It is somewhat regrettable that the Minister should break such a record this year in discussing the local government at this early date before the financial year for local bodies has completely closed—at any rate, before we had the final information as to how the finances of local bodies stand at the end of the year. While the Minister passes that over simply by a statement that according to the reports the position with regard to the rate collection has improved in a number of counties, in other counties the details that are available show that a very serious position with regard to rate collection still exists. In the case of say, Galway and Cork, there must be considerably more than £50,000 of arrears added to the very considerable arrears that accrued in these counties last year. The matter with regard to the financial position of local bodies can only be discussed when we get that information, and we may have that information by the time we come to discuss the Vote for the Supplementary Agricultural Grant. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that the Minister did not make some more elaborate statement with regard to the financial position of local bodies, in view of the fact that he has advised the county councils that they are going to suffer a cut of something like £716,000, from money they expected to receive from the State, by reason of the non-collection of land annuities in the year ended 31st January last. A very gloomy prospect must be opened up to those in charge of local government throughout the country when faced with the kind of statement that the Minister has supplied to them up to the present. If there is any suggestion that that matter is going to be reviewed, the sooner the local bodies know it the better. Otherwise, with the very considerable arrears that face them in the matter of rates, they will start the work of the new year with a very considerable handicap.
The Minister thought it necessary in the autumn before last to address a very vigorous circular to the local bodies with regard to the backwardness of the rate collection. He did not issue any circular of that kind in the autumn that has passed, although the position was considerably worse. Certainly there must be apprehension as to the position that will disclose itself when the figures for the year ended 31st March are available. As I say, in the case of two counties alone, it would look as if something more than £50,000 was going to be added to the considerable arrears which existed last year.
There is another matter to which the Minister might address himself. A considerable sum of money was withheld from local bodies the year before last on the ground that the Unemployment Assistance Bill was going to be introduced, that it would relieve local authorities of a very considerable amount of the money that they were spending on poor relief. The local authorities were disappointed because they had to bear the full burden of the poor relief for that year; and it was only during the year just passed that the Unemployment Assistance Act came into direct operation. It was only in operation from about April or May last. We had the position in the first week of January, 1935, that upwards of 75,000 persons were being given assistance under the Unemployment Assistance Act. Nevertheless, the local bodies found that they were at that time responsible for almost as big a burden of outdoor relief as they were supporting before the Unemployment Assistance Act came into force. The average weekly expenditure for home assistance in January, 1932, was £12,226 and in January, 1935, £12,217. The total number of persons in receipt of home assistance on the last Saturday of January, 1932, was 90,270 and in December, 1934, 86,104. The total number of persons was very nearly the same, and the cost to the local authorities was almost exactly the same, although very considerable sums of money were being paid out weekly under the Unemployment Assistance Act to more than 75,000 people.
Many local authorities have shown by the discussions which have taken place that the home assistance bill is a very considerable burden on them. It was only the other day that we had the Board of Assistance in Galway declaring that their bank had dishonoured some of their cheques, and they were in fact not able to meet the demands for home assistance. On several occasions throughout the year, as the Minister must be aware, local authorities found it necessary to suspend the payment of home assistance. That must have been a considerable hardship in the districts where it happened. Yet we have had no word from the Minister as to how it happens that the cost of home assistance now is as big as it was in 1932, in spite of the fact that very considerable sums of money are being spent in relief in other ways. Has the Minister taken any steps to see that what occurred during the last 12 months, when persons entitled to and passed for home assistance by local authorities were unable to obtain the home assistance because the money was not available, will not occur again? Have any steps been taken to remedy that position for the coming year? It is all the more necessary that steps should be taken to prevent occurrences like that this year, because the Minister is aware that an order has been issued under the Unemployment Assistance Act withholding unemployment assistance payments from certain classes during a period in April and May and during a period from July to the end of September.
Endeavour has been made by different Deputies to find out what there is in the economic condition of the country that indicates that payments under the Unemployment Assistance Act need not be paid during certain periods. If the Minister wants advice from anybody outside his own Party, he will find plenty to tell him that he need not expect any economic improvement in the months of April or May or July and September. Nevertheless, these moneys for relief are being cut off this year. They were cut off after the local authorities responsible for the provision of outdoor relief had made their estimates and had their estimates established in the matter of rates, so that there will, undoubtedly, be a deficit in certain areas in the amount of money that has been provided. If there was a deficit last year when there was full provision made, the position is likely to be worse this year. It is essential that the Minister should say what he hopes to do to meet the situation, for situation undoubtedly it is, and to prevent what happened last year happening again in certain areas.
When the Minister had a Supplementary Estimate before us a few weeks ago I urged on him the necessity for making a more detailed and more intelligible statement on the general matter of housing than he had up to then, and apparently, than he was prepared to make at that time. He comes before us and gives us no more information with regard to the general housing position than he did on the last day. Certain statements have been made as to the number of houses actually built. These have been apparently contradicted by statements issued recently to the Press and apparently by a statement which the Minister has issued. It is essential that we should get clear on the statistics of housing, in order to be perfectly sure of where we are going, but I think it is even more essential that we should get clear on the spirit in which he is pursuing his housing policy and what is happening to the people. We had the Mayor of Wexford, Deputy Corish, complaining in respect of the persons to whom houses were given by the Wexford Corporation, that when they had got houses, the next demand from the tenants was for work, so that they could pay their rents. In view of the fact that most of the houses in urban districts that are being built at the present moment are being built at a cost to the State of two-thirds of the total cost, and in view of the statistics the Minister quoted last year of the increases in the non-payment of rent in, at any rate the labourers' cottages, it would be desirable, that with instances no doubt before him in the country, he would give us some idea of the classes of persons that are being put into these houses and the extent to which he was assured that the comparatively small rents being demanded were likely to be paid. It is, I say, a very serious thing when a Deputy, a member of a local authority with the experience of Deputy Corish, with his understanding of the housing situation and the situation of the workers, finds himself driven to complain that that is the position of some of the tenants put into the newly-built houses in Wexford.
The Minister made a statement, published in the Irish Times of about three weeks ago, that the total number of houses built during the year ended December 31, 1934, was 12,332, the number built by local authorities being 6,093, and the number built by private persons and utility societies 6,239. The Minister, in reply to Parliamentary Questions, indicated the number of houses built under the different sections of the Act by private persons and public utility societies in various types of areas, and if he will refer to figures issued in that particular way he will find that the figures quoted for local authorities tally with the statement in the Irish Times, but when he comes to the figures for houses built by private persons he will find a discrepancy of 3,236. In other words, he says in his statement in the Irish Times that 6,239 houses have been built by private persons and public utility societies during the year ended December, 1934. He has given figures to the House showing that only 2,983 have been completed in that time, namely: in urban districts by private persons, 285; in urban districts by public utility societies, 60; in rural districts by private persons, 1,324 and in rural districts by public utility societies 1,314. When the Minister is so skimpy in the statement he makes to us with regard to housing generally, I think it is essential that there should be some kind of clear examination which will show us where the missing 3,256 houses are. The same type of discrepancy exists in the statement that he made recently in answer to Deputy Norton. He told Deputy Norton that the total number of houses completed at the end of February by private persons and public utility societies was 9,645. The figures he has already quoted to the House in greater detail show that 6,499 houses were completed under the Act by December 31 last.
The question of cost was raised with the Minister when this matter was under discussion before, and I put it to him that the 6,646 houses built by local authorities and the 3,010 built by local authorities in rural areas had cost £1,816,000 to the State and that the 2,473 houses built by private persons in urban areas and the 4,026 in rural areas by private persons and public utility societies had cost the State in grants £4,365.
I think it is essential that the Minister would come down more definitely to numbers and cost, and it is because the Minister has shown such reluctance to do so and because I consider the matter so important that I want to give the Minister, as it were, my side of that position. There is no use in thinking that the quotation of a big number of houses springing up, raising the hopes of the people that they are going to get houses, is going to give them houses or to help them to pay for them. Housing in the City of Dublin is in a very critical position at the present time, and the number of people who want houses in the City of Dublin is very great. The distresses that most of them are incurring at present are almost unbearable and I do not think that the present system of housing finance is going to use the money that is available in the country for housing in such a way that these people can be provided for. There are, unfortunately, people in the city looking for houses at the present time. They all get the same answer to their applications and the answer is something like this: that cases are being dealt with in the order of hardship; that the cases that are being dealt with first are those where people are living 12 to a room; next, 11 to a room; next, ten in a room, continuing that type of thing and then—next, tubercular cases; next, basements; next, dangerous buildings.
When the ordinary person is looking for a house a very considerable time must elapse before he has any hope of getting it, because a number of those classes require to be dealt with before the ordinary person can be touched. In the meantime, the ordinary person who is able to pay for a house, and who must be the foundation upon which the whole of our housing finance rests, is living in conditions which are demoralising, and which are sapping his strength and capacity to be a wage earner. As I say it is essential to get a clear idea as to what exactly is going on in building, and what it is costing. The Minister has thrown doubt on the figures that are being quoted. He has given us statistics with regard to the number of houses completed, which require to be reconciled. It is for that reason that I want to tell him that the following figures show the achievement in the completion of houses, in so far as we have been able to get information from him by detailed question and answer, up to the 31st December, 1934.
Clause 5 (1) (a) of the 1932 Act provided a grant of £45 for houses commenced between 1st April, 1929, and the 12th May, 1932, and completed on or before 31st December, 1932. One hundred and ninety-six in urban districts and 198 houses in rural districts were completed under that section, and I submit to the Minister that the cost to the State was £17,730. Under Clause 5 (1) (b) (1) grants of £70 were made available for houses commenced between 12th May, 1932 and 31st May, 1933. Under that clause 393 houses were completed, costing the State £27,510. Under Clause 5 (1) (b) (2) provision was made for a grant of £60 on houses commenced on or before 12th May, 1932, and completed between 1st June, 1933, and 31st March, 1934. Under that clause, 694 houses were completed, costing the State £41,640. Under Clause 5 (1) (b) (3) grants to the extent of £50 were payable on houses commenced on or after 12th May, 1932, and completed between 1st April, 1934, and 1st March, 1935. Under that clause, 667 houses were completed, costing the State £33,350. Under Clause 5 (1) (c) (1) grants of £70 were payable to persons deriving a livelihood from agricultural holdings under £15 valuation. Under that clause, 396 houses were erected at a cost of £27,720. Under Clause 5 (1) (c) (2) grants of £60 were made available to persons deriving a livelihood from agricultural holdings of between £15 and £25 valuation. Eighty-seven houses were built at a cost to the State of £5,220. Under Clause 5 (1) (d) grants of £70 were made available for agricultural labourers. One hundred and ninety-seven houses were completed at a cost of £13,790. Under Clause 5 (1) (e) grants of £45 were made available to private persons who built houses in rural areas; 1,329 houses were built at a cost of £59,805.
All those houses were built by private persons. They were completed, under the Act, up to 31st December, 1934. In all, 19,950 houses were built in urban areas, while 2,207 houses were completed in rural districts. The cost was £226,765. Public utility societies erected 523 houses in urban districts, and 1,819 houses in rural districts at a cost of £173,600. Those houses were erected as follows: Under clause 5 (1) (a), where there was a grant of £45, 30 houses were built in urban districts, and 12 in rural districts, the State grant amounting to £1,890. Under clause 5 (1) (b), where grants of £70 were made available, 84 houses were erected in urban districts, the cost to the State being £5,880. Under clause 5 (1) (b) (2), a grant of £60 was made available. In urban districts 175 houses were erected, the cost to the State being £10,500. Under clause 5 (1) (b) (3), where a grant of £50 was available, 214 houses were erected in urban districts, the cost to the State being £10,700. Under clause 5 (1) (f) (1), a grant of £80 was available for persons deriving a livelihood from agricultural holdings under £15 valuation. 1,219 houses were erected, the cost to the State being £97,520. Under clause 5 (1) (f) (2), a grant of £70 was available for persons deriving a livelihood from agricultural holdings between £15 and £25 valuation. 193 houses were erected, the cost to the State being £13,510. Under clause 5 (1) (f) (1), a grant of £80 was available in respect of agricultural labourers. 395 houses were erected, the cost to the State being £31,600. Under clause 5 (1) (I), 20 houses for town workers were erected at a cost of £2,000. I think the Minister informed the House that the cost would be £3,000, but I have put the cost down at £2,000 as I think that would be the statutory limit. The total number of those houses built by public utility societies was 523 in urban areas and 1,819 in rural areas, the cost to the State being £173,600, so that the total cost to the State under grants raised out of taxation was £400,365.
As far as local authorities were concerned, they built under clause 6 (1) (a) (1), 6,100 houses under replacement schemes. I have put it to the Minister that the average cost to the State of houses erected by the local authorities, when you take in Dublin City and other areas, is £300. 6,100 houses were erected in urban areas under replacement schemes during the period ended 31st December, 1934, the cost to the State being £1,220,000. Of ordinary houses erected under clause 6 (1) (a) (2), in respect of which the State pays 33? per cent. of the interest and sinking fund, 546 were completed at a cost of £54,600.
In the case of labourers' cottages, where the State pays 60 per cent. of the loan charges for 35 years, the total number built was 3,010, the cost to the State being £541,800. Therefore, I say, that the 6,646 houses erected by the local authorities in urban areas up to 31st December, 1934, and the 3,010 erected in rural areas, are costing the State £1,816,400. The total of 16,000 odd houses are then costing the State £2,250,000. I have already pointed out that under the previous Administration 24,000 odd houses were erected at an expenditure of about £1,250,000. The figures are more correctly: 24,131 houses were erected at a cost to the State of £1,609,152 as against 16,155 houses which are now costing the State £2,216,765, and whereas the £1,609,152 that went to the building of the 24,131 houses was paid out of revenue raised from year to year, leaving no debt on the State, the houses that have been built by local authorities are leaving a debt of £1,800,000 in respect of 9,656 houses.