustainable development of their regions, by formulating Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES). The strategy for the South Eastern Region provides the opportunity for the priorities of Waterford, for example the priorities included in the existing County Development Plan, to be integrated into a regional investment plan which is expected to be a major driver of the implementation of the NPF.

A regional report on the South-East has been published on the Project Ireland 2040 website. The report details the specific regional projects and programmes which are being planned and delivered in the South-East as part of the public investment detailed in Project Ireland 2040, the Government’s National Planning Framework and National Development Plan.

I might also add that my Department publishes a major capital projects tracker, which sets out details of the key projects and programmes being implemented under the NDP, including the location of the projects where possible. The Tracker includes a number of major projects directly related to Waterford. The tracker currently focuses on projects and programmes with costs greater than €20 million. While it does not provide an exhaustive list of all capital expenditure, the list of projects serves to highlight the diverse range of infrastructural demands competing for the resources of the State.

Ministerial Transport

Questions (118)

John Lahart

Question:

118. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the model of the car or cars used by him in the performance of his official duties; and if it is a diesel, petrol or electric engine. [28717/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The car used for official duties is a Skoda Superb with a diesel engine.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (119)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

119. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to increase the threshold over which all public tenders have to go on e-tenders; his further plans to increase the level allowed for local tendering to facilitate the possibility of small local companies getting more contracts in order to sustain local small businesses nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28832/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Public Procurement is governed by WTO, EU and National rules and guidelines. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money.

WTO rules and EU Directives on public procurement require that public works, supplies and service contracts above certain thresholds must be advertised on the Official Journal of the EU and awarded on the basis of objective and non-restrictive criteria. For works contracts, the threshold is €5,548,000; for supplies and service contracts awarded by Government Departments, the threshold is €144,000 and for the remainder of public bodies, the threshold is €221,000. The threshold for supplies and service contracts of entities operating in utility sectors (water, energy, transport and postal) is €443,000. For contracts below these thresholds, the general requirement is that they be advertised on the national public procurement website www.etenders.gov.ie or, depending on value, awarded on the basis of a competitive process of direct invitation to an adequate number of suitable suppliers.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that the Office of Government Procurement developed Circular 10/14 which is aimed at facilitating small and medium-sized enterprises in competing for public procurement opportunities. In this regard, the following national rules apply to below EU threshold procurements:

- All public contracts for supplies and services with an estimated value of €25,000 (exclusive of VAT) and upwards should be advertised on the national public procurement website, www.etenders.gov.ie.

- The advertising threshold for works is set at €50,000 (exclusive of VAT).

- Suppliers of goods and services and especially the SME sector are encouraged to register on the e-Tenders website and avail of its facilities including receiving automatic alerts in relation to future tendering opportunities.

It is worth noting that these thresholds were reviewed last year in consultation with the SME Advisory Group, chaired by my colleague, Minister of State O'Donovan, which is comprised of representatives from IBEC, SFA, CIF, ISME and Chambers Ireland and it was recommended that the national thresholds remain at the current levels. The main reasons for setting the national thresholds at these levels is to open up public procurement opportunities to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and to achieve value for taxpayer’s money through competitive and transparent tendering processes. It is a basic principle of public procurement that a competitive process should be used.

These thresholds for advertising on etenders will be kept under review in light of the impact on operational efficiency, value for money and accessibility to business opportunities, particularly the SME sector.

School Staff

Questions (120)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

120. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on staffing levels at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28619/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30th September.

The school referred to by the Deputy is due to have one teaching post suppressed due to a fall in enrolments in September 2018.

The staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. It is open to Boards of Management to assess the criteria which best applies to their school and submit an appeal to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board. To date, the Department has not received a staffing appeal from the school referred to by the Deputy.

Circular 0019/2019, “Staffing Arrangements in Primary Schools for the 2019/20 School Year” provides details for schools wishing to make an appeal.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (121)

John Brady

Question:

121. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding options available to a person at work who wishes to undertake a course alongside their employment to learn new skills to complement their work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28649/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The main support available to students is the statutory based SUSI grant scheme. The scheme supported circa 78,000 students in 2018/19.

Under the terms of the student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means. Funding is available to students who meet the above criteria and are attending approved full-time courses in approved institutions, part time courses are not covered by the scheme

If a student is pursuing part-time studies then tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education, including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners at www.revenue.ie

Schools Establishment

Questions (122)

David Cullinane

Question:

122. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to support the building of an Educate Together secondary school in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28659/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.

Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in that area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, my Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain the up-to-date data on significant new residential development in each area. This is necessary to ensure that schools infrastructure planning is keeping pace with demographic changes as there is a constantly evolving picture with planned new residential development.

Where data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:

- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,

- Provision of a new school or schools.

A patronage process is run after it has been decided, based on demographic analysis, that a new school is required. This patronage process is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons. Parental preferences for each patron, from parents of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process.

As the Deputy may be aware, in April 2018 the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). This announcement follows nationwide demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country and the 4-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.

In addition to the new schools announced, there will be a need for further school accommodation in other areas in the future.

While the announcement did not include a new post-primary school in the Waterford school planning area, the requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard for the increased roll-out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.