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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 2 Nov 2011

Vol. 745 No. 2

Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Passport Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

11 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding an application for an Irish passport in the case of the child of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31853/11]

A passport application for the daughter of the person in question was submitted to the Passport Service on 1 June, 2011. In accordance with the provisions of the Passports Act 2008, this Department must be satisfied that an applicant is an Irish citizen before issuing her with a passport. As the applicant was born in the State in May, 2011 her entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by Section 6A of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, (the Act). The Act provides that a person, who is born in the State on or after 1 January, 2005 and does not have a parent who is either an Irish or British citizen or otherwise entitled to reside in the State or Northern Ireland without restriction, may claim citizenship by birth in the State (and thereby establish eligibility for a passport) only where a parent has been lawfully resident in the State for three of the four years preceding the birth of the child.

This Department assesses such applications in line with guidelines provided by the Department of Justice and Equality, which is responsible for matters of citizenship and immigration. In accordance with these guidelines, the proofs of lawful residence, which are accepted and considered in connection with passport applications, are immigration stamps in passports or the registration cards/books which are given to persons registering with the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Letters from GNIB which outline the various permissions to stay in the State that are issued by them, are also taken into account. These are official documents, which can be objectively verified and are relied on by the Department in the processing of passport applications.

In line with the requirements of the Act, the lawful residence in the State of the applicant's mother in the four year period preceding her daughter's date of birth was examined. As a result of this, the Department wrote to the person in question on 23 June and 20 July, 2011 to inform her that from the submitted evidence, the total amount of her reckonable residence did not meet with the statutory requirement of three years and that as her child's entitlement to Irish citizenship had not been demonstrated, the Department could not issue a passport to her.

However, solicitors representing the applicant's parents wrote to the Department on 28 July, 2011 and presented additional evidence of the mother's reckonable residence in Ireland. This evidence was in the form of a letter, dated 24 March, 2009, from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which granted permission to stay in the State for three years from the date of the letter. The effect of accepting this letter as evidence of reckonable residence for the purposes of the Act would increase the amount of reckonable residence above the statutory requirement thereby demonstrating the applicant's entitlement to Irish citizenship and a passport.

Legal advice from the Attorney General's Office has been obtained. Officials in the Passport Service are presently discussing this advice with the Department of Justice and Equality. I have asked for this case to be given highest priority with a view to finalising this matter in the next two weeks. I will revert to you directly at that time with the outcome of these consultations.

Human Rights Issues

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

12 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); if he has been in contact with the Pakistan authorities regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31839/11]

I am gravely concerned about the case of Mrs. Asia Bibi. In November 2010 a Punjab court found Mrs. Bibi guilty of blasphemy, sentencing her to death by hanging. I understand that this is the first time a woman has been sentenced to death in Pakistan under its blasphemy law. My information is that Mrs. Bibi's case is to be the subject of an appeal to the High Court in Punjab. Her detention while awaiting appeal, and the conditions of that detention, are deeply troubling. When the case came to the attention of my Department, a senior official contacted the Embassy of Pakistan to express our concern at the conviction and sentence. He also expressed our disquiet at the nature of Pakistan's blasphemy law. Mrs. Bibi's case and Pakistan's blasphemy laws were discussed at length during bilateral political consultations in Dublin at the end of May with the Pakistani Additional Foreign Secretary for Europe, when our concerns about the conviction, sentence and the nature of Pakistan's blasphemy laws were again strongly expressed.

Senior officials in my Department remain active on the case, including in representations to the authorities of Pakistan. Representations have been made as recently as last week to the Embassy of Pakistan.

At European level High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, has also expressed her concerns at the Asia Bibi judgement and others like it, and called on Pakistan to respect human rights as guaranteed under international conventions to which it is a party. She also re-affirmed the European Union's position on the death penalty as a cruel and inhuman punishment.

Respect for human rights is a cornerstone of foreign policy for both Ireland and the European Union as whole. The Pakistani Government has made commitments to protect religious minorities and to promote religious tolerance. The establishment of a Ministry for Human Rights, a Ministry for Minorities and the proposed establishment of an independent national Human Rights Commission are initiatives in this regard. However real, tangible progress on the ground is what is required.

I take this opportunity to urge the Pakistani Government to resolve Mrs. Bibi's case as soon as possible and to initiate a thorough review of its blasphemy law, including the use of the death penalty. I would also ask them to respond to the concerns of Ireland, and the international community, by addressing the conditions of Mrs. Bibi's detention. Mrs. Bibi's case will continue to be followed closely by me and my officials will remain in contact with the Pakistani authorities on this matter.

Foreign Conflicts

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

13 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will initiate a discussion at EU level on the possibility of produce from Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories being excluded from the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32255/11]

Further to my reply to the Deputy on 25 October, I have made my views known to my EU colleagues, and will continue to do so, when there are suitable opportunities, bilaterally and at EU level. However, as I have stated, it is clear that at this point this suggestion would not command sufficiently wide support.

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

14 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of money yet to be spent under his Department’s 2011 budget allocation before the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32286/11]

My Department is responsible for two Votes: Vote 28, Foreign Affairs and Vote 29, International Cooperation. The total allocation for 2011 for both Votes is €741m. The most recent report shows that total gross expenditure to the end of September was €506m.

Departmental Properties

Robert Troy

Ceist:

15 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has any property leased in private sector in County Westmeath; if so, the type of property; and the annual rent payable. [32301/11]

My Department has no property leased in the private sector in County Westmeath.

Tax Code

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

16 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on the VAT rate on handcrafts (details supplied); if he will consider the VAT in advance of Budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32449/11]

The VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the VAT Directive Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annexe III of the VAT Directive. I understand that the major sectors within the Irish craft industry are pottery, glass, jewellery, textiles and furniture. Annexe III does not provide for a reduced rate of VAT to be applied to these goods, which are consequentially subject to the standard VAT rate of 21%.

Vehicle Registration

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

17 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the introduction of two licensing periods in one year to incentivise car sales beyond the traditional year sales period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31760/11]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the registration of vehicles. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that some thought has been given to the question of having two registration periods in the one year. However, it is not clear if it would achieve its aim of spreading the sales of vehicles more evenly throughout the year. It may also distort the market of both new and second hand sales during the year of introduction and may deny vehicle owners of reasonable expectations of the future value of their vehicles. For these reasons, this proposal needs considerably further study and analysis before any change could even be considered.

Furthermore, any potential change to the system would involve significant costs for Revenue and other stakeholders. Legislation would need to be amended, forms and leaflets would need to be updated and an information campaign would have to be launched. Information and Communications Technology systems in Revenue and the Department of Transport would have to be amended, and it may be necessary to recalibrate the number plate recognition systems operated by An Garda Síochána, local authorities and toll operators.

For these reasons, I am not contemplating a change to the current registration system at present.

National Asset Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

18 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the contractors or developers currently employed by the National Asset Management Agency to provide services in relation to assets held by NAMA; the total amounts received by each contractor or developer to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31765/11]

NAMA advises me that it does not directly employ developers. NAMA does, however, work with developers where it considers that this will provide the best return to the taxpayer. The alternative is to take enforcement action against a developer, which NAMA has done in 91 cases so far. I understand from NAMA that, as part of its business plan agreements with debtors, it normally looks for and obtains a reduction of 50% to 75% in overhead costs and that any remuneration paid to debtors is payable from this much-reduced budget. The Chairman of NAMA has recently stated that the majority of debtor remuneration packages fall into the €70,000 to €100,000 range, including all benefits-in-kind. He also confirmed that in two cases the debtor's remuneration package, authorised by NAMA as part of the budget for overheads, is €200,000.

The terms and conditions under which individual debtors work with NAMA constitute commercially sensitive, confidential information. NAMA informs me that, under sections 99 and 202 of the Act, it cannot disclose the names or details relating to individual debtors because companies and individuals whose loans have transferred to NAMA and who are meeting their obligations are entitled to have this information kept confidential.

Asset Transfers

Simon Harris

Ceist:

19 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance if the National Asset Management Agency has considered measures to prevent the transfer of assets from NAMA debtors to spouses or other family members; if any legal proceedings have been initiated to reverse such transfers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31799/11]

In circumstances where it is obvious that the purpose of an asset transfer, whether to a spouse or otherwise, was a pre-emptive attempt to put assets beyond the reach of NAMA, NAMA has a number of statutory remedies available to it under Irish law. These include the provisions of the Conveyancing Act, the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 and Section 211 of the NAMA Act which provides that NAMA may apply to a Court to declare a disposition to be void if it can show that the effect of the disposition was to impair the value of an eligible bank asset or any rights that NAMA would have acquired but for the disposition. At a recent meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, the Chief Executive of NAMA pointed out that, having been through the business plans of debtors which account for close to 75% of NAMA debt, he does not consider that there is a "huge pot of gold" that can be recovered through legal proceedings to reverse asset transfers by NAMA debtors.

I am informed by NAMA, however, that most of the debtors who engaged in such transfers are co-operating with it as regards a voluntary reversal of asset transfers. As negotiations are ongoing with many debtors and assets are being re-valued at current prices, it is not yet possible to determine the final valuation of reversed asset transfers.

In a number of cases where debtors are refusing to co-operate, it has been necessary for NAMA to adopt a number of approaches, depending on the legal advice received in each particular case. This may involve the pursuit of personal guarantees through the courts and, in some cases, will require litigation to reverse asset transfers where the original intention appears to have been to place the assets concerned beyond the reach of NAMA.

Memoranda of Understanding

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

20 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance following the completion of the recent review mission by the EU-ECB-IMF, when he expects that the revised memorandum of understanding and associated documents will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31912/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the latest review mission by the External Partners took place from the 11th-20th of October. There are a numbers of programme documents that underpin the Programme of Financial Support. These documents include:

the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP);

the Memorandum of Understanding on Specific Economic Policy Conditionality, (MoU);

the Letters of Intent to the IMF and the EU Authorities; and

the Technical Memorandum of Understanding (TMU) attached to the Letter of Intent (LoI) to the IMF.

Following each review mission a revised version of these documents is published. These revised documents are being finalised and when that process is completed they will be formally submitted to the External Partners and published as has been the case to date. At this stage it is expected that this process will be completed by the end of the month.

European Banking Authority

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

21 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the contact he and the Central Bank of Ireland have had with the European Banking Authority in relation to potential further recapitalisation of Irish banks under stress testing scenarios being used by the EBA; if any estimate is available of potential further recapitalisation of Irish banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31913/11]

The Minister for Finance has had no direct contact with the European Banking Authority (EBA) in relation to potential further recapitalisation of the Irish banks. The Central Bank has, however, been engaged with the EBA in relation to the capitalisation of banks around Europe, along with regulators from other member states. Officials from the EBA do however present at various committees, for example, Ecofin, at which the Minister or his officials are present.

The Central Bank of Ireland has informed me that in October 2011, the EBA conducted a review of the capital requirements of the 90 European banks that participated in the 2011 EU-wide stress test against a more stringent set of conditions (mark-to-market of all sovereign exposures and removal of certain regulatory capital filters) and a higher capital ratio of 9% Core Tier 1. As the Irish PCAR stress test published in Mar-2011 was more conservative, all three Irish banks who participated in the 2011 EU-wide exercise are not required to undertake any further recapitalisation as a result of this EBA update exercise.

Sovereign Debt

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

22 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will explain his reasoning for not seeking to negotiate a voluntary write down of Ireland’s sovereign and or bank debt in the context of the negotiations which have been taking place in recent days to resolve the Eurozone debt crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31914/11]

There is no question of the Government seeking to restructure sovereign debt. The impact of such an action would be highly detrimental to our chances of returning to sovereign debt markets. Such an action would probably cause great damage to our reputation and sacrifice the credibility we have built up through implementing policies that will assist our economy in returning to growth. It would be unwise to jeopardise those hard won gains. In that regard, it is important to recognise that Ireland is in a totally different situation to Greece. The Greek debt to GDP ratio is projected by the IMF to rise to 186 per cent of GDP by end-2013. The equivalent number for Ireland, published in my Department's latest Stability Programme Update (SPU) in April, is 118 per cent.

In addition, the Greek economy is still in the midst of a severe recession. By contrast, Ireland is emerging from recession. April's SPU forecast that real GDP would grow by 0.8 per cent this year and strengthen next year and beyond. In Ireland's case, economic growth will help to bring about a return to debt sustainability. In Greece, the economy is shrinking and this is compounding the problem of an unsustainable debt burden.

A further critical difference between the two economies relates to the importance of international trade. In Greece, exports amount to the equivalent of just 20 per cent of GDP. This means that export growth cannot provide a significant offset to the contractionary effects of fiscal austerity. In Ireland, by contrast, exports amount to the equivalent of over 100 per cent of GDP which means that the growth of exports can provide a powerful offset to the negative effect of budgetary consolidation on economic activity.

I have stated on many occasions that all of the sovereign debt owed by the Government will be repaid. We are determined to work together with our European colleagues to find a common, shared approach to the issue of the sovereign debt crisis.

There is no reason to apply a different reasoning to the senior debt of Ireland's going-concern banks. This will be repaid in full. The Deputy will be aware that the Government has insisted on a strong recapitalisation of the banks and that the Government's policy remains that all creditors of these banks be repaid in full. This policy is already bearing fruit. Deposits are recovering and the Irish banks have already successfully tapped into wholesale term funding markets since July at a time when many of their European counterparts are experiencing very difficult funding environments.

However, as the Deputy will be aware the Government has considered burden sharing with senior bondholders in both Anglo and INBS in consultation with our EU partners. We have said that we will not act on this without the agreement of the ECB. This agreement has, as yet, not been forthcoming.

Promissory Notes

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

23 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of his engagement with the European authorities on the issue of redesigning the Anglo Irish Bank-Irish Nationwide Building Society promissory note structure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31915/11]

As you are aware, the Government has been considering burden sharing with senior bondholders in both Anglo and INBS in consultation with our EU partners. We have said that we will not act on this without the agreement of the ECB. This agreement has, as yet, not been forthcoming. I had the opportunity to meet with President Trichet on the margins of the ECOFIN meeting in Poland on Saturday, 17th September. I raised with him the issue of the burden sharing with the senior unguaranteed bondholders in IBRC (formerly Anglo (including INBS)). This was unresolved business and I pressed the case for such burden sharing. However, President Trichet was of the strong view that such action was not in the interests of Ireland or the Euro Area, particularly given the challenges facing the euro area at this time and the contagion that we witnessed recently that has affected Italy and Spain. Commissioner Rehn also made the same point on this issue when I met him at a separate meeting.

President Trichet was very complimentary of the progress being made by Ireland and he noted the narrowing of bond spreads that had taken place, which he would not wish to see put at risk. I noted the points he made and I said I would report back to Government on the discussion.

I also discussed with President Trichet, and in the separate meeting with Commissioner Rehn, the situation in relation to the Promissory Notes. These Promissory Notes are amounts due from the State to IBRC as consideration for the capital provided in 2010. While the State has budgeted to meet both the interest and cash requirements I am eager to have the Promissory Notes examined to see if they can be re-engineered in a better way for the State, for example, by lengthening their maturity and reducing their interest rate. This re-engineering would have to be completed in a manner which does not impact on the capital position of IBRC. This may or may not be feasible. I proposed that our experts get together to examine the technical aspects and the implications of any potential changes. These technical discussions are underway.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

24 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to repay in full the $1 billion unsecured, unguaranteed senior Anglo Irish Bank bond which falls due for repayment on 2 November 2011. [31916/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

35 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if he will name the original purchasers of the bonds that are now being paid out in the €700 million payout to bondholders on 2 November 2011. [32344/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

36 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance the names of the bondholders to whom the cheques are written that make up the €700 million payout on 2 November 2011; and the amount payable on each cheque. [32345/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 35 and 36 together.

As I stated after my meeting with ECB President Trichet and Commissioner Rehn last month, our European partners expressed strong reservations about burden sharing with senior bond holders in Anglo Irish Bank, now known as IBRC. Mr. Trichet voiced his opinion that he is against such actions for two reasons:

Firstly private sector involvement carries very significant contagion risk and may be inconsistent with encouraging private investors to return to markets.

Secondly, he said Ireland had done particularly well over the summer. He mentioned the narrowing of bond spreads and he said that he felt that anything to do with senior debt burden sharing might knock the confidence of the market in the absolute commitment of the government to take once again its place in normally functioning markets; bond yields spreads wider again and we lose the ground we had gained.

Mr. Trichet's views were echoed by Commissioner Rehn. The positive international commentary on Ireland has been created by the Government's successful renegotiation of the Memorandum of Understanding, the introduction of the Jobs Initiative, the sizeable reduction of the interest rate on the EU IMF Programme and the reduction in the cost of the banks to the taxpayer.

The value of support, present and future, we receive from our European partners far outweighs any short term gain from imposing burden sharing on these bonds in the face of European opposition to such a move.

However, we still have unfinished business with our partners to find the most cost effective way of resolving IBRC over the long term. Technical discussions between officials are underway at present in relation to the IBRC promissory notes.

For these reasons I have decided not to take unilateral action in relation to burden sharing. IBRC is therefore repaying, today, senior debt of USD1 billion (circa €0.7 billion). This was a publically traded senior liability that the Bank was contractually obliged to repay on its maturity date.

I am advised that the process of issuing new bonds is normally through underwriting, where one or more securities firms or banks form a syndicate buying the entire bond issue from the issuer and then re-selling to investors. Primary issuance is arranged by these syndicates who contact potential investors and advise the bond issuer in terms of timing, tenor and pricing of the bond issue. The bond issuer will likely have little knowledge of the original owners of the bonds; also these initial investors may over time sell the bonds to other investors.

Bonds are usually issued in bearer form which means that the purchasers of the bonds are unknown, with the bonds usually held by a securities depository company (e.g. Euroclear and Clearstream). When paying interest and principal the bond issuer will transfer the required funds to the securities depository company who in turn will pay the funds through to the bondholders.

The function of the securities depository company is to receive the appropriate interest or principal payment for the entire bond issue from the issuer and to distribute the required amounts to the individual bondholders. This is a standard process for all such issuances. Therefore throughout this entire process the bond issuer is unaware of the individual bondholders' details.

IBRC has announced the sale of their $9.2 billion loan book has begun and approximately $3.5bn of gross loans has transferred to buyers. The net proceeds from the sale will allow the Bank to repay these unguaranteed bonds and will also allow the Bank to reduce their borrowings, including Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) from the Irish Central Bank.

It is important to state that the redemption of the bond will be made by IBRC. It will not be funded by the Exchequer.

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

25 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the date from which the banking guarantee applied to each of the six covered institutions. [31941/11]

The Eligibility Liabilities Guarantee (ELG) Scheme commenced on the 9th December 2009. The banking guarantee applied to each of the six participating institutions from the dates shown in the table:

Participating Institution

Subsidiaries

Date joined the ELG Scheme

Irish Life and Permanent plc

04/01/2010

Irish Permanent (IOM) Limited

04/01/2010

Bank of Ireland

11/01/2010

Bank of Ireland (IOM) Limited

11/01/2010

Bank of Ireland (UK) plc

27/07/2010

Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank

11/01/2010

The ICS Building Society

11/01/2010

Allied Irish Banks plc

21/01/2010

AIB Group (UK) plc

21/01/2010

AIB Bank (CI) Limited

21/01/2010

AIB Banks North America Inc.

21/01/2010

AIB International Savings Ltd.

28/01/2010

The EBS Limited

01/02/2010

Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Ltd.*

28/01/2010

Irish Nationwide Building Society*

03/02/2010

Irish Nationwide (IOM) Building Society*

03/02/2010

*Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Limited and Irish Nationwide have merged into a new entity known as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited and continue to be covered under the ELG.

Tax Refunds

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

26 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if a tax refund of €800 is payable in respect of fess paid for third level education in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32002/11]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that tax relief is available for fees paid by an individual for approved courses in approved colleges. The claim maybe in respect of a number of students. For 2011 and subsequent years the maximum annual relief for tuition fees is €7,000 @ 20% per individual per course i.e. €1,400 but limited to the amount of tax paid in the year by the claimant. The first €2,000 of all fees claimed by an individual does not qualify for tax relief where any one of the students to whom the claim refers is a full time student or the first €1,000 of all fees claimed where all of the students are part-time students. Further details, including the application form, are available in Leaflet IT31 available on the Revenue website —www.revenue.ie.

Universal Social Charge

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

27 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on the benefits to the employee for paying the universal social charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32043/11]

As the Deputy is aware, the Universal Social Charge (USC) was introduced in Budget 2011 to replace the Income Levy and the Health Levy. It is applied at a low rate on a wide base. The USC is designed to apply across income levels with a smoother progression and to address the irregularities caused by ‘step effects' in the previous system of levies. It was a necessary measure to widen the tax base and remove poverty traps. The USC is a more sustainable charge than those it replaced. The USC is collected like all other taxes, and is used to provide the resources to pay for the services provided by the State.

Tax Code

Dan Neville

Ceist:

28 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 98 of 18 October 2011 and in view of the fact that the employers PAYE and PRSI have all been paid up to date, the necessary adjustments will be made to ensure the person receives the appropriate PAYE tax credit. [32090/11]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by the Commissioners that this credit is granted under Section 472 Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. There are certain conditions that need to be met for the child of the employer to obtain the credit. These are:

The employee is:

a "specified employed contributor" as defined in Section 472 or that the Income Tax (Employments) (Consolidated) Regulations 2001 have been complied with by her employer

The employee is:

a full time employee (i.e. is required to devote, throughout the year of assessment, substantially the whole of his/her time to the duties of the office or employment and the individual does in fact do so) and

The amount of emoluments paid to the employee in the year of assessment are not less than €4,572.

The Income Tax (Employments) (Consolidated) Regulations 2001 set out how PAYE is to be operated and list in detail all of actions required in relation to an employee. The person claiming the credit is only entitled to the credit if the connected person who is paying the wages has operated the regulations correctly.

An examination of the records has commenced and will conclude shortly. The PAYE credit will be allowed if all is in order as the Regulations require.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

29 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the capital gains taxation position in respect of sale of a principal private residence when the residence enjoys a garden with some development potential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32237/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that development land is defined as land, the consideration for the disposal of which is greater than its "current use value". The current use value of land is its value if it were unlawful, to develop it, apart from development of a minor nature, and it continues to remain unlawful to do so. Principal private residence relief (PPR relief) extends to a disposal of a residence and its surrounding grounds of up to one acre. The charge to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is entirely relieved if the proceeds of disposal do not relate to development land. If a disposal of a principle private residence is also a disposal of development land, then PPR relief will apply only to that part of the gain calculated as if the current use value were the disposal proceeds. The gain on this part of the proceeds (that is, the part equal to the current use value of the land) is entirely relieved from CGT. The gain on the remainder of the proceeds (that is, the full proceeds less the current use value) represents the development land gains on the garden and will be chargeable to CGT at the rate of 25%. A portion of the development land gain could be subject to the windfall tax rate of 80% if the land had been the subject of a "relevant planning decision": that is, a decision by a local authority since 30 October 2009 to rezone the land or a decision by a local authority since 4 February 2010 to materially contravene its development plan.

Tax Yield

Robert Troy

Ceist:

30 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he could indicate the revenue collected through excise duty on petrol and diesel up to the end of quarter three of 2011 and for the year end 2008, 2009 and 2010. [32241/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the data available on the amounts of Excise for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and the period January 2011 to the end of September 2011, in respect of petrol and auto-diesel is set out in the table. Please note the receipts shown for the first nine months of 2011 are provisional.

2008

2009

2010

2011Jan to SepProvisional

€m

€m

€m

€m

Petrol

1,046.8

1,075.1

981.8

780.1

Auto Diesel

1,051.9

1,060.3

1,040.0

842.0

Total

2,098.7

2,135.4

2,021.8

1,622.1

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

31 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money yet to be spent under his Department’s 2011 budget allocation before the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32285/11]

The 2011 Estimate for my Vote amounts to €25.857m of which €17.367m had been expended at the date the October Issues figures were completed, leaving €8.490m available for the remainder of the year.

Tax Code

Simon Harris

Ceist:

32 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the rationale for the discrepancy in the level of taxation applied to a packet of cigarettes compared to hand-rolling and other non-cigarette tobacco; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32339/11]

The practice when reviewing the level of tobacco taxation has been to determine the amount of any increase by reference to cigarettes, and to apply pro rata increases to other products such as fine-cut tobacco for the rolling of cigarettes and other smoking tobacco. In the case of the last increase in the tax rates, which was with effect from 8 April 2009, an increase of 25 cent (inclusive of VAT) was applied to a pack of cigarettes. This represented an increase of 4.12 per cent in the tobacco tax, and that increase was applied also to all other tobacco products. Tobacco products other than cigarettes are taxed by weight of tobacco, and the rate of tax on cigarettes is expressed as a fixed amount per 1,000 cigarettes, together with a percentage of the price at which the cigarettes are sold. When the tax rates for the various products are compared in terms of their weight of tobacco, the rate of taxation on cigarettes is higher than for the other products.

I am aware of calls from certain interests for the tax on other products to be increased relative to the tax on cigarettes. Any question of a change in the relative taxation of the products would fall to be considered in the Budget process.

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

33 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance the amount that would be saved to the Exchequer by bringing in new rates of income tax as follows 50% on all income between €100,000 and €150,000 per annum, 60% on all income between €150,000 and €200,000 per annum and 70% on all income above €200,000 per annum. [32342/11]

It is assumed that the threshold for the proposed new tax bands mentioned by the Deputy would not alter the existing standard rate band structure applying to single and widowed persons, to lone parents and married couples. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2012 incomes, of the introduction of the proposed new rates and bands would be of the order of €1,125 million. However, given the current band structures, major issues would need to be resolved as to how, in practice, such new rates could be integrated into the current system and how this would affect the relative position of different types of income earners.

These figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2012. They are therefore provisional and likely to be revised.

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

34 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance the amount that would be saved by the Exchequer by increasing the current minimum effective tax rate as follows 40% on all income between €125,000 and €175,000 per annum, 50% on all income between €175,000 and €225,000 per annum and 60% on all income above €225,000 per annum. [32343/11]

It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to amending the tax regime for income earners to which the restriction of tax reliefs applies, i.e. those individuals that have an adjusted income of €125,000 or greater and claim specified reliefs of €80,000 or more. Those subject to the full restriction, at adjusted incomes of €400,000 or greater, pay an effective income tax rate of 30% in addition to PRSI and Universal Social Charge. On the basis of historical incomes and claims data available for 2009, the latest year for which the necessarily detailed information is available, it is tentatively estimated that the full year yield to the Exchequer from applying the measures mentioned in the question would be of the order of €120 million. The impact of the economic down turn on current personal incomes and potential claims for tax reliefs cannot be fully factored into the estimate of yield provided because the tax returns for 2010 and 2011 are not yet received. For this reason the figure of yield provided should be regarded as only indicative.

To impose the effective income tax rates suggested by the Deputy solely on those taxpayers that claim specified reliefs, would effectively penalise taxpayers for availing of those reliefs and incentives. Obviously this would make tax incentives redundant in terms of their potential for contributing to the achievement of the socio-economic objectives for which they were designed.

Taxpayers, who only claim personal tax credits, pay an effective rate of income tax of around 30% where their annual incomes are in the region of €125,000. To implement the rates suggested by the Deputy such that they would apply to all taxpayers, would involve the imposition of higher marginal rates of income tax and/or the reduction of the general tax credits available.

Questions Nos. 35 and 36 answered with Question No. 24.

National Asset Management Agency

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

37 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm if anyone employed by the National Asset Management Agency was offered a permanent contract; and if so, the number of same. [32361/11]

All National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) staff are employees of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). Under section 42 of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009, the NTMA assigns staff to NAMA. I am informed by the NTMA that 182 staff are currently assigned to NAMA. 171 of these staff are employed on the basis of specified purpose contracts — their employment lasts for as long as their function is required by NAMA. The remaining 11 staff, principally staff reassigned from other business units within the NTMA, are employed on the basis of general NTMA employment contracts and will continue to be employed by the NTMA following the completion of their assignment to NAMA.

Tax Yield

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

38 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the implementation of further measures announced in budget 2010 with respect to the treatment of non-residents for tax purposes; the revenue that has been raised from these measures to date; the amount of revenue he expects these measures to yield ; the number of non-residents for tax purposes that these measures have affected according to the most recent figures at his disposal, the number of non-residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32364/11]

The Deputy is referring to the Domicile Levy, announced in Budget 2010 and introduced in Finance Bill 2010. The Domicile Levy can be paid at any time up to 31 October in the year following the valuation date, which is 31 December of each year. The first valuation date for the levy was 31 December 2010 and the tax return and payment of the levy for 2010 was not due until 31 October 2011. Some taxpayers affected by the levy may be paying their income tax through the Revenue On-line Service (ROS) in which case they would have additional time to pay the tax. As with other areas of taxation, the rules are constantly kept under review and any changes will be determined in the context of Budget and Finance Bill. However, in order to facilitate individuals who are paying the balance of income tax due for 2010 using the Revenue On-Line Service (ROS) and who wish to avail of the credit for income tax paid against Domicile Levy, Revenue have extended the Pay and File deadline for Domicile Levy for 2010 to 15 November 2011. This date coincides with the Pay and File deadline for payment of the balance of income tax due for 2010 using ROS. As of today, 5 returns have been received in relation to Domicile Levy for 2010. The tax paid in relation to these 5 returns was €879,586. At this stage, it is not possible to estimate the full amount of revenue that may be raised from the Domicile Levy in 2011. It is not possible to estimate the number of non-residents that this measure will affect. Many non-resident individuals who file Irish tax returns are not Irish citizens or have a foreign domicile and therefore would not be subject to the Levy.

Banking Sector Regulation

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

39 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the current legislation covering criminal prosecutions brought against persons in commercial banks which were overcharging customers is sufficiently robust to deter such behaviour in the future. [32393/11]

The Central Bank's supervisory powers and its administrative sanctions regime, together with the potential for criminal prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions in more serious cases, provide significant powers to regulate any breaches. Furthermore the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill 2011, currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas, provides for the strengthening of the ability of the Central Bank to police, investigate and punish such practices in the future, including providing that the limit of penalties that can be imposed under the administrative sanctions regime will be increased to €10,000,000 per contravention.

In cases of systematic overcharging uncovered by the Central Bank, the Bank works with the financial institution in question to ensure that all customers are refunded the amounts overcharged and ensures that the institution remedies the problems that occurred within its internal business processes. The Central Bank has concluded two cases under its administrative sanctions regime. Details of these cases and the settlement terms can be found on the Central Bank's website www.centralbank.ie.

The Deputy might wish to note that it is not permitted to impose financial penalties under the administrative sanctions regime and, at the same time, bring a criminal prosecution. The administrative sanctions regime is a strong deterrent due to the significantly higher financial penalties available under it.

In view of the availability of the Central Bank's supervisory powers and its administrative sanctions regime, the enhancement of these powers through the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill 2011 and the potential for criminal prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions I am satisfied that the legislative framework governing these practices provides the authorities with sufficient powers to regulate any breaches.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

40 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has made a decision on the request by AIB to approve a salary in excess of €500,000 for a new chief executive; the current situation with regard to filling the vacancy; if a formal offer of the position has been made by the bank; if he will provide details of the remuneration package which has been proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32426/11]

The Deputy will be aware, from public statements made on the issue, that proposals have been made by the bank regarding proposed remuneration arrangements for the position of Chief Executive Officer. The matter is under consideration and no final decision has been made.

It is Government policy that the base salary ceiling of €500,000 that applies to the position should be honoured.

The position remains vacant at the moment. The filling of this post by a suitable, qualified, experienced and highly motivated individual will be a critical factor in driving the bank forward to fill the mandate bestowed upon it by the Government as part of the restructuring of the banking sector.

Tax Yield

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

41 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money collected to date on the pension levy introduced in the jobs initiative; and if he will provide details of any amount which it is believed remains outstanding for payment in respect of the 2011 liability. [32427/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that receipts from the temporary 0.6% stamp duty levy on pension fund assets introduced in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2011 amounted to €463 million by the end of October. This compares to a projected annual yield from the levy of €470 million. I am also advised by the Commissioners that they are aware of a small number of pension schemes in respect of which the levy remains outstanding. The amounts involved are, however, unlikely to make any significant difference to the latest yield figure mentioned above.

Interest Rates

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

42 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the interest rate reductions applying to funds available to Ireland under the European Financial Stability Fund and European Financial Stability Mechanism to take legal effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32428/11]

The interest rate margin reduction for the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) was incorporated into a new legal agreement on 27th October. The interest rate margin is now defined as zero. It was agreed that countries borrowing from the EFSF would pay a guarantee commitment fee of 0.10% per annum on top of the cost of funds and the cost of operations of the EFSF. This will apply to all future borrowings from the EFSF. In relation to the existing borrowing from the EFSF, I expect that the margin, which was prepaid, will be refunded upon the maturity of the bond backing the loan to Ireland in July 2016. It cannot be repaid before that time as it an integral part of the terms and conditions of the bond. The details surrounding this have to be confirmed with the EFSF. In relation to the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM), the margin reduction was incorporated into an amendment to the existing legal agreement on October 28th and it is now defined as zero. This will apply to EFSM borrowings back to the date upon which they were issued.

Financial Data

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

43 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 65 of 5 October 2011, if he will arrange for the outstanding information to be supplied to this Deputy; and in view of the need for the utmost transparency and accountability, if he is satisfied at the refusal of the bank to provide any financial information on the arrangements in place with contractors. [32429/11]

The outstanding information to be supplied to the Deputy further to Parliamentary Question No. 65 of 5 October 2011 was issued on 28 October 2011. In relation to the provision of financial information on the arrangements in place with contractors the bank has informed me that i) it is legally obliged to comply with its obligations under the Data Protection Acts in relation to the names of individual contractors, and (ii) services are contracted on an individual basis and are therefore commercially sensitive.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

44 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 141 to 147, inclusive, and 150 of 21 July 2011 and Parliamentary Questions Nos. 127 and 191 of 4 October 2011, when he intends to respond to the various specific remuneration and severance package questions submitted in view of the fact that answers to some of these questions have been outstanding for more than three months. [32433/11]

I have indicated to the Deputy, in response to his previous questions on the subject, that work is on-going on the remuneration review. I have also stated that, when completed, I intend to place the details underpinning the review into the public domain. As part of that commitment, I released last month, as the Deputy will be aware, comprehensive details of the bonuses paid at Anglo Irish Bank since 2008 and committed out to 2012.

I am currently reviewing the remaining work that needs to be undertaken to complete the exercise as expeditiously as possible and then to publish the appropriate findings.

Teaching Qualifications

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

45 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is proposing changes to the Bachelor of Education programmes currently being provided in the colleges of education for primary teachers; his plans to introduce a fourth year to the Bachelor of Education programme; if he is proposing that students will no longer be able to take an academic arts based subject as part of their degree in conjunction with the pedagogical and education subjects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31773/11]

Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life, The National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020, which I launched in July of this year aims to ensure that teachers and schools maintain a strong focus on literacy and numeracy skills, within a broad and balanced curriculum. It sets out a wide-ranging programme of reforms in initial teacher education courses, in professional development for teachers and school principals, and in the content of the curriculum at primary and post-primary levels in order to achieve these vital skills. To implement the changes, close consultation is taking place between my Department, the Teaching Council and the Colleges of Education. The Teaching Council's Policy Paper on the Continuum of Teacher Education, published in 2011, also seeks significant changes in initial teacher education programmes. The main changes include:

improvements to initial teacher education courses including the setting of new higher entry requirements for teacher education courses and the reconfiguring of the content to ensure the development of teachers' skills in literacy and numeracy teaching.

the extension of the Bachelor of Education programme to four years and the postgraduate diploma teaching qualification (for primary and post-primary teachers) to two years.

the lengthened and reconfigured Bachelor of Education will include extended school placement periods and an increased emphasis on the key strategic priorities of literacy and numeracy, ICT and inclusion.

Colleges which currently devote a proportion of programme time to Arts subjects (known as academic electives) will be required to redesign programmes to ensure overall relevance to teacher education Implementation of planned changes is a priority and will take account of the availability of resources.

Special Educational Needs

Simon Harris

Ceist:

46 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will release funding to the National Council for Special Education for a grant of resource hours in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who has changed primary schools and has applied for their resource hours to transfer with them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31792/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

Firstly, I wish to explain to the Deputy that there is no automatic system of transfer of resources from one school to another. In considering applications for teaching and SNA supports for individual pupils, the SENOs take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources. Circular 37/2011 provides information to schools regarding the arrangements which are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours for children with assessed special educational needs. In relation to the allocation of individual Resource Teaching hours, the position is that for the 2011/12 school year an allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations has been made by the NCSE to schools, in the first instance, to provide schools with the majority of their allocation, while also preserving enough capacity to deal with late applications and ensure that the Department of Education and Skills can remain within Employment Control Framework obligations.

The NCSE has recently published statistical information in relation to the allocation of SNA posts and resource teaching hours to Primary, Special and Post Primary Schools. The information is provided on a county by county and school by school basis on its website at www.ncse.ie. The school referred to by the Deputy has an allocation of 4.83 SNA posts and 41 Resource Teaching Hours. Schools have been asked to forward any outstanding applications, or additional outstanding materials to support incomplete applications, to the NCSE for consideration. The NCSE will notify schools of the outcome of outstanding applications shortly.

Simon Harris

Ceist:

47 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will release funding for and approve a grant of resource hours in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow, who has changed primary schools and has applied for their resource hours to transfer with them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31793/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. Firstly, I wish to explain to the Deputy that there is no automatic system of transfer of resources from one school to another. In considering applications for teaching and SNA supports for individual pupils, the SENOs take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.

Circular 37/2011 provides information to schools regarding the arrangements which are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours for children with assessed special educational needs. In relation to the allocation of individual Resource Teaching hours, the position is that for the 2011/12 school year an allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations has been made by the NCSE to schools, in the first instance, to provide schools with the majority of their allocation, while also preserving enough capacity to deal with late applications and ensure that the Department of Education and Skills can remain within Employment Control Framework obligations.

The NCSE has recently published statistical information in relation to the allocation of SNA posts and resource teaching hours to Primary, Special and Post Primary Schools. The information is provided on a county by county and school by school basis on its website at www.ncse.ie. The school referred to by the Deputy has an allocation of 4.83 SNA posts and 41 Resource Teaching Hours.

Schools have been asked to forward any outstanding applications, or additional outstanding materials to support incomplete applications, to the NCSE for consideration. The NCSE will notify schools of the outcome of outstanding applications shortly.

Grant Payments

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

48 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will commit to ring-fencing, and bringing forward into next year, the grant awarded to a project (details supplied) in this financial year due to the process, involving other agencies, taking longer than anticipated. [31794/11]

In March 2011, the Board of FÁS approved a grant of €630,000 to enable the Lourdes Youth and Community Services (LYCS) and North City Centre Community Action Project (NCCCAP) to undertake the proposed refurbishment of the recently vacated Rutland Street School. The prime purpose was to enable both community organisations to merge their services and to be re-housed in the school.

Both organisations operate a 40 place Community Training Centre (CTC) funded by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) through FÁS. It is proposed that both CTCs merge into one entity, therefore creating savings on administration and maximizing productivity.

The Rutland Street school building is in the ownership of the Dublin Diocesan Trust who are in negotiations with Dublin City Council (DCC) to hand over the property in lieu of an exchange of lands arrangement for the new school which was recently built on DCC lands. DCC have agreed that LYCS/NCCCAP can refurbish the former school on completion of these negotiations. However, this process is taking longer than anticipated. DCC have now informed FÁS that they will not be in a position to offer LYCS/NCCCAP a lease until such time as the handover is complete.

The provision of funding for 2012 can only be considered in the context of the Comprehensive Expenditure Review and the Annual Estimates Process currently ongoing.

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

Simon Harris

Ceist:

49 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will be making an application to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund on behalf of the former employees of a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31803/11]

On the basis of the information currently available to me, the redundancy event in question does not appear to meet the criteria prescribed under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) Regulations to enable an application for co-financing assistance to be made by the Department either on a company specific or on a sectoral basis. This matter will be kept under review by the Department should new information or any changed circumstances emerge in due course. The Department continues to monitor all collective redundancies nationally in order to assess whether sustainable EGF applications can be made in those cases where all relevant EGF regulatory criteria are met.

Vocational Education Committees

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

50 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the decision that has been made regarding the location of the proposed Louth-Meath Vocational Education Committee; the criteria used to decide the location; the amount the new location will cost to make it ready for use; if there will be job losses in the Louth-Meath area; and the number of same. [31814/11]

Earlier this month, I announced and published the headquarter locations where VECs are being merged as a result of the Government decision to reduce the number of VECs from 33 to 16. In arriving at my decision in relation to the location of headquarters of the merged VECs, including the location of the headquarters of the Louth and Meath Education and Training Board at Drogheda, I considered a range of factors. These included the need to ensure that the location of a VEC headquarters will, to the greatest extent possible, facilitate staff redeployment under a redeployment scheme within the context of the Croke Park Agreement and the need to operate at lowest cost having regard to the accommodation available in existing locations.

The detail in relation to upgrading, refurbishment or acquisition of accommodation at Drogheda will be worked through by the Department in conjunction with the VECs involved and the new merged body when established. Staff employed in the VEC headquarters are public servants and under the terms of the Croke Park agreement, such staff employed in a permanent capacity cannot be made compulsorily redundant. However, surplus staff may be redeployed. In common with all areas of the public service, VECs are subject to an Employment Control Framework (ECF). This places an upper limit on the number of staff which a public service organisation can have. Both VECs have each been set ECF targets to be achieved by the end of 2011. Redeployment arrangements to bring about the staffing reductions required to meet ECF limits will be agreed in accordance with the principles of the Croke Park agreement and will involve the unions representative of the grades concerned.

School Staffing

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

51 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the decision to reduce two teaching posts at a school (details supplied) in County Donegal in view of the fact that the school is in a disadvantaged area and taking into account the pupil numbers are only marginally short of the number specified for the teaching complement required. [31832/11]

Teacher allocations to secondary school are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. In addition to this, schools can be allocated concessionary posts for a number of reasons e.g., curricular concessions, special needs, language support etc. The Post Primary Allocations section of my Department have allocated 7.38 whole time equivalent teaching posts on a concessionary basis for the 2011/12 academic year to Pobail Scoil Cloich Cheann Fhaola. This is a substantial increase in staffing at a time when my Department has to exercise additional control and reporting measures to ensure that the number of teachers employed in schools is consistent with the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland.

Disadvantaged Status

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

52 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Donegal can be considered for DEIS status. [31833/11]

In 2005, following an independent identification process, 875 schools were selected for inclusion in DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the Department's initiative to combat educational disadvantage. The school to which the Deputy refers was among a number of schools that was judged not to have a sufficient level of disadvantage to warrant inclusion in DEIS. An appeal by this school to the independent review body confirmed that the level of disadvantage did not warrant the school's inclusion in DEIS process.

An ongoing evaluation of DEIS has been underway since the rollout of supports commenced in 2006. My Department commissioned the Educational Research Centre to undertake this evaluation, the aim of which is to monitor the implementation of the programme and assess its impact on students, families, schools and communities at primary and post primary levels. An evaluation report, the second in a series of reports, is currently being finalised. In addition, the Inspectorate of my Department conducted evaluations of planning in a sample of 36 DEIS schools, 18 primary and 18 post-primary. A national composite report on the effectiveness of DEIS planning in primary and post primary schools has been completed and is expected to be available shortly. The Department will fully consider these evaluation reports before any decisions can be made regarding the future of DEIS.

The Deputy will be aware that a Comprehensive Expenditure Review is ongoing in all government Departments at the request of the Minister of Public Service Expenditure and Reform. In any case the current economic climate does not allow for the possibility of additionality to the DEIS programme.

School Staffing

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

53 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the decision to remove two permanent teachers at a school (details supplied). [31834/11]

The standardisation of the staffing schedule for Gaelscoileanna so that it is the same as that which applies to primary schools generally was one of a number of measures introduced in Budget 2011 to control and reduce teacher numbers. While mainstream staffing for any school year is based on the previous September's enrolment, there is a provision whereby schools experiencing rapid increases in enrolment can apply for additional mainstream posts on developing grounds, using projected enrolment. The retention of such posts in the current school year is subject to schools having achieved their projected enrolment on 30 September. If the enrolment is not achieved the post allocated on developing grounds is suppressed. The school referred to by the Deputy was allocated two additional mainstream posts on developing grounds. However, the projected increased enrolment was not achieved and the posts were suppressed accordingly.

The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule, Circular 0019/2011. The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an appeal to the Primary Staffing Appeal Board. The Board of Management of the school will be notified of the outcome of this appeal shortly. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Pension Provisions

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

54 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an ill health retirement payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [31835/11]

The person in question has initiated an application for retirement with pension on grounds of ill-health. The application process has two parts. One part is sent to the Department for administrative purposes and the other part, which relates to the medical aspect of the application, is made to the Occupational Health Service provider. As only one of these parts has been received at this point it is not possible to process the application. When the application process is completed, it will be processed in the normal way and a decision will be conveyed to the applicant.

Physical Education Facilities

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

55 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a secondary school (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive funding to construct a sports hall, in view of the fact that it is the only secondary school in County Carlow without such a facility and that it was first applied for ten years ago. [31879/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for large scale capital funding for the provision of a Sports Hall to my Department. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale capital projects and has been assigned a Band 4 rating. The progression of all large scale building projects, including a project for this school, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme and the available financial resources with due regard to the demand for increased education provision at both primary and post primary level in the coming years.

The Deputy will be aware that the most recent projections are forecasting a substantial increase in enrolments at both primary and post primary level in the coming years. The delivery of new schools, together with extension projects to meet the increase in demand, will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the proposed project for this school, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

School Staffing

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

56 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) in County Cork has lost two teaching posts despite the stated position that special schools would not be affected by a reduction in the numbers of teachers or special needs assistants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31921/11]

The Deputy will be aware the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating teaching staff and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to special schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Departments criteria in allocating such support. My Department's Circular 0042/2011 was issued in June this year to notify school management authorities of the staffing arrangements which would apply in special schools in the 2011/12 school year. The Circular states that there are a small number of special schools which have significant excess teacher posts and that the NCSE may therefore contact such schools to review the individual circumstances in these schools. The Circular indicated that the NCSE may suppress a post in schools which have excess teaching posts in order to create a post in a school which does not have excess posts and which has growing pupil numbers.

The special school referred to by the Deputy caters for pupils with severe/profound disability and ASD. The correct teacher allocation ratio for schools catering for children with severe and profound disability is 6:1. In 2010/11 the school had 7 approved class teaching posts, 3 surplus teaching posts and 28 SNAs. The enrolment is 38 pupils, including 9 children newly enrolled for September 2011. One of the surplus teachers retired at the end of the last school year and the school is not eligible for a replacement. A further surplus post has been withdrawn leaving the school with 1 surplus post above recommended staffing allocation levels. It is the position of both my Department and the NCSE that given the exceptionally high levels of teaching and support staff which have been allocated to the school, that notwithstanding the outcome of any review, that the school has sufficient support within its overall allocation to enable it to provide for the teaching and care support requirements of all of the children enrolled to the school.

Higher Education Grants

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

57 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the nationality requirements with which an applicant must comply in order to be deemed eligible under the student grant scheme 2011-12; if a stamp 2 visa qualifies a person; if the applicant will qualify when they are a dependant applicant and their parent receives Irish citizenship through naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31938/11]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority — local authority or VEC.

The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form, including those relating to nationality, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student would qualify for a grant. However, the nationality requirements for the student grant scheme are set out in section 14 of the Student Support Act 2011 and regulation 5 of the Student Support Regulations 2011. In summary, it is the student, and not his/her parents, that must meet the nationality requirements in their own right to qualify for a student grant. Students are advised to contact their local grant awarding authority for clarification on particular aspects of the student grant scheme, where this is needed, relative to their own particular circumstances.

Equality Issues

Clare Daly

Ceist:

58 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills following the submission by Equality For Fathers to the UPR Secretariat (details supplied) for the recent report to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, which made him aware of a number of Equality Tribunal cases taken by men acting as guardians on behalf of their children, the way he proposes to address the failure of schools to require joint parental consent for the enrolment of children. [31943/11]

The selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school. Under section 15(2)(d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

Article 42 of the Constitution provides for the right of parents to choose the form of education they provide or to have provided to their children. Primary legislation gives effect to this right and includes the Education Act 1998 and the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

None of the foregoing legislation specifically distinguishes between parents who act in concert and those who disagree and are separated, divorced or unmarried. Enrolment of children is, in the first instance, a matter for Boards of Management who must address the circumstances of each case while respecting any order made by the Court in relation to the custody and welfare of the child.

In general, it is my Department's view that both parents should be encouraged to take an active interest in their children's education and it is to the benefit of the children and the school when they do. It is appreciated that practical difficulties for schools can arise where parents are separated. However, my Department's approach to the issue of the rights of separated parents to involvement in their children's education is that the rights of both parents should be respected and given meaningful, practical expression in matters such as school reports, attendance at parent/teacher meetings and other school functions and that generally both parents should receive the same information and level of co-operation from the school. A qualification to that approach would arise where the best interest of the child required a different approach.

Schools are best placed to exercise their own judgements as to what is appropriate in each individual case given their particular knowledge of the individual circumstances and having regard to any order made by the Court in relation to the custody and welfare of the child. I launched a public discussion paper last June on the area of school admissions and enrolment. The document, "Discussion Paper on a Regulatory Framework for School Enrolment" is available on the Department's website (www.education.ie) and contains suggestions on how to make the process of enrolling in schools more open, equitable and consistent.

I wish to make clear that the paper was not meant to be prescriptive, nor have any decisions been made as to what elements will be contained in any final regulations or legislation. The purpose of the paper was to lead and provoke debate on enrolment policies and practices.

I invited education partners and interested parties to submit their views to my Department by Friday last, 28th October and one of the submissions made was from Equality For Fathers. The feedback from this important consultation with the public will help inform the nature and scope of a new regulatory framework for school enrolment.

Higher Education Grants

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

59 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reasons for a refusal to grant a higher education grant to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the action that will be taken in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31947/11]

I can confirm that an appeal from the candidate in question was received in the Higher Education — Equity of Access Section of my Department on 25th October, 2011. This appeal is currently under consideration, and an appeal reply will be issued directly to the candidate as soon as this process is complete.

Physical Education Facilities

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

60 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a club (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [31980/11]

My Department was advised that meetings were recently held between the City of Dublin VEC and the KUBS Basketball Club to discuss the draft user agreement which recognises the Club's current position as a user of the sports facility outside of school hours. On that basis the appointment of an independent mediator is not necessary at this stage.

Pension Provisions

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

61 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the annual saving to the State if all public sector pensions currently paid by him were capped at €35,000 per year. [31988/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is being collated and will be forwarded as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects

John Deasy

Ceist:

62 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the delay in providing a new school building in respect a school (details supplied) in County Waterford; the stage of progress this application has reached and when he estimates inclusion in the schools’ building programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32000/11]

John Deasy

Ceist:

63 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the delay in providing a new school building for a school (details supplied); when this application commenced; when he expects approval to build under the schools’ building programme; and the reason for the delay. [32001/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 63 together.

The Deputy may be aware that the project to which he refers was tendered in 2009 and a preferred bidder was identified to do the works. Unfortunately a number of issues outside of my Department's control delayed the progression of this project. However, I am pleased to inform you that most of these issues have now been resolved. Provided there are no further issues, it is intended that the project will be re-tendered in the coming months and could therefore be in a position to progress to construction in late 2012.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

64 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details provided) regarding student accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32024/11]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department provides grant of €13,842 per annum to the school to which he refers for the rental of one classroom.

FÁS Training Programmes

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

65 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) County Limerick can use their current employment in Australia to satisfy the conditions for completion of their training and awarding of their City and Guilds qualification in carpentry, with the understanding that their employer in Australia satisfies the employer’s criteria. [32048/11]

The main craft trades, including carpentry and joinery, have been designated by FÁS and come within the scope of the Statutory Apprenticeship system. FÁS has the statutory responsibility for the organisation and control of the Statutory Apprenticeship system. FÁS does this in co-operation with my Department, employers and unions. I understand from FÁS that according to its records the person in question is an apprentice Carpenter and Joiner who is required to complete Phase 5 and Phase 7 on-the-job training with assessments with a FÁS approved employer. Apprentices must complete their training and assessments for the relevant Phase with a FÁS approved employer in the jurisdiction.

Schools Refurbishment

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

66 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views regarding a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; if he will take immediate action to tackle the issues raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32080/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy applied for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme. A list of 453 successful schools was announced on 30 March 2011. Applications from schools for gas, mechanical and electrical works were prioritised under the Summer Works Scheme funding this year and I regret that the application made by the school in question was not selected. A letter to this effect has issued to the school. While further funding has been made available for school projects under the Government's Jobs Initiative, I regret that the application was also unsuccessful under the Initiative as it was necessary to prioritise some categories of works over others.

School Transport

Brian Walsh

Ceist:

67 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to put the school transport scheme out to public tender for the year 2012/13; or if such a move might be considered. [32097/11]

The School Transport Scheme has, since its inception, been operated by Bus Eireann (formerly CIÉ) on behalf of the Department and currently, I have no plans to change this. I should add that some €105m of the cost of the scheme is paid to private operators and is the subject of tendering.

Schools Building Projects

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

68 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it will be possible for a school (details supplied) in County Cork to engage local builders to construct the additional two classrooms for which he has provided funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32107/11]

All works to be allocated funding under my Department's Devolved Schemes must be offered to the market in accordance with EU and National procurement guidelines. This includes the Additional Accommodation Scheme which allows school management authorities to carry out building or improvement works to their schools. School management authorities must comply with all the requirements of Technical Guidance Documents TGD 007 and TGD 008 (Design Team Procedures for Small Works and Engaging Professional Consultants for Small Works respectively) which are available on my Department's website. These guidelines provide opportunities for all contractors to tender. Failure to comply with theses guidelines may expose the school management authorities to challenge and subsequent financial penalties from a consultant or contractor who feels he/she was not afforded an opportunity to tender. Any such challenge could also result in the project being substantially delayed.

Teaching Qualifications

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

69 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the widespread concerns of students on the postgraduate diploma in education course due to it being changed from level nine to level eight when the students had already started week eight of their course; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that students were not consulted or informed of pending changes by the relevant authorities and that the costs of this course are appropriate for a level nine course rather than level eight; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32111/11]

Following detailed consultation between the Irish universities and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) in the context of the ongoing process of implementing the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), the universities have agreed that the initial post-primary teaching qualification, hitherto known as the Higher Diploma in Education and latterly as the Graduate or Postgraduate Diploma in Education, is to be formally included for the first time in the NFQ at Level 8 with immediate effect. All qualification titles used prior to 2011 (i.e. legacy titles) are also included in the NFQ at Level 8. The qualification will now be known as the Professional Diploma in Education, to avoid confusion with any Level 9 award type. Universities are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997 and my Department does not have any function in relation to their academic affairs, including decisions concerning course provision, postgraduate fees or internal consultation processes with students.

FÁS Training Programmes

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

70 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to an unfortunate situation that has arisen in respect of a person and FÁS (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32130/11]

I refer the Deputy to my written answer of Thursday 22nd September 2011 to Question Number 103 from the Deputy about this case. I understand from FÁS that the appeal of the person in question to the nominated Independent Medical Examiner resulted in failure to meet the minimum criteria to pass the colour vision test. Regrettably therefore the person cannot be registered as an apprentice. The FÁS Standards Based Apprenticeship Procedures require that persons entering employment as apprentices in certain specified trades, including Motor Mechanics, have passed a colour vision test, approved by FÁS, before FÁS register them as apprentices. This requirement applies to all persons entering employment in those trades and whose employers will be seeking to register them as apprentices with FÁS.

School Enrolments

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

71 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason pupils are being refused entry to their local secondary schools even though they are only a few hundred metres away and have attended the local national school; if he will end this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32135/11]

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of a Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) school to the VEC in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 being upheld. The selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. Under section 15(2)(d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected. The Deputy will be aware that I recently launched a discussion paper on school enrolment. The document,"Discussion Paper on a Regulatory Framework for School Enrolment" contained suggestions on how to make the process of enrolling in schools more open, equitable and consistent and I invited education partners and interested parties to submit their views to my Department by the 28th of October last. My officials are co-ordinating the submissions to the discussion paper in question. The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB may be able to offer assistance and advice on securing a school placement within the pupil's area. The contact details for the NEWB is National Educational Welfare Board, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7, phone number 01-8738600.

Schools Refurbishment

Dara Murphy

Ceist:

72 Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the minor capital works grant is still in operation; if a school (details supplied) in County Cork will be in receipt of the payment; if the scheme is not currently in operation, if the scheme will be brought back at a later date or his plans for a replacement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32136/11]

Schools have been informed that they are not to enter into commitments in expectation of the issuing of the primary school minor works grant in the current school year (2011/12). The decision regarding the payment of the grant is likely to be taken in the near future.

Special Educational Needs

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

73 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the review of special needs assistants for the schools in Shankill, Dublin will be carried out; the reason the wait has been so long; and the reason the planned visit of the special education needs organiser for week beginning 17 October 2011 was cancelled. [32147/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts. The organisation of school visits is a local matter between school management authorities and SENOs. I have arranged for the information provided by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply in this regard. The NCSE has now advised all mainstream schools of their SNA allocation for the current school year, taking into account the care needs of qualifying pupils attending the school and has published statistical information in relation to the allocation of SNA posts and resource teaching hours to Primary, Special and Post Primary Schools. The information is provided on a county by county and school by school basis on its website at www.ncse.ie. The NCSE has a retained capacity to respond to emergency cases, or where additional care needs arise for schools as a result of new school enrolments, injuries or diagnoses, during the school year, in the context of existing SNA provision in the school. The NCSE will advise schools in the near future of a process to review allocation decisions to ensure that correct procedures were followed and that they comply with my Department’s policy. The merits of individual allocation decisions will not be open to appeal under this mechanism.

Vocational Education Committees

Robert Troy

Ceist:

74 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the discussions he has had to date with the staff of Longford Vocational Education Committee; when the staff will be advised of the consequences of the proposal to merge Longford and Westmeath VEC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32162/11]

Robert Troy

Ceist:

75 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make Longford Vocational Education Committee office a sub-office of the new Mullingar headquarters of Longford Westmeath VEC. [32163/11]

Robert Troy

Ceist:

94 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if Longford Vocational Education Committee could be a sub-office to the new headquarters of Longford-Westmeath VEC in Mullingar, County Westmeath. [32455/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 75 and 94 together.

In determining Mullingar as a headquarter location, I was aware that both Co. Westmeath and Co. Longford VECs are very closely matched. However, I am satisfied that geographically Mullingar is the most favourable location for the headquarters. I expect that headquarters staff of Co. Longford VEC will move to the designated headquarters location in Mullingar as soon as feasible. However, I expect that the office in Longford will remain open for some time and that the approach to redeployment will be measured and considered. The detail in relation to the implementation of the merger, including the move of staff to the newly designated headquarters in Mullingar, will be worked through by my Department in conjunction with the VECs involved and the new merged Education and Training Board when established. My officials are currently involved in discussions with SIPTU and IMPACT, the trade unions representing staff in the VEC sector, regarding the proposed VEC mergers. An agreement has recently been concluded with SIPTU, on a redeployment scheme for CEOs in the context of the Croke Park agreement.

School Transport

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

76 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding payment for school transport in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32166/11]

Under the terms of the Primary School Transport scheme pupils are eligible for school transport if they reside 3.2 kilometres or more from and are attending their nearest national school having regard to ethos and language. Bus Éireann has advised that the pupil referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied is not attending his nearest school and is therefore not eligible for school transport under the terms of the scheme. Pupils who are not eligible for school transport may apply for concessionary transport provided there are spare seats available on an existing service. There is no provision within the scheme to waive charges for pupils who are not eligible for school transport.

Schools Building Projects

Nicky McFadden

Ceist:

77 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the school capital appraisal section will sanction a building project for a school (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32177/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for large scale capital funding for a new school. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale capital projects and has been assigned a Band 1.3 rating. The progression of all large scale building projects, including a project for this school, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme and the available financial resources with due regard to the demand for increased education provision at both primary and post primary level in the coming years. The Deputy will be aware that the most recent projections are forecasting a substantial increase in enrolments at both primary and post primary level in the coming years. The delivery of new schools, together with extension projects to meet the increase in demand, will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the proposed project for this school, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

Higher Education Grants

James Bannon

Ceist:

78 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a third level grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32191/11]

Officials in my Department have confirmed that the student referred to by the Deputy has made an application to Longford County Council under the Student Grant Scheme. A letter issued from that body on 25th October 2011, seeking further documentation from the applicant. In the circumstances, it will be necessary for the student in question to contact his grant awarding authority to ascertain the position regarding his grant application.

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

79 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has only been approved the half rate of third level maintenance grant. [32218/11]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority. The eligibility of an applicant, or the level of the grant awarded, may be re-assessed by the awarding authority in the event of a change of circumstances in the academic year. The applicant should in the first instance contact the relevant awarding body and notify them of the change in circumstances. The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form, including those relating to residence, reckonable income, nationality and previous academic attainment, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student would qualify for a grant or what level of grant would be appropriate. Where a grant application is refused, the reason for the refusal is given by the grant awarding authority. An applicant may appeal the decision to the relevant awarding authority. Where the grant awarding authority decides to reject the appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department or the independent appeals board as appropriate by submitting an appeal form clearly outlining the grounds for the appeal.

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

80 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills when an application for the third level maintenance grant for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was received; the position regarding same; when payment will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32219/11]

The processing of student grants is carried out by local grant awarding authorities — VECs and local authorities. In the circumstances, it will be necessary for the student in question to contact his grant awarding authority to ascertain the position regarding his grant application.

Vocational Education Committees

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

81 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the amalgamation of County Wicklow and County Kildare Vocational Education Committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32256/11]

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

82 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the amalgamation of County Wicklow and County Kildare vocational education committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32257/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 82 together.

In arriving at my decision in relation to the location of headquarters of the merged VECs, I considered a range of factors including the need to ensure that the location of a VEC headquarters will, to the greatest extent possible, facilitate staff redeployment under a redeployment scheme within the context of the Croke Park Agreement and the need to operate at lowest cost having regard to the accommodation available in existing locations. In relation to the specific merger of Co. Kildare VEC and Co. Wicklow VEC as you know I have decided that the headquarters of the Education and Training Board will be in Naas. In determining Naas as a headquarter location I was satisfied that geographically Naas is the more favourable location for the headquarters. The current office in Wicklow will be maintained as a sub office as the distance between it and Naas does not allow for redeployment of staff as provided for under the Croke Park agreement. It will be a matter for the CEO of the new Education and Training Board to work through how particular administrative functions are arranged across both locations having regard to the skills and experience of the staff concerned.

It will be a matter for the CEO of the new Education and Training Board to work through and judge what the best approach is to ensure the optimum approach to service delivery. The establishment of SOLAS is also likely to have a bearing on the precise arrangements to be made. I want to make clear that my Department will not be forcing any one size fits all approach to staff deployment and office accommodation by the new Education and Training Boards. We will be receptive to any reasonable and sensible arrangements that are the best fit for the needs of the areas served by the new board. The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes suggested that overall savings of €3million could be realised. The reconfiguration to 16 can, over time, yield such savings in the recurrent cost of the headquarter functions of VECs which, at present, is of the order of €40 million in total. Staff employed in the VEC headquarters are public servants and under the terms of the Croke Park agreement, such staff employed in a permanent capacity cannot be made compulsorily redundant. However, surplus staff may be redeployed. In common with all areas of the public service, VECs are subject to an Employment Control Framework (ECF). This places an upper limit on the number of staff which a public service organisation can have. Both VECs have each been set ECF targets to be achieved by the end of 2011. Redeployment arrangements to bring about the staffing reductions required to meet ECF limits will be agreed in accordance with the principles of the Croke Park agreement and will involve the unions representative of the grades concerned.

My officials are currently involved in discussions with SIPTU and IMPACT, the trade unions representing staff in the VEC sector, regarding the proposed VEC mergers. An agreement has recently been concluded with SIPTU, on a redeployment scheme for CEOs in the context of the Croke Park agreement.

Grant Payments

Peter Mathews

Ceist:

83 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the application for a home tuition grant will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32261/11]

The claim for advance payment of a home tuition grant, to which the Deputy refers, was received by my Department on the 20th September 2011. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the claim has been processed and the grant was available to the person to whom he refers since the 28th October 2011.

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

84 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of money yet to be spent under his Department’s 2011 budget allocation before the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32283/11]

The Gross Expenditure Allocation for my Department for 2011 is €8,888 million. At end-October 2011 estimated expenditure of €7,181 million had been incurred, leaving a balance of €1,707 million or 19% still to be spent by year end. At the same time in 2010 €1,938 million or 21% of the gross amount allocated to my Department remained to be spent.

Departmental Properties

Robert Troy

Ceist:

85 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has any property leased in private sector in County Westmeath; if so, the type of property; and the annual rent payable. [32298/11]

I can confirm to the Deputy that I am the registered owner of a number of properties in County Westmeath. I am advised that none of these properties is leased to the private sector.

School Staffing

Simon Harris

Ceist:

86 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will sanction the grant of a full teaching post in respect of an application for resource hours made by a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32314/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

Circular 37/2011 provides information to schools regarding the arrangements which are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours for children with assessed special educational needs.

In relation to the allocation of individual Resource Teaching hours, the position is that for the 2011/12 school year an initial allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations has been made by the NCSE to schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy. This allocation, in the first instance, provided schools with the majority of their allocation, yet preserved enough capacity to deal with late applications and ensure that my Department can remain within Employment Control Framework obligations.

Schools had been requested to forward any outstanding applications, or additional outstanding materials to support incomplete applications to the NCSE for consideration before 16th September 2011. These applications have been considered and my Department has approved the allocation of further Resource Teaching supports in schools by the NCSE. The NCSE will be in contact with schools in the near future to inform them of their individual allocations.

Finally, the NCSE has recently published statistical information in relation to the allocation of SNA posts and resource teaching hours to Primary, Special and Post Primary Schools. The information is provided on a county by county and school by school basis on its website at www.ncse.ie.

Schools Building Projects

Michael Creed

Ceist:

87 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school building project in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32323/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the building project for this school was included in the 2011 School Building Works Programme for the completion of tender documents and progression to tender in 2011.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this project was recently tendered and my officials are currently in the process of identifying the successful contractor. Subject to no issues arising, it is anticipated that a contractor will be appointed by the end of the year and construction will commence in early 2012.

Special Educational Needs

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

88 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Cork will receive its allocation of resource hours in respect of students who are new to the school in the current academic year; the reasons for the delay in allocating the said resource hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32347/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

Circular 37/2011 provides information to schools regarding the arrangements which are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours for children with assessed special educational needs. In relation to the allocation of individual Resource Teaching hours, the position is that for the 2011/12 school year an initial allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations has been made by the NCSE to schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy. This allocation, in the first instance, provided schools with the majority of their allocation, yet preserved enough capacity to deal with late applications and ensure that my Department can remain within Employment Control Framework obligations.

The NCSE has recently published statistical information in relation to the allocation of SNA posts and resource teaching hours to Primary, Special and Post Primary Schools. The information is provided on a county by county and school by school basis on its website at www.ncse.ie.

All schools had been requested to forward any outstanding applications, or additional outstanding materials to support incomplete applications to the NCSE for consideration before 16th September 2011. These applications have now been considered and the NCSE will contact schools in the near future to advise of the outcome of the applications.

Schools Refurbishment

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

89 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision on the payment of the primary school minor works grant in the current school year will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32354/11]

Schools have been informed that they are not to enter into commitments in expectation of the issuing of the primary school minor works grant in the current school year (2011/12). The decision regarding the payment of the grant is likely to be taken in the near future.

Schools Building Projects

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

90 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects a schools building programme (details supplied) in County Waterford to progress to design stage in order that a design team can be appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32370/11]

The building project for this school was listed in the School Building Works Programme announced on 24th January 2011 to commence the design team appointment process this year.

The brief and schedule of accommodation has been prepared. It is anticipated that officials from my Department will be in contact with the school authorities shortly to commence the tender process for the appointment of the design team.

FÁS Training Programmes

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

91 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the waiting time for redundant apprentices for the FÁS competency determination mechanism which enables eligible redundant apprentices to complete their apprenticeships; and the measures being taken to expedite the process. [32383/11]

I understand that FÁS has recently written to eligible redundant apprentices for the trades validated for the Competency Determination Mechanism, requesting their expression of interest to participate in the Competency Determination Mechanism.

FÁS is currently assessing the level of demand for the relevant trades and will examine the capacity requirements to meet the demand. Once this process has been completed, FÁS will have a clearer picture of the waiting time issue.

School Patronage

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

92 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a list of community schools, tabulating their approximate opening date, the names of the participating religious orders and the amount of capital money paid towards the school in each case by each religious order at this time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32421/11]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

93 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will take into complete public charge the ownership and operation of any community school when the religious interests have not met with their obligations under the deed of trust setting up such schools and dispense with their services as trustees or managers of these schools. [32422/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 93 together.

My Department is compiling the list of community schools and the religious trustees as sought by the Deputy. This will be sent to the Deputy shortly. The Deed of Trust to which the Deputy refers essentially grounded the roles and responsibilities of the trustees of the schools on a property lease relating to the plot of ground involved.

Subsequently the Education Act 1998 defined a school patron as the persons who at the commencement of the legislation stood appointed as trustees. Accordingly the trustees of community schools became the joint patrons of the school concerned. In general under the Act the powers conferred on a patron and the functions to be exercised by a patron are not property dependent but derive from the legislation itself.

As their membership declined religious orders involved as patrons or trustees of voluntary secondary schools have over recent years been making arrangements for the patronage and governance of their schools through the creation of trust boards. The withdrawal of the religious orders from school patronage is also an issue in relation to community schools and must inform policy development in relation to the patronage and governance of those schools.

Over the past decade policy in relation to property ownership of schools has also evolved with the state increasingly purchasing sites for schools instead of relying on school trustees or patrons to provide land or partial funding for schools, and with the use of the PPP model of procurement.

A review of the deed of trust of community schools is currently underway which, inter alia, is looking at the whole concept of the relevance of a property-based model in the case of community schools.

Some religious orders have sought to provide for their exit from individual Deeds of Trust and a transfer or their role and functions. My Department has asked the religious orders and church authorities, if they are seeking the preservation of catholic joint patronage, to consider the creation of a single catholic patron to discharge the functions of patron instead of individual orders or trust boards. While information regarding historic financial contributions towards construction costs made by the religious orders when the community schools were first established is not readily available, the Deputy will appreciate from the information that I have provided above that there are wider and more significant issues to be teased out in determining either the appropriate patronage and governance arrangements for the schools concerned under the Education Act or property ownership arrangements into the future.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 74.

Social Media

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

95 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered using social media as a way to match up potential jobseekers or those seeking further education opportunities; if any approach has been made with the major social networks based here with a view to adapting their services in the newly created SOLAS framework; if online teaching of courses has been considered as a method of delivering course content to those who cannot be at the training centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32547/11]

I believe that, in general, education and training providers should bear in mind the potential for using, where feasible, social media to assist job seekers and those seeking further training and education opportunities.

For example, FÁS has recently launched a "Jobseekers App" that provides access to the FÁS Jobs Ireland website where jobseekers can find information on job vacancies, on JobBridge internship and Work Placement Programme (WPP) opportunities as well as on Community Employment vacancies.

FÁS has a number of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts relating to FÁS, JobBridge, the Work Placement Programme and Screen Training Ireland. These pages are used to provide information and updates on new programmes and courses, upcoming events and press releases etc.

FÁS already provides a range of On-Line courses that cater for individuals who are IT-literate and who wish to work at their own pace and in their own time and without a requirement for any additional supports. I understand that Learners can register for on-line courses through www.ecollege.ie

In addition, FÁS in partnership with the Library Council of Ireland has devised a programme, E-Learning at the Library, to make learning available to clients in circa 100 local libraries. The aim of the programme is to up-skill local persons in Digital Competence and IT Skills.

In the Further Education sector, while opportunities for distance learning are limited, the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) has developed a number of distance learning opportunities including a TV series: Read Write Now (2000 to 2004), The Really Useful Guide to Words and Numbers (2006 and 2007) and Written off? (2008 and 2009).

Skillnets, a state funded, enterprise-led support body that promotes training and upskilling has also been using social media in recent months in communicating with/advertising its services/programmes to job-seekers. In addition, Skillnets is commencing an advertising campaign with LinkedIn which is targeted at HR staff. Skillnet network managers have recently produced an Online Promotion Guide which is a network manager's guide to social media promotion through LinkedIn and Facebook

In relation to the development of the framework for SOLAS, this project involves working towards the full integration of the separate Further Education and Training sectors. The education and training programmes to be provided through SOLAS will be modernised over the whole sector to become more relevant, accessible, and more effective. Since August 2011, I have been leading detailed planning work for the key elements of the new organisation, including its Mission, Legislative basis, Structure, Staffing and Funding. A draft Action Plan is nearing finalisation and my Department will shortly commence consultations with various interested stakeholders on it.

As part of the Government's Jobs Initiative, 6,000 part time higher education places are being funded through Springboard, a specific initiative targeted at unemployed people who have lost jobs in sectors where employment levels will not return and who will need new qualifications and skills to re-enter employment as the economy recovers. Many of the Springboard courses are delivered online including a number of programmes with the Open University and Oscail. Full details regarding all Springboard courses including course delivery methods can be found on the Bluebrick.ie web portal.

Public Sector Staff

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

96 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if there is a standard policy for all civil servants and public servants in relation to the use of business class economy class in air travel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31964/11]

Foreign travel guidelines covering, inter alia, business and economy class air travel were issued by my Department to all Government Departments/Offices on 1 July 2009.

Departments/Offices were required to implement these guidelines in respect of their own local management of travel arrangements and were also requested to write to the relevant public bodies/agencies under their aegis to ensure that the guidelines were adhered to by the state organisations concerned. Such public bodies/agencies are required to report on their compliance with the guidelines in their annual reporting procedures prescribed under the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.

I have asked my officials to forward directly to you a copy of the foreign travel guidelines for information.

Flood Risk Management

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

97 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide an update on a national strategy on coastal flooding which would include the views of local residents. [31981/11]

The Irish Coastal Protection Strategy Study (ICPSS) was commenced in 2003 by the then Department of Marine and Natural Resources. The ICPSS established a more strategic framework for detailed mapping and analysis of the Irish coastline. The phases set out in the ICPSS to progress that analysis are now substantially complete.

Assessment and management of coastal flood risk, as identified by the ICPSS, is now incorporated in the strategic provisions of the National Flood Policy, as established after Government approval of the 2004 Report of the Flood Policy Review Group and aligned with the requirements of the 2007 EU Floods Directive. The principal vehicle for implementation of the Floods Directive is the Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Studies Programme.

The Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme is designed to identify and assess areas, both coastal and inland, at risk of significant flooding.

The purpose of the Programme is to:

produce detailed flood mapping in order to identify and map the existing and potential future flood hazard and risk areas.

Build the strategic information base necessary for making informed decisions in relation to managing flood risk.

Identify viable structural and non-structural measures and options for managing the flood risks for localised high-risk areas both coastal and inland.

There are three main stages in the Programme and a suite of documents is produced for public consultation at each stage:

2011 — Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment (The public consultation stage of the Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment was concluded on 01 November 2011);

2013 — Flood Hazard Mapping;

2015 — Catchment Flood Risk Management Plans.

Simon Harris

Ceist:

98 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the management of severe weather events in Ireland and related matters, July 2010, have been implemented by the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32181/11]

The report referred to by the Deputy contained six recommendations, numbers 11 to 16, in relation to the Office of Public Works. Substantial progress has already been made in relation to all of the recommendations as follows:

Recommendation No. 11: The OPW's funding for flood risk management should be substantially and strategically increased to reflect levels of flood risk now known to exist in several major river catchments. The OPW should commence and if possible accelerate the implementation of the Lee CFRAMS, commence the Shannon CFRAMS and those of other major river systems;

A total of €234.5m has been spent by the OPW in the years 2006-2010 on flood risk management activities, with another €54m approximately expected to be spent this year. During this period OPW has been able to undertake construction works on 13 major flood relief schemes. Another 17 schemes have been progressed through various stages of design and planning, on which it is hoped to undertake construction works in the period up to 2014, subject to the availability of finances. These schemes will mitigate substantially the known risk of flooding at the locations in question.

OPW has commenced a Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Study Programme which will provide the foundation for future flood risk management in line with national flood policy and the requirements of the EU Flood Directive. Consultants have already been commissioned to undertake studies for four of the River Basin Districts, including the Shannon system, and the studies for the remaining two RBDs will be commissioned before the end of the year. The pilot CFRAM study for the Lee catchment has been substantially completed. The CFRAM studies will produce a plan of prioritised structural and non-structural measures to address flood risk in each catchment. The plans will be completed by the 2015 deadline set out in the Floods Directive. These Plans will inform the assessment of the funding needed to address effectively flood risk in a proactive and comprehensive way over coming years.

Recommendation No. 12: The OPW should approve and fund all urgent minor flood relief measures identified by local authorities pending the completion of detailed flood risk assessment and management strategies except where there may be legal or other unavoidable reasons for not doing so;

Total funding of €22.5m has so far been approved by the OPW to local authorities under the Minor Flood and Coastal Protection Works Scheme, which commenced in 2009, to enable them to undertake localised flood relief work and studies.

OPW is continuing to receive applications for funding from local authorities under this scheme and these are being assessed under the relevant economic and environmental criteria having regard to the overall funding available.

Recommendation No. 13: The OPW should determine and prepare a national strategy for river drainage and maintenance measures to manage flood risk, and allocate sufficient resources to, and begin, its implementation in conjunction with the local authorities;

As mentioned above, OPW's CFRAM Programme will produce a prioritised plan of measures to address flood risk in each catchment in the country. Each study will examine a range of possible measures, including drainage of channels where appropriate. The recommendations of the studies will provide the basis for developing a comprehensive flood risk management strategy and identifying the resources required to implement it, in partnership with local authorities and other relevant stakeholders.

Recommendation No. 14: The OPW should actively engage with and support local authorities in the preparation of detailed flood risk assessment under the major emergency planning framework;

OPW's CFRAM Programme, which will provide the blueprint for dealing with fluvial and coastal flooding countrywide, is being implemented in close co-operation with local authorities. OPW already participates and will continue to participate actively in national emergency planning with other relevant state bodies.

Recommendation No. 15: Appropriate flood early warning systems should be put in place by the OPW on all major river systems or parts thereof where a substantial ongoing flood risk in known to exist. Providing some degree of early warning system in such places should not need to await the detailed studies planned under the CFRAMS process;

OPW commissioned consultants to carry out a detailed review of options for Flood Forecasting and Flood Warning in Ireland. The consultants' report has been received and OPW will shortly be consulting with the stakeholders in relation to its recommendations.

Recommendation No. 16: The OPW should update its flood mapping work to reflect localised risks and flooding events that took place in November 2009, and ensure such information is disseminated to and understood by relevant agencies;

All confirmed data supplied/sourced by OPW has been made available via the flooding mapping website www.floodmaps.ie. This website is available to all local authorities. OPW is continuing to liaise with stakeholders, including local authorities in respect of any data that they make available to us.

Simon Harris

Ceist:

99 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the budget allocated to the Office of Public Works for flood risk assessment and management measures in each of the years 2006 to 2011, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32182/11]

The table sets out the investment by the Office of Public Works (OPW) since 2006 on flood relief activities. A total of €234.5M has been invested in the years 2006-2010 with another €54M approximately expected to be spent this year.

Year

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Totals

€32.2M

€43.83M

€46.1M

€55.61M

€56.7M

€38.8M*

(*Expenditure to 27th October 2011)

During this period OPW has been able to undertake construction works on 13 major flood relief schemes. Another 17 schemes have been progressed through various stages of design and planning, on which it is hoped to undertake construction works in the period up to 2014, subject to the availability of resources.

A significant amount of the allocation has been and will continue to be spent on the Minor Flood and Coastal Protection Works Scheme where OPW are providing funding to local authorities to undertake localised flood relief work and studies themselves.

OPW has also commenced the Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Study Programme during this period and each of the studies will produce both structural and non-structural recommendations.

OPW has also spent approximately €100m in the period in question under the ongoing Drainage Maintenance and Hydrometric Programmes.

Simon Harris

Ceist:

100 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the works that have been undertaken in improving flood defences at a location (details supplied); if he will detail any outstanding works yet to commence; if he will give further details and a timeframe for these works; the level of ongoing contact between the Office of Public Works and the relevant local authorities on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32183/11]

The Office of Public Works is currently involved in a number of initiatives to alleviate flooding in County Wicklow.

Bray Town Council, with financial support from the Office of Public Works has designed a flood relief scheme for Bray town. The Council has also brought it through the planning stage and has completed a procurement process for a civil works contractor. A decision on the progress of this scheme will depend on the outcome of the current review of Capital Expenditure being conducted by the Government.

OPW, in partnership with Arklow Town Council is also undertaking a feasibility Study to identify possible mitigation measures for the town. It is not possible at this point to give a timescale for the implementation of any viable mitigation measures that the study may identify.

In addition to the above initiatives, the Office of Public Works has provided total funding of €935,000 to Wicklow County Council through the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme for eight projects to alleviate flooding in the county. Details of the projects funded under the Scheme are set out in the table below.

The Scheme was introduced in 2009 to provide funds to Local Authorities to undertake minor mitigation works or studies to address localised flooding and coastal erosion problems within their administrative areas. Funding applications are assessed by the OPW, in consultation, as necessary, with the relevant personnel in Wicklow County Council. This assessment has regard to specific economic, social and environmental criteria and the overall availability of resources. The commencement and progression of projects funded under the Scheme are a matter for Wicklow County Council.

As part of the ongoing National Catchment Flood Risk Assessment Programme, the OPW appointed consultants earlier this year to undertake studies of the Eastern and South Eastern River Basin Districts, which cover Co. Wicklow. These studies will identify and examine in detail the causes of flooding throughout the catchments and produce an integrated plan of specific measures to address the significant flood risk factors in a proactive and comprehensive way.

Funding Allocated to Wicklow County Council under Minor Flood Works and Studies Scheme

Project Location

Funding Allocated

Year Allocated

R762 Delgany

€40,230

2009

L52001 Redford Park, Greystones

€6,300

2009

Boghall Road, Bray

€360,000

2009 and 2010

Mountain View, Boghall, Bray

€67,500

2010

Arklow Town

€81,000

2010

North Beach, Arklow

€70,000

2010

Baltinglass Town Centre

€100,000

2010 and 2011

Parkmore, Baltinglass

€210,000

2011

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

101 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the person that has responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the lower Shannon in the region of Springfield, Clonlara, County Clare which has experienced serious flooding in the past; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32213/11]

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

102 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the responsibility of the Office of Public Works regarding the upkeep and maintenance of the lower Shannon in the region of Springfield, Clonlara, County Clare which has experienced serious flooding in the past; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32277/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 102 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Office of Public Works (OPW), having secured National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) consents, undertook works to the stretch concerned, which were completed in early 2010, in order to provide immediate flood relief to the area. In the event of further essential viable works being necessary, the OPW would consider carrying these out subject to the requirements of the NPWS.

The consideration of flooding matters within the Shannon catchment is being addressed through the Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study, which commenced earlier this year. This study will identify and examine in detail the causes of flooding throughout the Shannon catchment, and produce an integrated plan of specific measures to address the significant flood risk factors in a pro-active and comprehensive way. The flood risk management plan for the Shannon catchment will take account of economic, social and environmental factors and will include a range of structural and non-structural measures such as the construction of flood defences, dredging, increased conveyance capacity, the management of water levels and early warning systems. Responsibility for the various measures in the plan will be clearly outlined.

Departmental Properties

Robert Troy

Ceist:

103 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has any property leased in private sector in County Westmeath; if so, the type of property; and the annual rent payable. [32300/11]

Robert Troy

Ceist:

123 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has any property leased in private sector in County Westmeath; if so, the type of property; and the annual rent payable. [32305/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 123 together.

The Office of Public Works pays rent on 7 properties (buildings) in County Westmeath on behalf of various Government Departments.

There are 10 leases attaching to these 7 buildings and the following table schedules the building name/address, building type and the annual rent payable.

No of Buildings

Building Name

Address

Building Type

Annual Rent €

1

Athlone Driver Testing Centre

Unit 8 McCormack Centre

Office

21,600.00

2

Athlone Dept of Social Protection/Probation & Welfare Office

Grace Park Road

Office

359,577.16

3

Athlone Storage Education & Garda Water Unit

Garry Castle, Dublin Road

Warehouse

9,516.40

Athlone Storage Education & Garda Water Unit

Garry Castle, Dublin Road

Warehouse

14,665.47

Athlone Storage Education & Garda Water Unit

Garry Castle, Dublin Road

Warehouse

13,205.28

4

Athlone Garda Station

Barrack Street

Garda Station

25,900.00

5

Mullingar Government Offices

Friars Mill Road

Office

186,309.00

6

Mullingar Government Storage

Unit 23 Clonmore Industrial Estate

Warehouse

16,278.12

Mullingar Government Storage

Unit 23 Clonmore Industrial Estate

Warehouse

28,011.96

7

Mullingar Probation & Welfare Service

Friars Mill Road

Office

26,664.50

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

104 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount that would be saved to the Exchequer by reducing all salaries for those paid with public money to a maximum of €100,000. [32341/11]

I refer to the reply by my colleague, the Minister for Finance, to Question Nos. 18587/11, 18588/11, and 18586/11 on 5 July 2011.

Property Valuations

Robert Troy

Ceist:

105 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will bring forward legislation to amend the Valuation Act to include the word economic in the material change of circumstances in view of the serious precarious situation in which many small and medium size business find themselves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32352/11]

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

106 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if economic changes of circumstance will be considered for businesses struggling to pay rates at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32409/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 106 together.

The Valuation Act 2001 provides for the valuation of all commercial and industrial property and the Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions under the Act and the making of valuations for rating is his sole prerogative. Under the 2001 Act, the basis of valuation for all commercial property is net annual value, i.e. the rental value of the property. To ensure equity and uniformity, the valuations, on revision, for modified or new properties are determined by references to the values of comparable properties on the same valuation list.

Under section 28(4) of the Act, a Revision Officer of the Commissioner may carry out a revision of valuation in relation to a particular property only if a material change of circumstances has occurred such as a new building, a change in value due to structural alterations of an existing building, total or partial demolition of a building or a sub-division or amalgamation of relevant property.

The Act does not allow for a revision of valuation where the change in value may be due to economic factors, differential movements in property values or other external factors such as roads or other infrastructural development in the vicinity of a property.

Revaluation is the mechanism whereby economic changes that take place in the property market are reflected in the valuation lists and in individual ratepayers' rates liabilities. The purpose of revaluation is to bring more equity, fairness and transparency to the local authority rating system. Ideally, occupiers of properties of similar value in the same rating area should have a similar rates liability and following revaluation, there will be a much closer relationship between rental value and commercial rates liability and this relationship will thereafter be maintained by means of recurring revaluations provided for in the Act.

My Department is reviewing various provisions of the Valuation Act 2001, including the appeal procedures, with a view to modernising and streamlining the valuation process in the interests of both the ratepayers and the local authorities. In conjunction with the Valuation Office and the Attorney General, preliminary Heads of Bill have been drafted which I hope to bring to Government shortly, for approval.

As the Deputy is aware, the levying of commercial rates is a matter for local authorities and the amount of rates to be collected is a matter for each local authority to decide. Commercial rates provide the means by which local authorities can fund the services essential to communities, and therefore business, including roads, water and waste services, fire and emergency, libraries and a range of community, amenity and social activities.

The Government is acutely aware of the pressures on small and medium-sized businesses and the challenging economic environment in which many property and business owners are operating at the moment. In this context, the Government is focused on reducing the costs of doing business to support competitiveness and employment in the economy and to protect the interests of communities. Local authorities have responded positively to requests to exercise restraint in setting commercial rates. Annual rates on valuation have been reduced by an average of 0.6% in 2010 and by a similar level in 2011. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government will continue to keep all matters relating to rates under regular consideration.

Proposed Legislation

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

107 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to meet the commitment given to the EU-IMF to introduce legislation to give effect to the Competition Authority report recommendation that he examine the introduction of competitive tendering for legal services purchased by the State; if he considered the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts into procurement of legal services which recommended that competitive tendering for solicitors’ and barristers’ legal services should be made mandatory for all public bodies when drafting the Legal Services Regulatory Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32430/11]

My Department is engaged with the State's law offices, who are critically involved in the engagement of legal services, with a view to increasing competitive forces and pursing reductions in overall costs. Reductions are being achieved through reduced fee levels.

Legal services are not exempt from public procurement rules and many authorities tender for their legal advisory services. To raise awareness in this regard, my Department will shortly re-iterate the importance of competitive tendering to all public bodies.

State Bodies

Michael Creed

Ceist:

108 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has made any recent decision regarding staff members elected to State boards and their entitlement to payment for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31761/11]

My Department has instructed Departments and Offices that, with effect from 1 November 2011, the payment of fees should cease in respect of (i) public servants serving on State boards and (ii) public sector employees who sit on their own organisation's board or the boards of other public sector organisations. Where contractual obligations may prevent the discontinuance of such board fee payments, Departments and Offices have been directed to put immediately in place the necessary arrangements in order to end such payment practices at the earliest possible date. The imposition of these restrictions on the payment of state board fees has regard to the constraints on public finances and the adherence to "one person one salary" in respect of public employees serving on state boards.

Freedom of Information

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

109 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to reform the Freedom of Information Act as outlined in the Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31812/11]

My Department is engaged in the necessary preparatory work and consultations to give effect to the commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to Freedom of Information.

I expect to be in a position to introduce the necessary legislative measures to give effect to these commitments in the New Year.

Flood Relief

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

110 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the action being taken to address the serious erosion to the bank of the River Slaney, Rathvilly, County Carlow (details supplied). [31881/11]

The watercourse in question is not under the statutory care of the Office of Public Works. Generally, the maintenance of rivers, which do not form part of an Arterial Drainage Scheme or a Drainage District, is a matter for the riparian landowners. Where a matter of public safety arises, it should be referred to the relevant local authority.

The Office of Public Works has received no reports of recent flooding at the location concerned from the local authority. It would be open to the local authority to submit an application under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme administered by this Office for funding to undertake measures to address flooding issues at the location. Any application received will be considered having regard to the scheme eligibility criteria and to the overall availability of resources for flood risk management.

Public Sector Contracts

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

111 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way that regulations are policed on public sector contracts when contractors and or sub-contractors are not complying with REA conditions, even though such contracts specifically state that these regulations must be adhered to. [31883/11]

While the requirements to follow REA conditions may be a procurement matter, it is the National Employments Rights Authority that has the responsibility for monitoring employment conditions through its inspection services and can enforce employment rights compliance and seek redress. This agency comes under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation. If the Deputy is aware of specific instances where firms may not be complying with relevant statutory pay and conditions of employment, the matter can be referred to NERA for investigation.

State Bodies

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

112 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress made to eliminate unnecessary quangos since he took office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31894/11]

The question of rationalisation and the reduction in the number of State bodies is being considered in the context of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure and the overall budgetary and estimates process for 2012, and decisions on such matters will be made by the Government over the coming weeks.

The priorities set out in the Programme for Government for the rationalisation of State Agencies states that rationalisation must be cost effective and lead to a more transparent, accountable and efficient public service. The overriding imperative is the absolute requirement to achieve major savings in all areas of expenditure and to reduce staff numbers and administrative overheads. This underscores the need for radical streamlining of bodies, abolishing those bodies whose remit is no longer essential and amalgamation of other agencies or sharing of services between bodies, so that public services and functions can be delivered more cost-effectively.

Public Sector Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

113 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 347 of 18 October 2011 and of 143 of 6 October 2011, if he will collate and supply the saving to the State if all annual civil and public sector pensions were capped at €35,000 per year. [31989/11]

Information in respect of the Civil Service has been provided previously to the Deputy. It would be a matter for the respective Government Departments to arrange for the provision of the data being sought by the Deputy in respect of public service bodies under their aegis, if available. The data in respect of public service bodies under my aegis was provided in my reply to PQ No. 194 of the 18th October 2011.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

114 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress being made under the Croke Park agreement to facilitate staff transfers, promotions and redeployments across publicly funded agencies to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32151/11]

The deployment and management of staff are primarily a matter for the head of a Department or other body in the first instance, having regard to its employment control framework (ECF), policy and operational priorities and the budgets available. Changes in the services provided and their delivery, in the allocation of work and in the use of information technology are taking place on an ongoing basis within the public service, against a background of falling numbers. Significant redeployment of staff and reassignment of work has taken place in that context.

The Public Service Agreement 2010-14 (Croke Park Agreement) provides for agreed redeployment arrangements to apply in the Civil Service and in other parts of the public service, and for these arrangements to take precedence over other methods of filling vacancies. I should point out that the agreement applies to the Public Service. The term publicly funded bodies could include private and voluntary sector bodies which are grant aided but whose employees are not public servants. In general redeployment opportunities are to be sought in the first instance within each sector (e.g. health, education, local authority, etc.). Redeployment allows staff to be moved from activities which are of lesser priority, or which have been rationalised, reconfigured, or restructured, to areas of greater need. In practical terms these arrangements represent a means of facilitating the targeted reduction in public service numbers in the period to 2014 while sustaining the ongoing delivery of services. The progress made in implementing the provisions of the Croke Park Agreement, including examples of progress on redeploying public servants within and across sectors of the public service, is set out in the website of the Implementation Body at http://implementationbody.gov.ie/progress-and-delivery/ .

The reorganisation of Ministerial responsibilities earlier this year involved several transfers of functions between Departments which resulted in exchanges of staff and resources, often at multiple locations. This process also included transfers and reassignment of staff to achieve the best organisational fit and, in some cases, redeployment to meet priority needs in other organisations in particular locations. There has also been a substantial redeployment of staff in the context of structural re-organisations or levies, both of which are specifically recognised in the Croke Park Agreement. For example, in recent years over 500 staff transferred, mainly under levies and trawls, to the Department of Social Protection and to the CSO for Census 2011. A further 2,000 or so HSE and FÁS staff are transferring to the Department of Social Protection with their functions. The Public Appointments Service (PAS) has put in place a system of Resource Panels of Civil Service and State Agency staff to support the redeployment processes in those sectors agreed under the Croke Park Agreement. It is a matter for the employer to identify the number and grades of posts to be redeployed in the first instance and to upload the posts onto the PAS panels. Posts to be filled by redeployment are offered in the first instance to the relevant panel or panels. My Department is working on an ongoing basis with PAS and other stakeholders to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the redeployment processes and of the panel system in particular. Redeployments continue to take place across a range of grades, including promotion grades, across the various parts of the public service.

Where staff are not available for redeployment in a particular location, the post, if approved for filling by my Department, may be offered to staff who had already indicated an interest in transferring there, whether directly to the Department concerned or through the Central Applications Facility (CAF). Since 2003, the CAF has also facilitated the wishes of substantial numbers of public servants to transfer to alternative locations under the Decentralisation Programme. However, the possibilities to facilitate requests for such transfers are now more limited due to ongoing reductions in public service numbers and the necessity for redeployment to take precedence.

The Senior Public Service (SPS) provides mobility opportunities for Assistant Secretaries to move to posts at equivalent level within the civil service. As the SPS is extended to the wider public service, mobility will be extended on an incremental basis.

State Bodies

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

115 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works is satisfied with the level of co-operation which it is receiving from Waterways Ireland and the ESB regarding operational control of water flows on the River Shannon the date on which the OPW was last in discussion with both agencies regarding water management protocols for the major storage areas in the Shannon system; the changes, if any, which have been introduced to such protocols on foot of the November 2009 flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32160/11]

My Office engages regularly on a trilateral basis with the ESB and Waterways Ireland to review on-going matters of cooperation and information-sharing in respect of management protocols on the River Shannon.

The most recent meeting in this regard took place on 21 September, 2011. I am pleased to note that the meeting recorded that interaction and cooperation is working well at all levels between the agencies.

The current operation protocols governing the regulation of the Shannon have recently been reviewed by consultants engaged on the Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Management and Assessment (CFRAM) Study. This review is being considered by the Office of Public Works (OPW) in the context of the CFRAM Study.

Following the flood event of November 2009, the OPW, on a daily basis, monitors with Waterways Ireland, rainfall levels and the operation of control structures on the Shannon River. In addition, OPW receives twice weekly reports from the ESB which provide a water level forecast based on the 5 day rainfall forecast from Met Éireann. These forecasts are also shared with all local authorities contiguous to the Shannon catchment and with other primary stakeholders. The ESB has also put in place a communications protocol with the Mid-West Inter Agency Emergency Group.

Flood Relief

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

116 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if deepening the seabed along the Clontarf coastline, Dublin, will prevent flooding. [32176/11]

A solution along the lines outlined in the Deputy's question would present significant and complex technical and environmental issues. While it may address some localised wave overtopping, it would not offer a viable flood defence solution along the Clontarf coastline. The selection of a solution for the area referred to by the Deputy from the range of potential options would be a matter for Dublin City Council, taking into account the recommendations of their consultants .

James Bannon

Ceist:

117 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the steel girders will be removed from the River Shannon, just below the Clondra Bridge, County Longford, to alleviate the serious flooding problems which were outlined to him on a visit to Longford-Westmeath earlier this year and which he promised to have sorted out before the end of the year, but to date nothing has been done; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32193/11]

As indicated in my reply to the Deputy on 30th June, 2011, the Office of Public Works has no responsibility for this issue. My officials contacted Waterways Ireland in July 2011, to ascertain the position and Waterways Ireland have replied indicating they have undertaken a study of possible options to reinstate this weir and are currently reviewing the options identified in the study. When a preferred option has been determined and agreed with their sponsor Department, they will inform OPW.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

118 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the projects funded in County Roscommon by the Office of Public Works since November 2009 to address flooding issues; the cost of each project and the date of completion; his plans for further works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32250/11]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

119 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the projects funded in County Leitrim by the Office of Public Works since November 2009 to address flooding issues; the cost of each project and the date of completion; his plans for further works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32251/11]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

120 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the projects funded to alleviate flooding on the River Shannon by the Office of Public Works since November 2009 to address flooding issues; the cost of each project and the date of completion; his plans for further works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32252/11]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

121 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the projects funded to alleviate flooding on the River Suck by the Office of Public Works since November 2009 to address flooding issues; the cost of each project and the date of completion; his plans for further works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32253/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 to 121, inclusive, together.

The Office of Public Works has provided funding of almost €3.9m to Local Authorities through the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme for over 60 projects in the areas mentioned. The Scheme was introduced in 2009 to provide funds to Local Authorities to undertake minor flood mitigation works or studies to address localised flooding problems within their administrative areas. Funding up to a maximum of 90% of the total cost of a project is available under the Scheme. Funding applications are assessed having regard to specific economic, social and environmental criteria and the overall availability of resources.

Details of the projects funded under the Scheme for the areas concerned are set out in the table below. The commencement and progression of projects funded under the Scheme are matters for the relevant Local Authority, and funding may be drawn down as the projects progress. The OPW is continuing to assess applications from local authorities and it is open to local authorities to submit further applications for funding under the Scheme. With regard to the River Suck, the Deputy will be aware from my reply of 11th October, 2011 to PQ 28502/11 that responsibility for the maintenance of the River Suck rests with the River Suck Joint Drainage District, which is funded by Galway and Roscommon County Councils. In addition to the Committee's ongoing annual maintenance activities, the Office of Public Works has provided significant funding under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme to Galway and Roscommon County Councils for a number of flood mitigation projects on the River Suck, and the surrounding areas. The Deputy will be also aware that the consideration of flooding issues in the River Shannon and Suck Catchments are currently being addressed via the Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study and my reply to PQ 26920/11 of 4th October, 2011 outlines the progress to date in this matter.

Projects Funded by OPW under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme:

Roscommon

Year

Project Location

Funding

2009

Moneymore TD, Knockcrohery

€40,500

Highbog, Rahara

€31,500

Taghboy, Ballyforan

€18,900

Killukin River, Carrowreagh

€7,000

Ballyglass River, Dysert

€7,000

2010

Killukin River, Carrowreagh

€5,036

Ballyglass River, Dysert

€3,987

Strokestown

€18,000

Elphin

€9,000

Four Roads Area

€18,000

Miltown, Castleplunkett

€2,250

Lissalway, Castlerea

€2,700

Knockalgtha

€2,070

Grange

€1,800

River Jiggy

€450,000

Athleague Flood Alleviation

€270,000

Ballintober Village

€90,000

Red Bridge, Drum

€24,300

Valeview, Castlerea

€54,000

2011

Lisduff

€9,450

Cullawinnia

€29,250

Tibarney

€16,200

Cloghnashade, Four Roads

€25,000

Cloughan, Four Roads

€16,200

Roxboro

€8,745

Leitrim

Year

Project Location

Funding

2010

Glenfarne

€105,000

Tawnylea

€27,000

Greyfield

€28,000

Leitrim Road/Park Lane, Carrick

€220,860

2011

Mountcampbell

€27,000

Eslin River, Drumod

€5,000

River Shannon (In addition to those Projects Funded in Roscommon/Leitrim)

Year

Project Location

Funding

Thornfield, Portumna, Co. Galway

€47,250

Portumna-Ennis Road (R352) at St. Josephs Road, Co. Galway

€27,000

Iona Villas, Athlone

€177,323

The Strand, Athlone

€288,748

River Suck (In addition to those Projects Funded in Roscommon)

Year

Project Location

Funding

Ballinasloe

€9,000

Derrymullen, Ballinasloe

€1,103,000

Derrymullen, Ballinasloe

€45,200

East Bridge, Ballinasloe

€40,500

East Bridge, Ballinasloe

€15,120

East Bridge, Ballinasloe

€108,000

Funding of almost €400,000 was provided for a further 25 projects in the Ballinasloe hinterland

€400,000

Ballyglass South, Ballymoe

€54,000

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

122 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount of money yet to be spent under his Department’s 2011 budget allocation before the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32290/11]

The 2011 Estimate for my Vote amounts to €34.841m of which €23.470m had been expended at the date the October Issues figures were completed, leaving €11.371m available for the remainder of the year.

Question No. 123 answered with Question No. 103.

Flood Relief

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

124 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will actively support the flood victims in Dublin North Central; and if he will assist on the insurance issue. [32360/11]

A flood relief scheme, which will help alleviate the serious flood risk from the Wad River for the Donnycarney area of Dublin, has been developed by Dublin City Council. The Council is currently finalising agreements with local stakeholders in advance of the works, after which it will seek the approval to commence the scheme. The Office of Public Works (OPW) has already agreed in principle to provide funding for the scheme.

The Minister for Finance recently addressed the issue of flood insurance in response to a Parliamentary Question. In his reply the Minister indicated that there were no plans to introduce a Government-backed insurance scheme for such householders. As you are aware, the possible introduction of an insurance scheme to protect householders who cannot obtain flood insurance from regular insurance companies was examined in 2010. However the then Government concluded that such an approach was not financially viable. I recently gave an assurance to the house to look again at this decision and to see what, if any, further help may be provided.

I am continuing to review difficulties, that some householders are having in accessing flood insurance cover, with the Irish Insurance Federation. The focus of these discussions is intended to improve the scope and quality of the information available to the insurance industry to reduce market inertia in some locations where capital works investment has addressed flood risk and to improve the measurement of the difficulties experienced with regard to flood insurance cover.

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

125 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 77 of 6 October 2011, if he will arrange to have the information requested forwarded to this Deputy. [32425/11]

The data requested by the Deputy took time to collate. It has now been provided to him. I regret any inconvenience caused to the Deputy by the delay.

Land Transfers

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

126 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding transfer of lands (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32438/11]

The situation remains unchanged from my previous reply to Parliamentary Question 193 on 11 October, 2011.

Insurance Industry

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

127 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the grant aid given to Aviva Insurance to enter the market; the terms and conditions of this grant aid; the funding that can be recouped as a result of Aviva’ s announcement of 950 redundancies here [31796/11]

No grant aid has been provided to Aviva Insurance by the Government through the State development agencies of my Department.

Job Creation

Simon Harris

Ceist:

128 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to encourage job creation outside large urban centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31800/11]

Job creation is central to our economic recovery and the Programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place to support enterprise and innovation so that employment opportunities can be grown and maintained. Strong, balanced regional development and thriving entrepreneurship throughout Ireland are fundamental to the country's economic growth and to job creation.

Improvements to our economic infrastructure over the last decade have facilitated the attraction of investors to the regions. At present, 45% of IDA Ireland's client company employment is outside the key urban centres of Dublin and Cork. The agency's strategy, "Horizon 2020" sets out targets for direct and indirect job creation through foreign direct investment up to 2014. The IDA's objective is to generate a total of 105,000 additional direct and indirect jobs overall in the economy by 2014. In implementing this ambitious strategy, the agency has set a specific goal of securing 50% of all its investments in locations outside of Dublin and Cork. Ultimately, however, the final decision on location is taken by the investor.

Enterprise Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) also provide supports for job creation outside large urban centres. Over 60% of Enterprise Ireland's clients are located outside the major urban centres. The agency seeks to develop and grow client companies in all locations, with a view to increasing sales and exports and generating employment.

Enterprise Ireland also facilitates the development of the enterprise environment in local and rural communities through campus incubation facilities and Community Enterprise Centres.

The CEBs promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship in both urban and rural areas across the country. The CEBs deliver a series of programmes to underpin this role and provide both financial (grants) and non-financial (advice, training and mentoring "soft supports") assistance to project promoters who have the capacity to achieve commercial viability.

In order to build on the activities of the agencies which are already in place, I have begun the process of preparing a comprehensive Jobs Strategy which will provide an action plan to support the creation of employment across the economy. As part of the Jobs Strategy, I will be exploring the potential for new measures which can encourage job creation at local level. My objective is to publish the Jobs Strategy in January.

Simon Harris

Ceist:

129 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his strategy for job creation in County Wicklow; if he has consulted with the Industrial Development Agency Ireland on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31801/11]

The enterprise development agencies under the remit of my Department are continuously working to create and sustain employment across the country. One of the targets set out in IDA Ireland's strategy document "Horizon 2020” is the creation of 62,000 direct and 43,000 indirect new jobs in Ireland over the period 2010-2014, with 50% of these investments to be based in locations outside of Dublin and Cork. Central to IDA’s strategy is to build on existing regional strengths to ensure Ireland’s economic development, while optimising regional spread, in line with the National Spatial Strategy. At present, there are 2,185 people employed in 18 IDA client companies in Wicklow, mainly in Bray, Arklow and Greystones. Company expansions on the Dublin/Wicklow border at Cherrywood, Loughlinstown, include Dell and Elavon Financial Services, both of whom have increased their employment levels.

In terms of job creation, Enterprise Ireland activity is focussed on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies, job creation and retention in existing companies and in enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and companies working with third level institutions.Enterprise Ireland has 180 clients in Co. Wicklow employing over 3,240 people. Since 2010, the agency has made payments of approximately €4.7m to clients in the county. This funding has helped companies to create and retain employment, to explore new markets for products and services and to build innovative capacity. Some 76 innovation vouchers to the value of €380,000 have been awarded to companies in Co. Wicklow. The vouchers are designed to assist small Irish firms in accessing innovative solutions in the higher education sector and to give them financial support to get on the first rung of the innovation ladder.

The role of Wicklow County Enterprise Board (CEB) is to provide support for micro-enterprise in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. Priority is given to manufacturing and internationally traded services, and, subject to eligibility criteria, micro-enterprise businesses, provided that the proposed projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. Job creation and retention are inherent considerations in their activities. To date in 2011, Wicklow CEB has paid out €258,942 in grants to 24 eligible micro-enterprise projects, leading to the creation of 71 jobs. In addition, 34 micro-enterprise clients have availed of Wicklow CEB mentoring services and 487 clients have participated in their training initiatives.

As the Deputy is no doubt aware, I have begun preparation of a comprehensive Jobs Strategy, at the request of the Taoiseach and Cabinet Committee on Jobs. I have started a rolling process of engagement on the issues and intend to create an action plan that Government can take to address our challenges — looking at both immediate policy initiatives to promote employment and the development of longer term opportunities. I have written to a series of experts, in both the public and private sectors, looking for their input on a range of relevant issues. I have received a number of proposals from various sources in recent months which I will be examining in greater detail as part of this process.

Job Losses

Simon Harris

Ceist:

130 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has engaged in talks with a company (details supplied), in view of the recent job losses at that company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31802/11]

I understand from IDA Ireland that Merck, Sharpe and Dohme (MSD), Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow informed its workforce on 19th October last that it was introducing a programme of 40 redundancies at the facility. MSD currently employs 320 people at Rathdrum. Most of the redundancies will take place in 2012, with the redundancy programme to be completed by late 2012.

The programme is part of MSD's plans to improve cost competitiveness across its manufacturing network. MSD Rathdrum has completed a €55m capital investment programme this year and manufactures Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) for Januvia, a leading Merck drug, and other products.

IDA is in discussion with MSD Rathdrum about a transformation agenda, including an up-skilling programme for the existing workforce, and I have asked that IDA keep me informed of developments in relation to this agenda and the company's redundancy programme.

County Wicklow forms part of the East Region of Ireland and, as such, benefits from being part of the largest and most successful region in the State. In terms of FDI, the East Region has been a success story with a critical mass of population, skills pool, educational infrastructure, international access connections, existing business activity across all sectors and extensive property solutions for future activity.

IDA Ireland's strategy for the East Region is to:

Market the Region to overseas clients in order to secure new investments;

Support the growth and development of the Region's existing clients by working with them to transform their business in the region to create additional employment and sustainability;

Influence the provision of supporting infrastructure to attract foreign direct investment.

Globally the outlook for FDI continues to be challenging in 2011 but a continuing focus on improving competitiveness nationally will place Ireland and the East Region in a favourable position to continue to win further significant FDI investment.

Property Sale

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

131 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to utilise the former offices of Quinn Insurance in the Industrial Development Agency park, Johnston, Navan, County Meath as an opportunity for enterprise. [31817/11]

I understand that the Quinn Group has put its office in Navan, Co. Meath, consisting of 83,000 square feet, on the market. The premises is currently being marketed by a real estate firm. IDA Ireland has engaged with the estate agents and has been marketing the availability of this facility to prospective clients.

Work Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will restore a spousal work permit or a work permit in their own name in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31841/11]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits and all applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the above named no longer qualifies for the Spousal/Dependant Scheme. Persons who do not qualify for the Spousal/Dependant Scheme must apply for a permit in their own right if they wish to take up employment in the State.

Any such applications are considered in line with the current policy in relation to new first time permits. Further information on the current policy for new employment permits can be found on my Department's website at www.djei.ie.

Redundancy Payments

Dan Neville

Ceist:

133 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the assistance available to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31918/11]

In the light of the information supplied, the person concerned would not be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. The individual does not appear to have at least two years continuous service with the company in question, as required under the Redundancy Payments Acts. It is up to the employer concerned in the first instance to determine whether or not there is in fact a redundancy situation.

Work Permits

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

134 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be granted a work permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31992/11]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits and all applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006. I wish to advise the Deputy that a Work Permit application in respect of the above named was received in the Employment Permits Section on the 14th October 2011 and will be processed in sequence. Current processing dates can be found on my Department's website at www.djei.ie/labour/workpermits/processingdates.htm.

Job Creation

Robert Troy

Ceist:

135 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans in conjunction with the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Education and Skills to help the long-term unemployed get back into the labour market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32240/11]

Supporting job creation and tackling unemployment are key objectives for the Government. Delivering these objectives will require a concerted effort across all Government Departments.

The Department of Social Protection is responsible for labour market measures which are aimed at increasing the employability of jobs seekers and assisting them to find work. As part of its particular remit, the Department of Education and Skills provides training, re-skilling and education opportunities for unemployed people to improve their opportunities of re-entering the workforce.

These two Departments are delivering the additional training, education and upskilling places which were announced as part of the Government's Jobs Initiative last May, through programmes such as Job Bridge (the National Internship scheme), Springboard and Tús.

The Programme for Government included a commitment to establish a new National Employment and Entitlements Service to streamline and improve the level of services available to those seeking work. The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, recently published plans for the development and implementation of the new service which will provide a ‘one stop shop' for people who are seeking to establish their benefit entitlements, looking for a job, or seeking advice about their training options.

The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, has also announced the establishment of a new further education and training authority, SOLAS, which will ensure the provision of high-quality further education and training programmes to jobseekers and other learners. These programmes will be integrated, flexible, and responsive to the needs of learners and the requirements of a changing economy. SOLAS will link courses more closely with the needs of the individual and the labour market. There will be an enhanced role for the VECs in upskilling jobseekers under the new arrangements.

Enhancing the employability of those who are unemployed — and especially the long-term unemployed — must be accompanied by the creation of jobs in the economy. In this context, I am currently working on the development of a Jobs Strategy which will set out a series of clear, actionable measures to support the creation of jobs. I have sought the views my colleagues in Government on the Jobs Strategy as part of an engagement process that also includes enterprise and wider interests.

The Jobs Strategy will be published in January. In the meantime, I will continue to work with my Government colleagues and with my own Department's agencies to develop employment opportunities by improving the competitiveness of the economy, growing indigenous enterprises and attracting inward investment.

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

136 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount of money yet to be spent under his Department’s 2011 budget allocation before the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32288/11]

The net Exchequer provision for my Department for 2011 is €844.840 million. This sum comprises €336.9 million in Current expenditure and €507.9 million in Capital expenditure and takes into account a targeted saving of €14.6 million on Programme Payroll and non-pay administrative savings for 2011 agreed in the context of the development of the National Recovery Plan.

This allocation is broadly spent across 6 key Programme Areas. Net expenditure across these Programmes to the end of September amounted to approximately €490 million.

Significant spend is profiled for the last quarter of the year. However, my Department will closely monitor spending under all expenditure lines with a view to returning savings made to the Exchequer.

Departmental Properties

Robert Troy

Ceist:

137 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has any property leased in the private sector in County Westmeath; if so, the type of property; and the annual rent payable. [32303/11]

I can advise the Deputy that my Department neither owns nor has any offices or property leased in County Westmeath.

EU Directives

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

138 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding transposing the EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers 2008 into Irish law; the consultation he has had with interested parties on the matter; his views that the legislation will result in job losses here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32424/11]

The EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers (2008/14/EC) is due to be transposed into Irish law by 5 December 2011 and my Department is working to meet this deadline. A central aim of the Directive is to ensure protection of temporary agency workers by applying the principle of equal treatment in their basic working and employment conditions.

Government approval for the draft Scheme of a Bill to give effect to the EU Directive in Irish law has recently been obtained and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel is proceeding with urgency to draft the necessary Bill. I expect that the Bill will be published in the next few weeks. The preparation of the draft Scheme of Bill was informed by responses obtained from a range of key stakeholders, including employers and union organisations, the recruitment sector as well as other interested parties, to a public consultation conducted by my Department in October 2010. My Department was engaged also in follow-up discussions with a number of stakeholders following responses to the consultation.

In tandem with the preparation of the necessary legislation to give effect to the Directive, my Department is engaged in discussions with the national social partners, IBEC and ICTU, with the objective of facilitating agreement on the conclusion of a "Framework Agreement" under the terms of a derogation provided under Article 5.4 of the Directive. This would allow, for instance, the application of a "qualifying period" before which the principle of equal treatment would apply to agency workers in Ireland and would place us in a similar situation to that of the UK which has already obtained agreement on a 12-week qualifying period.

The Government is interested in obtaining agreement on this aspect as it would create a balance between the rights of agency workers on the one hand and, the need for labour market flexibility on the other. I am aware that certain stakeholders have pointed to the potential for the Directive to negatively impact on employment however, it is the case that, arising from EU commitments, the Directive must be implemented in all Member States of the EU.

It would be my intention, in bringing forward legislation to meet the State's commitments in this regard, to ensure that while affording the necessary entitlements to agency workers, the Government will also have close regard to the need to retain a necessary level of labour market flexibility to ensure that Ireland continues to provide a pro-business environment in which businesses can grow and develop with a consequent positive knock-on in our ability to retain and grow employment.

Employment Rights

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

139 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if the contracts of the 15 former Airtricity employees, who would be affected by a contract within the terms of a tender recently submitted by a company (details supplied) to provide public lighting to Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim and Sligo County Councils, are entitled under EU law to transfer current employment conditions to a new subcontractor under the TUPE transfer of undertakings legislation. [32441/11]

The current Irish law in the area of "transfer of undertakings" is the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003 — Statutory Instrument (S.I.) No. 131 of 2003. The Regulations implement the mandatory (i.e mandatory to transpose) provisions of EU Council Directive 2001/23/EC of 12 March 2001 which is aimed at safeguarding the rights of employees in the event of a transfer of an undertaking, business or part of a business to another employer as a result of a legal transfer (including the assignment or forfeiture of a lease) or merger. Also, section 21 of the Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006 transposed a provision of European Directive 2001/23/EC relating to the information to be provided by the original employer to the new employer.

In any particular case, it is open to individuals to seek legal advice to determine if the specifics of their particular situation might constitute a Transfer of Undertaking. In the event of a claim being submitted to the State's employment dispute resolution service, it would be a matter for a Rights Commissioner to determine in law if any particular case does in fact constitute a transfer of undertakings situation.

While my Department cannot provide legal advice in respect of any specific case, I would point out that the European Commission has issued a guidance document on European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings in the area of transfer of undertakings and outsourcing or contracting-out. That document indicates that the ECJ has found that in a situation where a services contract for a labour-intensive service such as office cleaning or security services (as distinct from an assets-based service such as public transport where other ECJ rulings apply) has been outsourced and where the contract subsequently moves to a new contractor, it may be considered a "transfer of undertakings" for the purposes of the Transfer of Undertakings Directive. This would be predicated on the new employer taking over a major part, in terms of their numbers and skills, of the employees specially assigned by the previous contractor to the provision of the services in question.

However, as indicated above, the circumstances of each individual case would have to be considered by a Rights Commissioner, in the first instance, in the light of all previous case law, including ECJ case law. Any such case should be taken within six months of the date on which an employee considers that there has been a contravention of the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations.

An application to a Rights Commissioner can be made by the employee, or by a representative (including a trade union representative) by contacting the Rights Commissioner Service of the Labour Relations Commission, Tom Johnston House, Haddington Road, Dublin 4, or phone 01 6136700.

Capital Projects

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

140 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of projects for which subcontractors have been used by Roscommon, Galway,Sligo, Leitrim, and Mayo county councils in the past 24 months and in the past 12 months. [32445/11]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

141 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the numbers of capital projects for which subcontractors have been used by Roscommon, Galway, Sligo, Leitrim, and Mayo county councils in the past 24 months and in the past 12 months. [32446/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140 and 141 together.

The matters raised by the Deputy do not fall within my remit but would appear to be more appropriate to my colleague the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government.

Redundancy Payments

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

142 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their redundancy payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31961/11]

Under the Redundancy Payments Scheme all eligible employees are entitled to a statutory redundancy lump sum payment on being made redundant. In this case no claim appears to have been submitted for the individual concerned.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

143 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if redundancy payment will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the matter will be expedited. [32074/11]

A Redundancy Lump sum claim was received on 26 May, 2011. Redundancy Lump sum claims received during April 2011 are currently being processed.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

144 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if a redundancy payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite the matter. [32117/11]

The Redundancy Payments system indicates that a lump sum payment was authorised for the individual concerned on the 9 March, 2011 and a cheque was issued for an amount of 21,072.66 euros. If the applicant has not received his payment a re-issue of his cheque will be arranged as a matter of urgency.

.

Departmental Schemes

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

145 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection if the back to education allowance scheme covers level nine qualification; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32419/11]

The focus of the back to education allowance (BTEA) is to assist those who are most marginalised and distant from the labour market to acquire the necessary education to improve their chances of becoming independent of the social welfare system.

The back to education scheme covers a large range of full-time courses of education in approved colleges spanning basic foundation courses to third level courses across all disciplines. Courses may be pursued up to a higher diploma level in any discipline and to a professional diploma in education hitherto known as a post graduate diploma in education [level 8 in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)]. BTEA will not usually be approved if a person holds a qualification equivalent to or higher than the qualification for which the application has been received. Other postgraduate qualifications (level 9 or level 10) are not included.

However, a small number of cases have arisen where a college has granted an exemption from the requirement to hold a primary degree and has admitted a person to a Master's course, which is level 9 in the NFQ, on the basis of relevant life experience. In the context of the ongoing monitoring of the operation of the scheme, it has been decided to extend entitlement to the back to education allowance in these instances on an exceptional basis.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Ceist:

146 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31767/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on the 28th September 2011. This application has been forwarded to one of the Department's Medical Assessors for their medical opinion on the case. Upon receipt of this opinion, a decision will issue to the customer.

It should be noted that it is currently taking up to ten weeks to process an application.

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

147 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding social welfare discretionary payments in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry while their case is being reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31779/11]

The Department's representative administering the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme has advised that the person concerned has been refused SWA as she does not satisfy the habitual residence condition (HRC).

Once off exceptional needs payments (ENP) may be made to eligible applicants without reference to the habitual residence condition. These payments may be made to help meet an essential once-off cost which an applicant is unable to meet from his/her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined based on the particular circumstances of the case. The person concerned should contact the Department's representative administering SWA to pursue any entitlement she may have to an ENP payment.

Carers Strategy

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Ceist:

148 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will publish the national carers strategy, which promises to set out Government’s commitment in regard to income supports, health care, training, the labour market, transport, housing and information services for family carer’s; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31786/11]

The Government is committed in the Programme for Government to developing a carers' strategy. It will consider how best to progress the development of the strategy, taking into account the prevailing economic realities and the work that was carried out previously.

The Department of the Taoiseach chaired an interdepartmental group in 2008 which undertook work, to develop a National Carers' Strategy. The Departments of Finance, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Health and Children, and Social and Family Affairs, as well as the Health Services Executive (HSE) and FÁS were represented on the group.

As my Department is responsible for providing income supports for carers, it will of course have a role in developing and implementing a strategy. However many of the issues of most concern to carers are the responsibility of other Departments, in particular the Department of Health.

The strategy will have to be developed within existing available resources. In developing and implementing the strategy, the Government will take account of our IMF and EU commitments, as well the outcomes of the comprehensive review of expenditure currently being undertaken by each Department.

Social Welfare Benefits

Pat Breen

Ceist:

149 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not received payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31788/11]

A person may qualify for payment of back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) if he or she is in receipt of a social welfare or health service executive payment, is participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education or training course, has household income at or below certain specified levels and is in receipt of a qualified child allowance (QCA) in respect of each child for which payment is sought.

The person concerned is in receipt of a QCA payment from the Department in respect of one child and has received a BSCFA payment in respect of this child. The person concerned should contact the area of the Department that deals with his primary claim regarding his entitlements to a QCA payment in respect of his second child. His BSCFA claim can then be reviewed when this matter has been resolved.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

150 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection in relation to a recent refusal of a back to school clothing and footwear allowance on the basis the applicant was €5 over the limit allowed, if she will review an application (details supplied) with a view to awarding an exceptional needs payment. [31810/11]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme operates from the beginning of June until the end of September each year.

Those customers who did not receive an automated payment were required to complete and return an application form to the Department. In all cases a letter issued to applicants informing them of the decision and, where payment has been awarded, when and where they could collect the payment. In the case of refusal of the allowance the procedures for review of the decision was outlined to customers. The persons concerned were refused BSCFA as their income was in excess of the limit allowed for their family composition. The persons concerned can request a review by contacting the BSCFA review section in Letterkenny. Details on how to request a review are available on the Department's website at www.welfare.ie or on the refusal letter that has been provided to the applicants.

Under Section 201 of the 2005 Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, the Department's representative administering Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) may make a single payment to meet an exceptional need to people on social welfare or health service executive payments. These payments are known as Exceptional Needs Payments (ENPs). The person concerned may wish to contact the Department's representative in their local SWA administrative office in order that an assessment of their entitlements can be examined.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

151 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision in relation to supplementary welfare allowance has been made in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31813/11]

The community welfare service (CWS), and the community welfare officers providing it, formally transferred to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

The Department's representative administering the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme has advised that additional documentation has been requested from the person concerned in order that they can finalise details relating to her claim. When the documentation has been provided the Department's representative will be in a position to examine her entitlements to SWA.

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

152 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; the reason the payment has been suspended; if it will be put back into payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31829/11]

The community welfare service (CWS), and the community welfare officers providing it, transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

Payment of rent supplement has ceased as the person concerned is engaged in full-time employment.

Community Development

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

153 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection to allow a theatre company (details supplied) in County Kerry to retain an allocation of €373 surplus, full-time equivalent at the end of 2011, due to the reduction of PRSI rate to 4.25 from July 2011. [31837/11]

The community services programmes (CSP) co-funds the services delivered by around 440 community based not-for-profit enterprises across the State. Some €47.4 million has been allocated to the programme in 2011 supporting some 2,800 people in full and part time employment. A key requirement of the programme is that the service provider must generate a significant element of their turnover from traded activity or other non-public sources of income. The reduction in the rate of employers' PRSI resulting from the Government's Jobs Initiative will have a positive effect on some service providers funded by the CSP by reducing their PRSI liability.

I do not propose to alter the value of the contracts in place with service providers for 2011.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Ceist:

154 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent supplement application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31838/11]

The community welfare service (CWS), and the community welfare officers providing it, transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

The Department's representative will contact the person concerned shortly with a decision in relation to his rent supplement entitlement.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when carer’s allowance is likely to be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31854/11]

The person concerned submitted a claim for carer's allowance in respect of her parents. She was refused on two separate grounds, firstly, that one of the care recipients is not so disabled as to require full- time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. In addition, following appropriate investigation, it was decided that, while the person concerned is providing some care and attention, the statutory condition that full time care and attention be provided is not being fulfilled in this case.

On 27 July 2011, she was notified of this decision and the reasons for it.

She has appealed the decision that full-time care and attention is not being provided and has submitted additional medical evidence requesting a review of the medical eligibility of one of the care recipients. Once the review of the medical eligibility has been completed, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome and her file will be sent to the social welfare appeals office for determination.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is receiving their full entitlement in respect of jobseeker’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31855/11]

The person concerned is in receipt of his full entitlement to jobseeker's allowance based on the information available to the Department.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when jobseeker’s allowance will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31856/11]

The person applied for jobseeker's allowance on 2 November 2010. Her jobseeker's allowance claim has now been decided and the person will be notified accordingly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if back to educational allowance is payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31857/11]

One of the qualifying conditions for the back to education allowance (BTEA) is that a person must have established an entitlement to the relevant social welfare payment prior to commencing an approved course of study.

The person applied for jobseeker's allowance on 2 November 2010. Her jobseeker's allowance claim has now been decided and a decision in relation to the BTEA will now be made and the person will be notified accordingly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of entitlement to rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31858/11]

The position remains as advised in the question which I answered for the Deputy on 20th October 2011.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of hours of employment and-or income allowable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who in currently in receipt of one-parent family allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31859/11]

According to the records of the Department the person concerned is not in receipt of one-parent family payment.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the case in respect of a disallowed appeal for jobseeker’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31860/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at the oral hearing, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the decision.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the position in the matter of refusal of jobseeker’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31861/11]

A decision to disallow an application for jobseeker's allowance from the person concerned was made on 11th October 2011. The reply to the parliamentary question cited by the Deputy was prepared before the decision was made.

Social Welfare Benefits

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

163 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection if she intends changing the 30-hour rule for eligibility for mortgage interest supplement; the reason this has not been changed to date as recommended in the Cooney report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31871/11]

There are currently over 18,500 households benefiting from mortgage interest supplement, for which €77.2m has been allocated for 2011.

The Department's review of the administrative, policy and legal aspects of the mortgage interest supplement scheme was published in July 2010 in conjunction with the interim report of the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Review Group. The final report of the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Review Group was published in November 2010. These reports set out a number of recommendations which centred on the delivery of customer service improvement by ensuring that State support for those unable to deal with mortgage arrears is better targeted, consistent and easily understood. Allied with the focus on customer service improvements are recommendations that seek to ensure that lending institutions, borrowers and the Exchequer share responsibilities and commitments in a balanced way. The report's recommendation to remove the 30 hour rule was made within the context of the mortgage interest supplement scheme becoming a time bound payment. The recommendations set out in the Mortgage and Personal Debt Review Group's final report were considered by the Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Working Group whose report to the Government's Economic Management Council was published on the 12th October 2011.

My Department's officials are currently examining this report and considering the implications of the recommendations.

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

164 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons availing of rent allowance in County Carlow; the breakdown of same in terms of location, Carlow town, Bagenalstown, Tullow and the rest of the county; the number of letting agents being used; and the number of clients per agent. [31880/11]

Since 2005 rent supplement expenditure has increased from €369million to €516million in 2010. The number of persons claiming the allowance increased from almost 60,200 persons in 2005 to some 95,700 as at October 2011, a 59% increase.

There are 1,460 recipients of rent supplement in County Carlow. My Department has no information on the number of letting agents or rent supplement recipients in respect of the locations specified.

Social Welfare Appeals

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

165 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31886/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. Notification of the Appeals Officers decision issued on 29th June 2011.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Ceist:

166 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 252 of 18 October 2011, if this matter will be reinvestigated as the person states that they have submitted all the information as requested or if there is further information needed will this be forwarded to the applicant; this will then, if the payment is not agreed allow the applicant to appeal the decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31888/11]

The community welfare service (CWS), and the community welfare officers providing it, transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

The position remains as advised in my reply to the Deputy on 18th October 2011. The person concerned was requested to provide further information in order to process his application for a mortgage interest supplement. The information requested has not been provided to date. The person concerned should contact the local supplementary welfare allowance administrative office to discuss his particular case.

Redundancy Payments

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

167 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 291, 295, 296 and 297 of 27 September 2011, when she expects to be in a position to answer these questions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31917/11]

As the Department does not record nor compile information / statistics in the format sought by the Deputy in relation to all of the specific questions submitted, it has not been possible to provide a response in each case.

However, I can inform the Deputy that, in 2010, a total of €373 million was paid in rebates to employers who paid their employees lump sum payments. A further €96.7 million was paid out in lump sum redundancy payments where employers failed to make such payments.

Statistics on the numbers of redundancies notified for each of the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 are set out in the tables 1 and 2.

Table 1: Number of Redundancies notified for the years 2008 to 2011 (up to September)

2008

2009

2010

2011*

40,607

77,001

58,731

33,678

*provisional (from January, 2011 to September, 2011)

Table 2: Number of Redundancies notified for each month to date in 2011

Jan

Feb

Mar

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

4,846

3,089

5,349

3,725

4,102

3,669

4,703

3,829

3,367

Dan Neville

Ceist:

168 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the assistance available to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31918/11]

In the light of the information supplied, the person concerned would not be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. The individual does not appear to have at least two years continuous service with the company in question, as required under the Redundancy Payments Acts. It is up to the employer concerned in the first instance to determine whether or not there is in fact a redundancy situation.

Social Welfare Benefits

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

169 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Louth has had a back to school clothing and footwear allowance refused; if the decision will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31922/11]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme operates from the beginning of June until the end of September each year.

Those customers who did not receive an automated payment were required to complete and return an application form to the Department. In all cases a letter issued to applicants informing them of the decision and, where payment has been awarded, when and where they could collect the payment. In the case of refusal of the allowance the procedures for review of the decision was outlined to customers. The person concerned was refused BSCFA as she does not have a qualifying payment. The person concerned can request a review by contacting the BSCFA review section in Letterkenny. Details on how to request a review are available on the Department's website at www.welfare.ie or on the refusal letter that has been provided to the applicant.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

170 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an application for rent supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31936/11]

The community welfare service (CWS), and the community welfare officers providing it, transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

The person concerned was refused rent supplement on the grounds that he had vacated local authority accommodation without satisfying the Department's representative that there was good cause for doing so.

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

171 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for farm assist in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [31942/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of this case took place on 23rd August 2011. The Appeals Officer is still considering the evidence in the case and hopes to issue a decision within the next 14 days.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when arrears of rent allowance for the month of July 2011 will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31948/11]

The community welfare service (CWS) and the community welfare officers providing it transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

The person concerned is in receipt of his full entitlement to rent supplement based on his household circumstances. There are no arrears due to the person concerned.

Question No. 173 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Niall Collins

Ceist:

174 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm that the carer’s allowance section have furnished the independent appeals office with all the necessary papers in an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31984/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 4th August 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 28th October 2011 and the appeal will be assigned, in due course, to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the means assessed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in respect of their disability allowance payment was based on the same means for themselves and their spouse as previously in the determination of their payment in respect of jobseeker’s allowance in view of the fact that their entitlement to jobseeker’s allowance was considerably higher than their current entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31999/11]

The assessment of means for jobseeker's allowance and disability allowance is similar but for two exceptions, where farming is involved and capital disregards.

In this case the person concerned was means tested for jobseeker's allowance in 2009 using financial data supplied by the applicant at that time. A disability allowance means assessment took place in 2011 using the most up to date financial data supplied by the person concerned when he made his disability allowance application.

Details of the jobseeker's allowance means assessment carried out in 2009 has been requested and on receipt of this the disability allowance means assessment will be reviewed.

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

176 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will outline in tabular form the cost to her in the past five years of providing back to school allowance for children aged two and three years; her plans to review the qualifying ages on the basis that these are non-school-going years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32003/11]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn. The allowance is not intended to meet the full cost of school clothing and footwear but only to provide assistance towards these costs.

The BSCFA scheme was introduced in 1990. This scheme superseded the arrangements which had been in place since 1977 whereby child clothing and footwear payments were made under the exceptional needs provisions of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme. The SWA clothing and footwear scheme had in turn replaced a previous Public Assistance Footwear scheme that had been introduced in 1944.

These previous schemes had been targeted at both school and pre-school children from the age of two years up. When the BSCFA scheme was introduced, the provision to pay the allowance to children from the age of two years up was retained.

At the end of this year's BSCFA scheme a review will be undertaken of all aspects of the operation of the scheme, including eligibility criteria. The following tabular statement shows the breakdown of children aged two and three years of age that benefited from the scheme between 2006 and 2010 and the associated cost.

Tabular Statement BSCFA Recipients 2 and 3 Year olds 2006 to 2010

BSCFA Recipient numbers aged 2 and 3 years

Year

Numbers

Cost

2010

39,800

€7,960,000

2009

34,071

€6,814,200

2008

24,633

€4,926,600

2007

22,017

€4,403,400

2006

21,215

€4,243,000

Social Welfare Code

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

177 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the European Commission’s request to the British Government to stop applying a right to reside test to EU nationals on the basis that it amounts to indirect discrimination in contravention of EU law; if she has considered the implications for her policy under section 246(5) to (10) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005; if she will amend the legislation accordingly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32011/11]

I am aware that the EU Commission has issued a Reasoned Opinion to the UK, regarding the application of the UK's residence test for certain social welfare payments under UK legislation. A Reasoned Opinion is an early step in a legal process. The next step is for UK to respond to the Commission's Opinion, and if there is still disagreement, the matter may be referred to the European Court of Justice. It would be premature at this stage to assume that the outcome of this process will require a change to Irish legislation.

There are two different pieces of EU legislation that have an effect in the area of habitual residence: firstly, in the social security area we have Regulation 883/2004 on the co-ordination of social security systems, and secondly, the question of the right to reside is dealt with in the free movement Directive 2004/38. The latter gives EU citizens the right to reside in the territory of another Member State for more than three months, provided they have sufficient resources not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State. It has recently come to light that at European level there are different interpretations of the interaction of these two legal instruments. At the formal Council of Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs last June, no fewer than thirteen delegations expressed their view that more discussion was needed in this area, and called on all Member States and the Commission to continue to look into this area as a matter of priority, with a view to considering amendments to the current legislative framework, should these be deemed necessary.

I look forward to the continuing work at EU level to clarify this complex area and will examine any necessary changes to Irish legislation in that context.

Departmental Expenditure

John Lyons

Ceist:

178 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection the cases in which she covers the cost of the translation of documents from other languages; the amount this has cost her in the past year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32028/11]

My Department translates a variety of supporting documentation from other languages necessary for use in claims processing, such as medical certificates, legal papers. The cost of translating these documents in 2010 was some €309,000 and some €235,000 to date this year.

The documents are translated quickly to ensure that there is no delay in processing the claim. This is an important element in delivering a quality service to my Department's customers.

I am satisfied that the translation service provided by my Department meets the requirements of our customers and staff.

Social Welfare Benefits

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

179 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a rent allowance payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32033/11]

The community welfare service (CWS) and the community welfare officers providing it transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

The person concerned made an application for rent supplement on 29th July but her rent was in excess of the maximum rent limit appropriate to her family composition. The person concerned has been requested to provide further information in order to process her claim. A decision will be made on her application when the information has been provided.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Ceist:

180 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a jobseeker’s allowance appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32036/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department made 9 additional appointments to the office earlier this year.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

181 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32044/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received from the person concerned on the 15th September 2011 and was disallowed on the 11th October 2011. The person concerned requested a medical review of this decision on 27th October 2011 and submitted additional supporting information. The application has been forwarded to one of the Department's Medical Assessors for review of the original medical opinion. Upon receipt of the review report, a decision will issue to the customer.

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

182 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay on an appeal for domiciliary care in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [32057/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing within the next month. The person concerned will be notified of the arrangements.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Questions Nos. 183 and 184 withdrawn.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

185 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against the decision to refuse an application for illness benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32072/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 4 May 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 3 October 2011 and the appeal has been assigned to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 186 withdrawn.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

187 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if supplementary allowance will be paid to them as they await the outcome of the appeal. [32079/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21 October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

It is open to the person concerned to apply for supplementary welfare allowance while her appeal is pending.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

188 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an oral hearing for domiciliary care allowance, in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32084/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department made 9 additional appointments to the office earlier this year.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 189 withdrawn.

Community Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

190 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review a matter (description supplied) regarding funding. [32099/11]

The community services programmes (CSP) co-funds the services delivered by around 440 community based not-for-profit enterprises across the State. Some €47.4 million has been allocated to the programme in 2011 directly supporting around 2,800 people in full and part time employment. A key requirement of the programme is that the service provider must generate a significant element of their turnover from traded activity or other non-public sources of income. The reduction in the rate of employers' PRSI resulting from the Government's Jobs Initiative will have a positive effect on some service providers funded by the CSP by reducing their PRSI liability.

I do not propose to alter the value of the contracts in place with service providers for 2011.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michelle Mulherin

Ceist:

191 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against refusal of fuel allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if the processing of the appeal can be expedited. [32100/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that disallowance of this scheme is not appealable to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

The National Fuel Scheme is intended to help households that depend on long-term social welfare or Health Service Executive payments and are unable to provide for their own heating needs.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Departmental Staff

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

192 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding community welfare officers for County Wicklow some of whom were based in the Health Service Executive Naas; their current location and contact numbers for the CWO; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32113/11]

The community welfare service (CWS) and the community welfare officers providing it transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP. There are two locations in Co. Wicklow covered by Departmental staff whose reporting office is Naas Head Office and the remaining locations report to Wicklow Head Office. Details and contact numbers are outlined in the attached tabular statement.

Tabular Statement — Contact Details Wicklow

Naas Head office: Telephone: 045 887828

The locations reporting here are as follows:

Phone No.

Baltinglass:

059 - 6451913

Blessington:

045 - 865035

Other locations report to Wicklow Head Office Telephone: 0404 68400 as follows:

Phone No.

Bray:

01 - 2744104/2744103

Arklow:

0402 - 39624

Aughrim:

0402 - 36316

Avoca:

0402 - 35170

Wicklow Town:

0404 - 68400/60612

Newtown:

01 - 2018500

Roundwood:

01 — 281 8481

Greystones:

01-2877311

Shillelagh:

053 - 9429142

Tinahely:

0402 - 38238

Carnew:

053 - 9426196

Rathnew:

0404 - 67894

Rathdrum:

0404 - 46231

Question No. 193 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Ceist:

194 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an application for invalidity pension now under appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [32121/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 4 August 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 24 October 2011 and the appeal will be assigned, in due course, to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

195 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a claim for carer’s allowance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite the matter. [32122/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 27th June 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 6th October 2011 and the appeal will be assigned, in due course, to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 196 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

197 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Social Protection if persons who are in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit for three days a week are eligible for the JobBridge scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32140/11]

In order to qualify for a JobBridge internship a potential intern must be in receipt of a live jobseekers claim and have been in receipt of jobseekers allowance or jobseekers benefit, or signing for credits, for a minimum of 78 days in the previous six months. Time spent on certain government sponsored education and training courses will be taken into account when calculating eligibility.

An individual who is in receipt of jobseekers benefit for three days a week may therefore be eligible to participate in JobBridge provided they meet all the JobBridge eligibility criteria. In addition, it should also be noted that all JobBridge internships must be for a minimum of 30 hours per week.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Creed

Ceist:

198 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm receipt of an appeal against a decision to refuse disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; when a decision will issue on this appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32152/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 22nd October 2011 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments of the Social Welfare services on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 199 withdrawn.

Carers Strategy

Robert Troy

Ceist:

200 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection when she will publish the national carer’s strategy. [32164/11]

The Government is committed in the Programme for Government to developing a carers' strategy. It will consider how best to progress the development of the strategy, taking into account the prevailing economic realities and the work that was carried out previously.

The strategy will have to be developed within existing available resources. In developing and implementing the strategy, the Government will take account of our IMF and EU commitments, as well the outcomes of the comprehensive review of expenditure currently being undertaken by each Department.

The Department of the Taoiseach chaired an interdepartmental group in 2008 which undertook work to develop a National Carers' Strategy. The Departments of Finance, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Health and Children, and Social and Family Affairs, as well as the Health Services Executive (HSE) and FÁS were represented on the group.

As my Department is responsible for providing income supports for carers, it will have a role in developing and implementing a strategy. However many of the issues of most concern to carers are the responsibility of other Departments, in particular the Department of Health.

Social Welfare Appeals

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

201 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) was refused domiciliary care allowance; and when they may expect a date for their appeal. [32170/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3rd September 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

202 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the average and longest waiting times for appeals against refusals of domiciliary care allowance; and if she will arrange for the recruitment of additional staff in order to address the backlog of appeals. [32171/11]

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, based on 2010 figures, the average processing time for Domiciliary Allowance dealt with by way of summary decision is 26.8 weeks, while a case which requires an oral hearing takes, on average, 49.1 weeks. These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department's Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process.

No report is available which shows the longest individual waiting times for decided cases and to design such a report would require an enhancement to the suite of reports currently available from this system. I am also advised that such information may in any event, be of little value as the longest awaiting appeals are generally held up by extraordinary circumstances such as court proceedings.

In an effort to reduce the processing times, the Department appointed 9 additional Appeals Officers in April of this year who augmented the 3 appointments made to the Office in 2010 and brought the total number of appeals officers serving in the Office to 29. In addition, since July 2010, 8 retired appeals officers, equating to a further 3 full-time officers, have been assisting on a strictly part-time basis with the backlogs of appeals and it is intended that they will be employed until the end of the year.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping the methods of operation by which the Social Welfare Appeals Office conducts its business under constant review, and that the processes are continuously being enhanced to reduce the backlogs in the Office and, overall, to reduce the processing times for dealing with appeals.

In that regard some 3,000 cases, registered prior to 31/12/10, have been ring-fenced and a team of 10 of the Office's most experienced appeals officers have been freed from all other work in the Office and will concentrate on clearing this backlog. This project commenced on July 1st. Also, some 70% of appeals cases are now decided by way of summary decision which, because of the logistics involved in organising oral hearings, greatly reduces the overall processing times.

As a result of the various initiatives taken, 18,236 decisions were made by appeals officers in the first nine months of 2011, in comparison to 12,692 for the same period in 2010 and the backlog of cases awaiting determination has reduced from 20,274 at the beginning of the year to 17,651 at 30th September 2011.

James Bannon

Ceist:

203 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in relation to domiciliary care allowance, which was applied for in 2009 in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32189/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21st September 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

James Bannon

Ceist:

204 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for illness benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32190/11]

The person concerned was in receipt of illness benefit from 21 March 2011 at the maximum personal rate. On 27 September 2011 she was assessed by a departmental medical assessor who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work. Her illness benefit payment was stopped from 12 October 2011. The person concerned has been advised that she may appeal against this decision. However, to date, no appeal has been registered with the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office. Since the date her illness benefit was stopped she has been in receipt of jobseeker's benefit at the same maximum personal rate.

Question No. 205 withdrawn.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

206 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has any plans to introduce any restrictions on the payment of rent supplement to tenants who regularly engage in anti-social behaviour, cause noise disturbance and nuisance to neighbours, as verified by the Garda; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32212/11]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to review the operation of the rent supplement scheme with a view to introducing a code of conduct for rent supplement eligibility similar to that which operates for local authority tenants.

The purpose of this review is to ensure that tenants who are receiving long term support from the State under the rent supplement scheme are subject to the same type of anti-social behaviour regime as local authority tenants. The most appropriate way for this to happen is for local authorities to take over responsibility for meeting the accommodation needs of these individuals. My Department is currently working with the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government with a view to achieving this goal.

Social Welfare Appeals

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

207 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection when a final decision on a rent allowance appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32217/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 19th October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

208 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied)in County Cork. [32268/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 29th September 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Peter Mathews

Ceist:

209 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on application for domiciliary care in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32269/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department made 9 additional appointments to the office earlier this year.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 210 withdrawn.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

211 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for back to school clothing and footwear allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32272/11]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme assists eligible categories of people with the cost of school clothing and footwear. The allowance is paid in respect of eligible children between the ages of 2 and 17 years of age and between the ages of 18 and 22 years of age if in full time education in respect of whom a qualified child allowance (QCA) is being paid and is subject to a means test.

The persons concerned are not currently in receipt of a QCA payment from the Department and consequently they have no entitlement to BSCFA. The family have contacted the section in the Department who are dealing with their primary claim in order to have their entitlements to QCA payments examined. If a QCA payment is put in place their entitlement to a BSCFA payment can then be re-examined.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

212 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a social welfare appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32274/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

The Appeals Officer has reviewed this case following the submission of further correspondence. However, the Appeals Officer considered that the correspondence contained no new facts or fresh evidence which would warrant a revision of his decision.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

213 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of money yet to be spent under her Department’s 2011 budget allocation before the end of 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32291/11]

The 2011 estimate for the Department's schemes, services and administration as published in the 2011 REV is €20.62 billion. Expenditure to the end of October 2011 is provisionally estimated at €17.3 billion. This is subject to reconciliation and verification. Accordingly, approximately €3.32 billion of the 2011 Estimate remains unspent at this stage.

Departmental Properties

Robert Troy

Ceist:

214 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has any property leased in the private sector in County Westmeath; if so, the type of property; and the annual rent payable. [32306/11]

The Office of Public Works has responsibility for the acquisition and maintenance of all office accommodation for my Department.

At present, the Department administers social welfare services from Local Offices in Mullingar and Athlone, both of which are leased by the Office of Public Works.

In addition, the Health Service Executive makes a number of premises available to my Department to administer Supplementary Welfare Payments. These are set out in the accompanying table.

In relation to the properties indicated, the matters of leasing, landlords, and individual rents are managed by the Office of Public Works and HSE, as appropriate.

The Department would not have these details.

Premises

Location

Community Centre

Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath

Asylum Seekers Unit

Lissywollen, Athlone, Co Westmeath

CWS Block A

Marlinstown Business Park, Mullingar, Co Westmeath

Clonmellon Health Centre

Clonmellon, Co Westmeath

Delvin Health Centre

Delvin, Co Westmeath

Rathwire Health Centre

Killucan, Co Westmeath

Mullingar Health Centre

Longford Road, Mullingar, Co Westmeath

Castlepollard Health Centre

St Peter’s Centre, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath

Finea Health Centre

Finea, Co Westmeath

Coole Health Centre

Coole, Co Westmeath

Ballinacargy Health Centre

Ballinacargy, Co Westmeath

Streete Health Centre

Streete, Co Westmeath

Kinnegad Health Centre

Kinnegad, Co Westmeath

Rochfortbridge Health Centre

Rochfortbridge, Co Westmeath

Kilbeggan Health Centre

Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath

Castletowngeoghegan Health Centre

Castlegeoghegan, Co Westmeath

Athlone Health Centre

Cossan Road, Athlone, Co Westmeath

Glasson Health Centre

Glasson, Co Westmeath

Ballymore Health Centre

Ballymore, Co Westmeath

Moate Health Centre

Ballymore Road, Moate, Co Westmeath

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

215 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding disability allowance payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32308/11]

The person concerned was awarded disability allowance from 12 August 2009. He was entitled to arrears for the period 12 August 2009 to 6 September 2011. However his spouse was in receipt of a Qualified Adult payment for him as part of her social welfare payment, for the same period.

Therefore his entitlement to arrears is the net amount calculated as the difference between the amount due as a Disability Allowance recipient in his own right and the amount received as a Qualified Adult under his spouse's payment. The arrears were calculated correctly and sent directly to him on 20 October 2011.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when the oral hearing will take place on an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied)in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32309/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14th September 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

217 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a date for an oral hearing in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32312/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in the week commencing 6 December 2011. The person concerned will be notified of the arrangements.

It is open to the person concerned to apply for supplementary welfare allowance while his appeal is pending.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Freedom of Information

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

218 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 230 of 18 October 2011, if the Data Protection Act has been used to inhibit the investigation of those who are charged with detecting welfare fraud. [32317/11]

As I have previously advised the Deputy, my Department has an extensive legal structure to support the sharing of data for the purpose of controlling the entitlement and payment of benefits. The legislative provisions which allow for the specific sharing of data are contained in section 261 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005. This legislation is in compliance with the Data Protection Act.

My Department is not aware of any cases where the Data Protection Act has been used to inhibit the investigations of those who are charged with detecting welfare fraud. Where the Department has issues or questions regarding data protection matters, it raises them with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

Social welfare legislation is reviewed on an ongoing basis and updated, where appropriate, to strengthen controls and penalties. A Departmental legislative working group has been established specifically to examine issues and make proposals on measures that could improve the prevention, detection and prosecution of social welfare fraud. This group explores a range of possible legislative changes from a control perspective and brings forward appropriate proposals for consideration in the annual Social Welfare Bills.

Question No. 219 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

220 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will have a decision on their application for invalidity pension; and if she will expedite a response. [32322/11]

Invalidity pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions.

This Department received an application for invalidity pension for the person concerned. The medical evidence provided was examined by a medical assessor who found that the person concerned is not eligible for invalidity pension as he does not satisfy the medical criteria. The application for invalidity pension was disallowed. He was notified of this decision on 28 October 2011.

Social Welfare Appeals

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

221 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review a jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [32336/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 18 July 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 03 August 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 29 September 2011 who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

222 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [32340/11]

The person concerned was refused carer's allowance on the grounds that the care recipients are not so disabled as to require full-time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. On 30th November 2010, she was notified of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review or appeal within 21 days. No notification for a review or an appeal was received in the prescribed timeframe. There is no record of a new application for carer's allowance having been received from the person concerned.

Departmental Expenditure

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

223 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Social Protection the costs to the Irish Exchequer of paying children’s allowance to families who claim the allowance but whose children reside outside this State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32371/11]

The social security rights of people moving around the EU are governed by EU Regulations 883/2004 and 987/2009. These Regulations, which have been in existence in one form or another since 1959, are designed to co-ordinate the social security systems of the various Member States so that people and their families are not disadvantaged when they move within the EU.

A key principle of the co-ordination system is that persons moving to different Member States are subject to the same obligations and enjoy the same benefits as the nationals of those Member States. With few exceptions, it is the country of employment which receives the social security contributions and which is generally responsible for the payment of benefits.

Irish child benefit is classed as a family benefit and there are specific rules governing the payment of these benefits. EU nationals who come to work in Ireland, and who pay Irish social security contributions, are entitled to receive child benefit in respect of their families, even if the family resides in another EU Member State. The equality provisions of the Regulations require that these payments are made at the same rates applicable to a person whose family is resident in Ireland. These provisions are seen as important in an EU context for the role they play in encouraging and facilitating the free movement of EU citizens.

The cost of paying child benefit in respect of the 4,929 customers with 7,798 children in 2011 to date has been €10.9m. It is estimated that the full year cost will be €13.1m.

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

224 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Social Protection if she plans to review the rate of children’s allowance paid from the Irish Exchequer to non-national families whose children reside outside this State with a view to paying the allowance at a rate equal to the rate that is applicable in the country where the qualifying child or children reside; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32372/11]

The social security rights of people moving around the EU are governed by EU Regulations 883/2004 and 987/2009. These Regulations, which have been in existence in one form or another since 1959, are designed to co-ordinate the social security systems of the various Member States so that people and their families are not disadvantaged when they move within the EU.

A key principle of the coordination system is that persons moving to different Member States are subject to the same obligations and enjoy the same benefits as the nationals of those Member States. With few exceptions, it is the country of employment which receives the social security contributions and which is generally responsible for the payment of benefits.

Irish Child Benefit is classed as a family benefit for the purposes of these regulations and there are specific rules governing their payment. EU nationals who come to work in Ireland, and who pay Irish social security contributions, are entitled to receive child benefit in respect of their families, even if the family resides in another EU Member State. The equality provisions of the Regulations require that these payments are made at the same rates applicable to a person whose family is resident in Ireland. These provisions are seen as important in an EU context for the role they play in encouraging and facilitating the free movement of EU citizens.

The provisions relating to the payment of child benefit for non-resident children are not part of Irish domestic legislation but are, as already indicated, a feature of EU regulations governing the coordination of social security systems. Accordingly, any change to the system will require a change in EU regulations. Only the EU Commission, and not individual Member States, can propose new legislation. At Council level, the Regulation would require a qualified majority of Member States and it would also require the agreement of the European Parliament.

As part of its agreed programme, the Government is committed to raising the issue of payment of Child Benefit in respect of non-resident children at EU level, and to seek to have the entitlement modified to reflect the cost of living where a child is resident.

I raised the possibility of a change to the EU regulations informally with EU Commissioner Andor on his visit to Dublin in June. The Commissioner indicated he would not favour putting forward such a proposal for the foreseeable future, as the Commission views the current arrangements as providing greater equality between citizens of different EU States. However, I am continuing to raise the issue with appropriate Ministers from other EU countries and am considering what further action may be possible.

Redundancy Payments

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

225 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will ensure that a case is dealt with and resolved as a matter of urgency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [32375/11]

The person concerned did not receive his redundancy lump sum cheque which was dispatched to him. A replacement cheque will be re-issued as a matter of urgency.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Ceist:

226 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding rent allowance being reinstated in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32376/11]

The community welfare service (CWS) and the community welfare officers providing it transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP.

The rent supplement claim of the person concerned is currently under review. Documentation was requested on 12th September 2011 and a reminder letter has issued to the person concerned. A decision in relation to entitlement will be made when the documentation requested has been received.

Redundancy Payments

John Browne

Ceist:

227 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for a redundancy payment will be approved for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [32377/11]

Under the Redundancy Payments Scheme all eligible employees are entitled to a statutory redundancy lump sum payment on being made redundant. In this case no claim appears to have been submitted for the individual concerned.

Social Welfare Appeals

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

228 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 340 of 4 October 2011, when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive their oral hearing; and if she will expedite a response. [32400/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 27th October 2011 and the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

229 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 341 of 4 October 2011, when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive a decision on their application for a non-contributory pension; and if she will expedite a response. [32401/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department made 9 additional appointments to the office earlier this year.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

230 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an application for rent supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32406/11]

The community welfare service (CWS) and the community welfare officers providing it transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP. There is no record of a rent supplement application in respect of the person concerned. If the person concerned wishes to apply for rent supplement she should complete an application pack available from the community welfare website www.communitywelfareservice.ie and return it to the Central Rents Unit, P.O Box 11758, Dublin 7.

Eamonn Maloney

Ceist:

231 Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for carer’s allowance will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32407/11]

I confirm that an application for carer's allowance has been received from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

The average time taken to process a claim to completion, including assessment of the claimant's means and the entitlement of the care recipient to full time care and attention on medical grounds is approximately 19 weeks.

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

232 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to transfer responsibility for the payment of rent supplement to local authorities; if she will provide an indicative time-line as to when this change will come into effect; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32410/11]

There are two main initiatives currently being pursued by the Department to transfer long term rent supplement recipients into housing solutions supported by local authorities. The two initiatives are the Rental Accommodation Scheme and the new Housing Policy Initiative launched in June of this year.

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), which was introduced in 2004, gives local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the longer term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more. Local authorities meet the housing needs of these individuals through a range of approaches including the traditional range of social housing options, the voluntary housing sector and, in particular, the RAS. Since 2004, over 36,000 households have transferred from rent supplement to a local authority provided housing solution.

On 16th June 2011, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Minister for Housing & Planning published a new housing policy framework statement. This framework statement reflects the content of the Programme for Government and sets out the principles to underpin the development of housing policy into the medium term. Specifically, it contains the announcement for the transfer of responsibility in providing housing needs for long term rent supplement recipients to housing authorities on a phased basis. The focus of this approach is to achieve a key Government commitment of removing barriers to employment and at the same time returning rent supplement to its original purpose of a short-term income support.

A multi-agency steering group has been established by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government to give effect to this initiative and this group are currently developing proposals and operational protocols for the transfer of responsibility from the Department of Social Protection to housing authorities of persons who have long term housing requirements.

Pension Provisions

Áine Collins

Ceist:

233 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the date on which the retirement age for old age pensions will be increased; and the age a person would have to be at 2011 before this change would affect them. [32448/11]

State pension (transition) is currently paid to people aged 65 who have a minimum yearly average of 24 social insurance contributions and who have retired from work. Currently it ceases at age 66 when the claimant transfers to State pension (contributory). As a result of legislation introduced this year, the State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years. This will begin on 1 January 2014 with the abolition of State pension (transition) and the standardisation of State pension age at 66. This means that anyone who reaches age 65 on or after 1 January 2014 will not receive State pension (transition). Accordingly, anyone aged 62 in 2011 or later will be affected by the increase in pension age. State pension age will be increased to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 in 2028. It is worth noting that, until the early 1970s, the qualifying age for State pension (contributory) was 70 years of age. By gradually increasing the qualifying age for State pension, people will be further encouraged to remain in employment beyond 65 years of age.

Inland Waterways

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

234 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he is satisfied that all debris has been cleared and all gates are fully open at Meelick weir, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32161/11]

I am informed by Waterways Ireland that there is currently no debris at the sluices at Meelick Weir, that all weir boards have been removed since 15 September and that the sluices have been open since 22 September.

Wildlife Protection

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

235 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of appeals lodged against each of the proposed special protection area designations in Connemara; when it is proposed to have the preliminary appeals decided; the estimated time before he will make a final decision on the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31873/11]

Some 366 valid objections have been received to the proposed designation of the Connemara Bog Complex special protection area and 36 to the Inishbofin, Omey Island and Turbot Island special protection area. Only ornithological issues may be considered in deciding on the merits of an appeal. The informal stage of the appeals process will be completed as quickly as possible. However, it is not possible at this stage to indicate how many such appeals will proceed to the formal stage including referral to the Designated Areas Appeals Advisory Board for its consideration of the ornithological issues raised. If formal appeals are undertaken, it is likely to be early in 2012 before the appeals are concluded.

Architectural Heritage

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

236 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on the condition of the State’s stock of thatched houses; if he maintains a record, on a county basis, on the number of habitable thatched units; if a trend is discernible in respect of the number of habitable units; if his attention has been drawn to the considerable cost to a householder of maintaining and insuring a thatched unit; his views on the preservation of the State’s thatched stock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31885/11]

Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides for the protection of architectural heritage. The Act gives primary responsibility to planning authorities to identify and protect the architectural heritage, including thatched buildings, by including them on the Record of Protected Structures. Inclusion on the Record of Protected Structures places a duty of care on the owners and occupiers of protected structures and also gives planning authorities powers to deal with development proposals affecting them and to seek to safeguard their future. My Department does not maintain a record of the number of habitable thatched units. However, it is the practice of my Department when undertaking county surveys for the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage to accord a regional rating to thatched structures where the roof is intact. Structures rated regional or higher are subsequently recommended by me, as Minister, to a planning authority, under section 53 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 for inclusion on the Record of Protected Structures. Information on thatched buildings recorded by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is available on the Department's website, www.buildingsofireland.ie. In 2005, a report and action plan published by my Department on the present and future protection of thatched structures in Ireland identified over 1,500 surviving thatched structures in the country, although many more thatched roofs are known to survive under later coverings such as corrugated metal roofs.

While the overall number of thatch roofs declined in the second half of the 20th century, increased legislative protection for the architectural heritage and heightened awareness of this part of our national heritage has meant that this decline has stabilised and the future of the surviving thatched buildings is more secure. The nature of thatch is such that it requires regular maintenance and more frequent renewal in comparison with other types of roofing. However, some of the costs involved in maintaining thatched properties can be attributed to the use of an incorrect material, issues with the style of thatching and material used, and severe weather conditions. There are some funding streams which can assist owners of thatched houses in repairing or maintaining their thatched roofs, including my Department's Structures at Risk Fund, the Heritage Council Heritage Management Conservation grants scheme and a grant scheme for the renewal or repair of thatched roofs administered by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. The issue of insurance for historic buildings, including thatched structures, has been raised by my Department with both the Financial Services Regulator and the Irish Insurance Federation. As a result, officials within my Department have engaged with local authority architectural conservation officers and other stakeholders in collating specific information regarding historic buildings and insurance with the intention of further examining this issue with both of these bodies, if applicable.

Road Network

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

237 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding emergency funding.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32202/11]

My Department does not have any funds available for emergency assistance of this nature. The upkeep of any road that was grant assisted under the scheme referred to by the Deputy is now a matter for the relevant local authority.

Arts Funding

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

238 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding funding and other matters in respect of an organisation (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32246/11]

Funding for capital cultural projects in my Department is primarily from the Cultural Development subhead that has an allocation of €7.8 million in 2011, which is a reduction of over 50% from the 2010 allocation. All of this funding is fully committed and there is no scope for any funding being provided to defray the costs of any new projects, however worthwhile. I have met the CEO of the organisation involved on many occasions and I am, of course, willing to meet him again at any mutually convenient time.

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

239 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount of money yet to be spent under his Department’s 2011 budget allocation before the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32279/11]

On 27 October 2011, my Department's gross expenditure totalled approximately €198 million. The Deputy will appreciate that these figures are provisional and subject to verification internally through my Department's financial management systems and, ultimately, by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The spend to 27 October 2011 represents 73% of the REV allocation of €269.089 million. I am confident that the remaining €71 million in voted funding will be expended before the end of the year.

Departmental Properties

Robert Troy

Ceist:

240 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has any property leased in private sector in County Westmeath; if so, the type of property; and the annual rent payable. [32294/11]

Any properties occupied by my Department in County Westmeath are either leased or owned by the Office of Public Works and the question of my Department incurring rent does not therefore arise.

National Monuments

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

241 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his policy, if any, with regard to the public access to heritage sites when no agreement on the acquisition of access rights is possible with the relevant landowners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32366/11]

I refer the Deputy to the reply by the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to Question No. 77 of 20 October 2011 in relation to public access at national monument sites. My Department's general policy is to acquire rights of access from private landowners to monuments or heritage properties in State care or otherwise, which my Department considers important due to their intrinsic architectural or archaeological heritage value, where such access is not currently available and where it is practicable to enter into suitable arrangements with the landowners concerned. Given the current economic climate, my Department only considers such acquisitions on behalf of the State in exceptional circumstances. The designation or proposed designation of Natural Heritage Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas or refuges for flora and fauna does not confer any additional rights of access for the general public to such sites. Many of these sites are largely or completely within private ownership and the designation or proposed designation does not affect the application of general legal provisions regarding public access to privately owned land.

Energy Conservation

Robert Troy

Ceist:

242 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will seek a review of a decision to withdraw grant approval under the home energy saving scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [32211/11]

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administers Better Energy on behalf of my Department. Queries in relation to individual applications are an operational matter for SEAI. The Better Energy programme has overseen the upgrade of almost 100,000 homes since commencement in May 2009. To ensure the transparent use and administration of Exchequer funding, SEAI are committed to delivering processes and systems which are clear and efficient and operate in a manner which is fair to all applicants. The scheme rules explicitly state that the grant offer, once accepted, remains valid for six months from the date of issue of Grant Offer notification . It is not possible to make exceptions as to do so would be to alter the terms of the scheme and create a precedent for any other parties who have found themselves ineligible. SEAI advises that a letter issued to the Deputy recently to advise him of the status of this application. Dedicated hotlines for specific queries in relation to applications are available (Better Energy: Warmer Homes hotline — 1800 250 204 and Better Energy: Homes hotline — 1850 927 000). All queries, from scheme applicants and public representatives, on delivery dates for individual households and/or funding arrangements are dealt with immediately. In addition, the SEAI has recently established a specific email address for queries from Members of the Oireachtas, which is oireachtas@seai.ie.

Missing Persons

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

243 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans, if any, to establish the EU wide 116000 telephone hotline for missing children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31811/11]

The allocation of specific numbers in the 116 number range, including the 116000 hotline for missing children, is managed in Ireland by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). The role of ComReg is limited to the assignment of the number to an appropriate service provider. ComReg has alerted potential service providers, through an advertisement campaign, to the existence of the range of numbers beginning with 116, including the 116000 hotline for missing children. Suitable applicants have been invited to apply for the setting up of services of social value under the specified numbers. I am advised by ComReg that no organisation has yet applied for the missing children hotline number 116000. Once the number has been assigned, it is a matter for the service provider to provide the service. Neither ComReg nor my Department has any function in providing such services or the remit to require any organisation to provide the service. My colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, has recently advised me of her intention to establish a small project team, comprising officials from her Department and the Department of Justice, Equality and Defence, to establish how best to make the 116000 service operational. While my Department has no policy function in relation to the provision of such a service, my officials and ComReg will be available to the project team should the project team need clarification on any relevant matter. In particular, ComReg would be happy to assist on any technical aspects in relation to the assignment of the number.

State Agencies

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

244 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a list of the commercial semi-State companies under his remit whose chief executives have agreed to take a voluntary salary cut to bring them within the €250,000 salary cap announced by the Minister for Public Expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31905/11]

The Deputy will be aware of the Government decision to introduce pay ceilings for higher posts across the public service and for CEO posts in Commercial State Companies. In addition, the Government sought voluntary waivers of 15% of salary from current incumbents whose salaries were in excess of the pay ceilings or a lesser amount if the application of the full 15% reduction would bring their salary level below the thresholds. I have been in contact with the three relevant commercial bodies under the aegis of my Department whose CEO salaries exceed €250,000 — An Post, Bord Gáis Éireann and the Electricity Supply Board. The Chief Executives of these bodies have all agreed to have the 15% waiver applied to their salaries. My Department is liaising with the bodies regarding the implementation of the salary reductions. In the case of Bord Gáis Éireann only, the voluntary reduction brings the Chief Executive's salary to within the €250,000 salary ceiling.

Mobile Telephony

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

245 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details of his correspondence with ComReg regarding a company’s (details supplied) decision to switch customers to e-billing; if he is satisfied that customers are being offered e-billing as an optional method of billing rather than automatically switching them; if he is satisfied that the company has acted in accordance with the terms of their licence conditions and can he make a statement on the matter. [32025/11]

The electronic communications market is, and has been since its liberalisation, a commercial competitive market. Thus, the provision of electronic communications services, is a matter for private sector service providers, regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). ComReg recognises the desire by providers of electronic communications services to move their customers to e-billing and understands the potential benefits accruing from increased take-up of e-billing (including cost and environmental benefits). ComReg also recognises the desire by some consumers of electronic communications services to move to e-billing. However, any move to e-billing should take full account of, and safeguard the legitimate preferences and interests of consumers and comply fully with licence and other applicable legal requirements. In this regard, ComReg published a consultation on consumer bills and billing mediums on 28 October 2011 to seek the views of interested stakeholders on a number of proposed measures in relation to consumer bills. I am advised by ComReg that it notified Vodafone on 25 October 2011 that it had not complied with certain conditions of its licences and certain related statutory obligations with respect to electronic billing. Under Regulation 16 of the authorisation regulations and Regulation 31 of the Universal Services Regulations, Vodafone has two weeks within which to state its views on ComReg's finding, or to remedy its non-compliance. The regulations also provide that if, at the end of the two-week period, ComReg is of the opinion that Vodafone has not complied with its obligations, it may apply to the High Court for such order as may be appropriate by way of compliance with those obligations.

Digital Television

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

246 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if SAORVIEW be provided to old age pensioners free of charge. [32027/11]

SAORVIEW is the replacement digital television network for the current analogue network which is near obsolescence. Both SAORVIEW and the current analogue network are free to air. To upgrade to Saorview, TV households will need to purchase a set top box to connect to their existing TV or a new Saorview digital TV. In some cases, depending on the type of aerial and the orientation and age of the aerial, TV households may also need a new aerial. To overcome the challenges that digital switchover brings, I recognise that we must assist people with information and practical assistance to ensure that no one is left behind as Ireland goes digital. I have undertaken to deliver a substantial information campaign providing households with information on the digital switchover and on their options for going digital. This information campaign will be starting this autumn and I will be announcing details in the coming weeks. In conjunction with this, my Department is working to address the particular information and assistance needs of vulnerable households as they prepare to go digital. In this context, the expertise and local knowledge of the many voluntary and charity organisations around the country could be of critical importance in ensuring the success of the switchover process. I have asked my Department to ensure that, to the greatest possible extent, these organisations play a major part in our information and assistance campaign.

Inland Waterways

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

247 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the responsibility the ESB has for the upkeep and maintenance of the lower Shannon in the region of Springfield, Clonlara, County Clare which has experienced serious flooding in the past; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32214/11]

The legislation under which ESB was established describes the duty of the board to "control, manage and maintain in good repair and condition and proper and efficient working order the Shannon works". The Shannon works, as described in statute, comprise the various constructions associated with the Shannon scheme, including Ardnacrusha power station, Parteen Weir, headrace and tailrace canals and embankments constructed as part of the scheme. The Shannon works do not include the regions of the lower Shannon referred to in the Deputy's question. ESB has no responsibility with regard to the upkeep and maintenance of the river in these areas.

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

248 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of money yet to be spent under his Department’s 2011 budget allocation before the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32281/11]

The total gross funding allocated to my Department for 2011 was €494.716 million. Gross expenditure as at 31 October was €343.774 million. A significant portion of my Department's spend is scheduled to take place between end October and the end of the year due to a combination of timing issues and an initial slower than expected uptake on certain programmes. While it is likely that there will be some under spend at the end of the year, it is expected that it will be substantially lower than the end of October spend might suggest as timing issues resolve themselves.

Departmental Properties

Robert Troy

Ceist:

249 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has any property leased in private sector in County Westmeath; if so, the type of property; and the annual rent payable. [32296/11]

My Department has no property leased in County Westmeath.

Electricity Transmission Network

Regina Doherty

Ceist:

250 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if it is possible for him to obtain, on this Deputy’s behalf, a copy of planning permission for Pylon Tower 627 on the Moneypoint 400kv power line. [32530/11]

I have no role or function in regard to planning matters which are the responsibility of An Bord Pleanála and the local authorities. Neither have I a role in the planning of electricity infrastructure which is a day-to-day operational matter for the commercial State companies, EirGrid and ESB. My Department has asked ESB to forward to the Department a copy of the permission referred to by the Deputy. ESB advises that the information dating back to the 1980s is located in the archives of the company.

Emergency Planning

Simon Harris

Ceist:

251 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the management of severe weather events in Ireland and related matters, July 2010, in relation to the role of the ESB in major emerging management has been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32184/11]

The Framework for Major Emergency Management (2006) enables the Principal Response Agencies (An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive and Local Authorities) to prepare for and make a co-ordinated response to major emergencies. Structures are in place at regional and local levels so as to facilitate pre-planning and to ensure a co-ordinated response in the event of an emergency which is at regional or local level. These structures also enable collaboration with other relevant organisations. At national level, co-ordination of the emergency planning function takes place under the aegis of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning, which is chaired by my colleague, the Minister for Defence. My Department, as lead Government Department for the management of severe weather emergencies, has responsibility to co-ordinate and lead the overall response across all Government Departments and agencies under their remit or within their sectors. This responsibility is discharged by convening and chairing of a National Co-ordination Group, in accordance with the Office for Emergency Planning Guidelines for Co-ordinating a National Level Emergency/ Crisis response. On the specific issue of the Joint Committee's recommendation relating to the ESB and major emergency management, I understand that, pending the development of a national flood forecasting and warning system which is being progressed by the Office for Public Works, the relevant local authorities have had discussions with the ESB and agreed an interim protocol to improve communications around flood events on rivers which are used by the ESB for hydro-electricity generation.

Farm Management

Sean Conlan

Ceist:

252 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will further extend the slurry spreading deadline beyond the 31 October to allow farmers to spread slurry in view of the very wet weather conditions in recent weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32363/11]

Nicky McFadden

Ceist:

256 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider further extending the slurry spreading deadline due to heavy rainfall since the original extension to 31 October; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32672/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

264 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a further extension will be provided for the spreading of slurry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31781/11]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

313 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will grant an extension for the spreading of slurry beyond the 31 of October in view of the continuing high rainfall and the very difficult conditions for farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32536/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252, 256, 264 and 313 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 390 of 25 October 2011 which sets out the position in this matter.

Local Authority Charges

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

253 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will review the non-principal private residence so that local authority departments other than the finance department can access information detailing if properties have paid the NPPR on bed-sits and other privately rented accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32411/11]

I presume the question refers to the use of data collected by a local authority for the purposes of its functions relating to the charge on non-principal private residences (NPPR) for other unrelated local authority functions.

Section 11 of the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 provides for data sharing and exchange for the purposes of the NPPR. The legislation does not provide for the use of data, obtained for the purposes of the NPPR, in the performance of other functions of a local authority.

I will consider the wider usage of data obtained by local authorities in the context of forthcoming legislation to provide for the household charge.

Proposed Legislation

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

254 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the measures in place to ensure compliance with legislation such as the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010; and his views that this is sufficient to safeguard high standards of animal welfare. [32539/11]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

255 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date he envisages for the commencement of the dog breeding Bill. [32356/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254 and 255 together.

The Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 provides that all dog breeding establishments be required to register with the relevant local authority, that they pay a registration fee and that they meet a minimum set of veterinary, welfare and other standards, together with some associated requirements.

Alongside the Dog Breeding Establishments Act, separate legislation on the related issue of greyhound welfare, which is the responsibility of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, is currently proceeding through the Houses of the Oireachtas. This legislation — the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill 2011 — will provide for the welfare of greyhounds and the regulation of greyhound breeding establishments.

The provisions of both these pieces of legislation are complementary and accordingly, it is envisaged that both pieces of legislation will be implemented in tandem. This will give wide ranging protection to all dogs in the State by registering and controlling all breeding establishments. The Welfare of Greyhounds Bill has passed all stages in the Dáil and is currently before the Seanad; I will be in a position to proceed with the commencement of the Dog Breeding Establishments Act once the Greyhound Bill has been enacted.

Question No. 256 answered with Question No. 252.

Environmental Policy

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

257 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if, similar to his predecessor, it is his intention to announce a carbon budget for the calendar year 2012 separate to the budget being announced by the Minister for Finance on 6 December 2011; if so, if a date has been set for the carbon budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32647/11]

Noel Harrington

Ceist:

258 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will publish a climate Bill; if he will outline the main provisions he intends to include in this bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32582/11]

Simon Harris

Ceist:

268 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the progress made to date on the drafting of a climate law, as set out in the programme for Government; if he will be in a position to send the heads of the Bill to the Joint Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht in advance of the Christmas recess; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31807/11]

Simon Harris

Ceist:

269 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will use the environment fund to support Ireland’s contribution to the European Union fund on climate finance, as in 2010, for the years 2011 and 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31808/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

292 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding climate change policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32230/11]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

294 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will publish the climate change Bill; if he will refer the heads of the Bill to the joint committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32248/11]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

295 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide €23 million from the environment fund to support the EU contribution for climate finance to developing countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32249/11]

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

302 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the heads of the climate change Bill will be available; and if it will be circulated as soon as possible. [32380/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 257, 258, 268, 269, 292, 294, 295 and 302 together.

My immediate priority is to finalise a review of national climate policy in the light of existing and anticipated national greenhouse gas mitigation targets up to 2020. The review will be made available on my Department's website in the coming days and will provide the background for future policy development.

It is my objective, in line with the Programme for Government, to introduce climate legislation within the lifetime of this Government. As indicated in the Government legislation programme, published on 14 September 2011, I expect that it will be 2012 at the earliest before any legislation can be published, taking account of the need also to progress the broader climate policy agenda under the aegis of the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and the Green Economy.

In the overall context of policy development, I will be considering the value of carbon budgeting in the future. I will also be giving consideration to appropriate mechanisms for recording compliance with the annual emissions reduction trajectory with which Ireland must comply, under EU law, from 2013 onwards.

In relation to climate finance, the developed country Parties who associated with the Copenhagen Accord (including the EU and all Member States) agreed to provide a fast-start finance package, over the three years 2010 to 2012, to assist developing countries address climate change.

As part of Ireland's response to that commitment, a contribution of €23 million was made by my Department in 2010 to the Global Climate Change Alliance established and operated by the European Commission. The contribution was the subject of a supplementary estimate debated at the Select Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on 9 December 2010.

The issue of a further contribution to the fast-start finance package through my Department is under ongoing review having regard to the availability of resources and competing demands.

Building Regulations

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

259 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will respond to a matter (details supplied) regarding Priory Hall, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32571/11]

Clare Daly

Ceist:

260 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will initiate an independent investigation into the Priory Hall development, Dublin; the way these properties were developed and sold to persons in clear breach of standards. [32580/11]

Simon Harris

Ceist:

267 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the body or agency with whom the responsibility lies for ensuring that building regulations are adhered to; the number of site inspections carried out annually in this regard; the penalties in place when the regulations are found to have been breached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31806/11]

Ceist:

270 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the recently discovered structural problems at Priory Hall apartments, Dublin, if he plans an urgent review and reform of building and fire regulations and inspection regimes of recently built apartment blocks, thereby putting an end to self-regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31809/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259, 260, 267 and 270 together.

Dublin City Council is the prescribed authority in relation to the investigation of building control compliance issues at Priory Hall, and will act where necessary and appropriate in line with the standard arrangements in place for the discharge of their statutory functions. There are no proposals under consideration for an independent investigation along the lines suggested to be undertaken.

It is important to note, however, that a robust system of building control does exist and this is demonstrated by the Priory Hall situation where the local authority is successfully using its powers to make the appropriate party responsible.

Enforcement of the building regulations is the responsibility of the 37 local building control authorities. The authorities are empowered to carry out inspections and initiate enforcement proceedings, where considered necessary.

The agreed national inspection target is that each building control authority should inspect a minimum of at least 12% to 15% of buildings covered by valid Commencement Notices served on the authority. My Department understands from statistical returns from building control authorities, that an inspection rate of 23% was achieved across the local authority sector during 2010.

Failure to comply with the requirements of the Building Regulations where a successful prosecution takes place may result, on summary prosecution, in a maximum fine of €5,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to six months or both. A further fine of €500 in respect of each day on which the offence is committed after summary conviction can also be applied. A successful conviction on indictment may result in a maximum fine of €50,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to two years or both.

I attach high priority to consumer protection in the area of quality construction of new dwellings. That is why, in July 2011, I announced a number of measures to be advanced by my Department and local authorities with a view to improving compliance with, and oversight of, the requirements of the Building Regulations.

In broad terms the measures will involve:-

(a) the introduction of mandatory certificates of compliance by builders and designers of buildings confirming that the statutory requirements of the Building Regulations have been met;

(b) more efficient pooling of building control staff and resources across the local authority sector to ensure more effective and meaningful oversight of building activity;

(c) standardised approaches and common protocols to ensure nationwide consistency in the administration of building control functions;

(d) better support and further development of the building control function nationwide.

I believe that mandatory certification and improved inspection arrangements are key reforms which will have the capacity to improve the quality of buildings and will lead to further strengthening of the regulatory regime as early as possible in 2012.

Local Authority Funding

Joan Collins

Ceist:

261 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he will meet with the county manager and the head of finance in Sligo County Council to discuss the application of the €15 million loan funding which was sanctioned by him on 19 July 2010; if he has had written communication with Sligo County Council regarding the matter of the loan in the period 30 May 2011 to date in 2011; the date on which written communications issued from him to the Sligo County Council; the date on which he received written communications from the council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31772/11]

I have no plans to meet with the Sligo County Manager and Head of Finance.

While it is a matter for each local authority, including Sligo County Council, to manage its own day-to-day finances in a prudent and sustainable manner, my Department is in ongoing consultation with the Council in relation to its financial position.

I have had no written communication with Sligo County Council in relation to the €15m loan sanction during the period 30 May 2011 to date.

Local Authority Housing

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

262 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce a new scheme to replace the tenant purchase scheme; when a new scheme will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31775/11]

As announced in June 2010, it remains the intention that the tenant purchase arrangements will be wound down in 2012 to be replaced by a discount scheme based on the incremental purchase model. This change will require amending legislation. Details of the proposed new scheme and the arrangements for winding down the 1995 scheme will be announced when proposals are further advanced.

Fire Stations

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

263 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will provide funding for the construction of new fire stations in Ballyshannon, Bundoran and Gleann Cholm Cille in County Donegal; and if he will provide full details of all other new stations approved nationally in 2011; and the cost associated with each new station. [31778/11]

The provision of fire services in local authority areas, including the establishment and maintenance of fire brigades, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of premises is a statutory function of the individual fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Act 1981. My Department supports the local fire authorities through setting of general policy, training support and issue of guidance on operational and other related matters, and the provision of capital funding.

Donegal County Council, in partnership with my Department, has made substantial progress in improving its fire service infrastructure and has replaced 12 of the 15 fire stations following investment of some €11 million in the past decade under the Department's fire service capital programme. My Department has supported significant investment by fire authorities over the past decade and as a consequence, Ireland's fire service infrastructure is now acknowledged to be first rate. Approval issued to Longford County Council in February 2011 to invite tenders in respect of a new fire station in Lanesboro. I expect that new fire station projects funded by my Department will be opened in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford and Monaghan Town shortly.

I have already indicated that continued investment in the fire appliance fleet is a key national priority measure. In that context fire authorities are currently inviting tenders in respect of 16 fire appliances in accordance with a national specification.

Any further investment in fire services in Donegal will be considered within the current constraints on the fire services capital programme and will have regard to the priorities of fire authorities, the extent of previous investment and value offered by the proposals, the spread of existing facilities and the totality of demands from fire authorities countrywide.

Question No. 264 answered with Question No. 252.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Simon Harris

Ceist:

265 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if funding has been made available for a sewerage scheme at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31804/11]

The Arklow Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 as a scheme to commence construction within the period of the Programme.

Following the recent conclusion of court proceedings relating to planning approval for the proposed wastewater treatment plant site in Arklow, Wicklow County Council must complete the planning for the scheme and is preparing a programme for its delivery within the earliest possible timeframe. As design work and detailed planning can only now commence for the wastewater treatment plant contract, it may be a number of years before the Council can get this contract to construction. However, with financial assistance from my Department, Wicklow County Council will be striving to advance the South Green and Harbour Road network contract to construction during the latter.

Waste Management

Simon Harris

Ceist:

266 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress that has been made to date on plans to restructure the waste market here; the impact that these plans will have on the cost to consumers; if it is expected that the number of waste operators here will reduce as a result of these plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31805/11]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which service providers would bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service. This system of market structuring is known as franchise bidding. A public consultation on the issues involved, designed to inform the policy development process, concluded in September 2011. All of the responses received, including those from a range of companies within the waste industry and from consumers of waste services, are being examined and I intend to bring policy proposals to Government before the end of the year.

The number of household waste collection service providers in the market at any point in time is a function of a range of factors. The number of service providers has not been static in recent years — local authorities have exited the market and some private sector companies have acquired competitors — and further change can be expected, whether or not the system of regulation of the market is changed. In deciding on the future arrangements to govern household waste collection services, a key objective will be to ensure that a competitive environment is fostered so as to support the achievement of economically, and environmentally, efficient outcomes.

Question No. 267 answered with Question No. 259.
Questions Nos. 268 and 269 answered with Question No. 257.
Question No. 270 answered with Question No. 259.

Departmental Reports

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

271 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has considered the Darlington report; his views on same; and the steps he will take to ensure the full implementation of the recommendations. [31815/11]

My Department has recently received a copy of the report commissioned by Meath County Council in this matter. The response to the report is a matter for the Council in the first instance under the Local Government Act 2001. Nevertheless, my Department wrote to the County Manager seeking an early and full report on his proposals to act on the recommendations in the review. In response, the County Manager has identified the measures that have been put in place to date to address some of the issues raised and indicated he is developing an implementation plan for the delivery of all 25 recommendations. This response is currently being considered in my Department.

Local Authority Housing

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

272 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide funding for the refurbishment of windows and doors for local authority housing in areas (details supplied) in County Meath. [31816/11]

Under section 58 of the Housing Act 1966, the management and maintenance of the local authority housing stock, including the compilation and funding of ongoing maintenance programmes, is a matter for individual authorities.

Funding for such maintenance programmes has normally been provided from the local authority's own internal capital receipts. However, with the decline in internal capital receipts, funding has been provided from my Department for the maintenance and improvement of housing stock, particularly in relation to retrofitting of energy efficiency measures.

Local authorities may also use their remaining internal capital receipts to direct resources to projects which are deemed most in need of funding, including the installation of insulation, the replacement of windows and doors, and other measures to improve energy efficiency in their stock. It is a matter for Meath County Council, taking into account funding available from both my Department and internal capital receipts, to determine and progress their improvements works programme.

Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

273 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén uair a chuirfear socruithe in áit chun na seirbhísí a bhíodh á gcur ar fáil ag MFG sa Ghaeltacht a chur ar fáil; an bhféadfadh sé a mhíniú cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir leis an gceist seo ón 14 Meán Fómhair; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [31864/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

274 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cad iad na socruithe atá déanta aige chun deontais a íoc faoin gClár Leader le daoine a bhí ag plé le MFG; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [31865/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

275 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén uair a chuirfear an cruinniú a gealladh dom sa Dáil ar an 14 Meán Fómhair ar bun idir ionadaithe tofa an Oireachtais as na toghcheantair a bhfuil Gaeltacht iontu agus a Roinn; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [31866/11]

Tá sé i gceist agam Ceist Uimh. 273, 274 agus 275 a ghlacadh le chéile.

Bhí conradh sínithe ag an Roinn seo le Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (MFG) le haghaidh Chlár Forbartha Tuaithe (CFT) agus an Clár Forbartha Áitiúil agus Pobail agus riarann MFG cláranna eile ar son na Roinne seo agus Roinne eile.

Tá ceisteanna casta dlíthiúla agus conarthacha le réiteach agus tá mo Roinn ag obair ar réitigh fadtéarmacha agus gearrthéarmacha a fháil le haghaidh Chlár Forbarta Tuaithe (CFT) agus cláir eile sa Ghaeltacht. Is é mo chuspóir réiteach éifeachtach a fháil agus é a chur i bhfeidhm gan mhoill.

Maidir le hiarratas an Teachta ar chruinniú le hoifigigh na Roinne, níl eolas breise ar fáil faoi láthair maidir le MFG ach beidh mo Roinn i dteagmháil leis an dTeachta nuair atá tuilleadh eolais ar fáil.

Community Development

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

276 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of applications on hand from each Leader company awaiting his approval; the number for each company waiting longer than two months for approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31872/11]

There are nine such applications on hands in my Department from eight LEADER companies. Four of these applications were first received in the Department more than two months ago. The assessment of higher value projects (projects with a grant approval of €150,000 or more) usually involves detailed consultations between my Department and the relevant local action group. It frequently necessitates the provision of further documentation or clarifications, as was the case for the four projects received more than two months ago. It may also, in some instances, result in modifications to the project proposed to ensure best value for money and compliance with all the necessary regulations, both national and European, governing the activities funded under the programme. These assessments also consider whether the project as proposed addresses the needs of the local community in the best possible way and a full and detailed assessment of all projects is essential. LEADER activities are co-financed by the European Union at a rate of 55% and, accordingly, come within the remit of a strict regulatory regime which requires that each project must be compliant before any funding is awarded by the LEADER companies.

Election Management System

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

277 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for reform of the electoral system; if he intends to introduce a system of gender quotas for candidates standing for election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31874/11]

I have already introduced reforms to the electoral system in the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2011 which changed the terms of reference for the Constituency Commission to provide for a reduced number of TDs. Also in that Act the spending and reimbursement limits for Presidential elections were reduced and a six month time limit was placed on the calling of Dáil bye elections.

On 8 June 2011, I published the General Scheme of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011. Provision is made for the restriction of corporate donations, a reduction in the amounts that can be received as political donations and a reduction in the thresholds for declaring political donations. Political parties will also now be required to submit their annual accounts to the Standards in Public Office Commission for publication.

The new legislation will include a provision that political parties will face a cut of half their State political funding if they do not have at least 30% women and 30% men candidates at the next general election. This will then rise to 40% after 7 years. Payments made to qualified political parties under Part 3 of the Electoral Act 1997 are linked to performance at a General Election and these new requirements will therefore apply in respect of candidates of political parties at a General Election. It is also my intention that the measures would have a knock-on effect by providing an incentive to political parties voluntarily to apply similar arrangements at local elections.

In line with the Government's commitment to reform the way legislation is debated and implemented, I have published the General Scheme and invited public input on its contents. The Bill is currently being drafted and is to be published during the current Dáil term.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

278 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total value of the dormant accounts fund as of the end of September 2011. [31974/11]

John Browne

Ceist:

297 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of funding presently available in the dormant accounts fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32267/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 and 297 together.

Dormant Accounts legislation provides for a scheme to transfer dormant accounts in banks, building societies, An Post, as well as unclaimed life assurance policies to the care of the State, while guaranteeing a right of reclaim to those funds. The legislation further provides for a scheme of disbursement, for charitable purposes, or purposes of societal and community benefit, of funds that are not likely to be reclaimed. The value of the Dormant Accounts Fund at the end of August 2011 (latest available data from the National Treasury Management Agency), net of liabilities, was €81.991m.

Local Authority Housing

Michelle Mulherin

Ceist:

279 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the circumstances in which married persons who are separated and living apart who have a family home in joint names are entitled to be placed on the housing list of a local housing authority; if it is a prerequisite that a formal divorce or legal separation has taken place between both parties before one of them is entitled to be placed on the housing list. [32029/11]

It is open to any person or household to apply to a housing authority for an assessment of their housing need. It is a matter solely for the housing authority concerned to determine whether an applicant for social housing support is eligible for and in need of that support. The authority must make its determination in accordance with the provisions of section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, and regulations made under that section, primarily the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case. Regulation 22 of Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 provides that an applicant household for long-term social housing support is ineligible for social housing support if a household member owns alternative accommodation that it could reasonably be expected to use to meet its housing need, either by occupying it or by selling it and using the proceeds to secure suitable accommodation. For this reason, if either member of a separated couple applies, local authorities require evidence of legal separation or divorce before considering a household's eligibility for long-term social housing support, as the separation agreement will provide certainty regarding ownership of property.

Local Government Reform

Ceist:

280 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans regarding the future of town councils; if any town council will be amalgamated with other bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32059/11]

Robert Troy

Ceist:

311 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his future plans for the town and county councils here. [32457/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 and 311 together.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 15 and 19 of 20 October 2011, indicating that significant progress is being made in relation to a range of work relevant to the reform and development of local government in accordance with the Programme for Government.

Initial decisions have concentrated on certain structural arrangements at city and county level, which is a key element of the local government system. Building on the decisions made to date and work underway, I intend to bring more comprehensive policy proposals to Government shortly in relation to the structures at each level of the local government system, regional, county and sub-county. Decisions in relation to local government structures will be a matter for Government in that context.

Social and Affordable Housing

John McGuinness

Ceist:

281 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the actions if any, he intends to take to sort out the construction defects at a location (details supplied) in County Carlow; if the solutions put forward by an independent energy assessor will be funded by him through Respond or the local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32124/11]

These houses were built in 2006/2007 by Respond on behalf of Carlow County Council and the issues raised are therefore appropriate to the Housing Authority who are responsible for the management and maintenance of these properties.

I understand from Carlow County Council that the Council recently engaged an independent energy/insulation expert to examine the houses at this location, and 25 houses were independently assessed. The findings of this examination are that these houses are compliant with the Building Regulations in force at the time of construction and there are no construction defects. A number of minor maintenance items were identified and these will be addressed under the council's maintenance budget.

Regeneration Projects

Joan Collins

Ceist:

282 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown of the expenditure of regeneration funding on consultants, on firms providing professional services and on organisations providing community support in respect of a regeneration project (details supplied) in County Sligo for the years 2008 and 2009; if he will provide the names of the said consultants, firms or organisations; the sum that each received; the service that each provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32142/11]

The detailed information requested with regard to the services provided by various consultants over the period 2008 and 2009 and involving up to seven individual projects is being collated in conjunction with Sligo Borough Council and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Local Authority Housing

Joan Collins

Ceist:

283 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Sligo Borough Council sought a sum of €445,000 to refurbish 53 houses in an estate (details supplied) in County Sligo in the current year and that the sum will be met from the €2 million allocation from him for the regeneration project this year; the way the balance of €1,555,000 will be used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32143/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 410 of 15 June 2011.

So far this year, a total of €530,201 has been recouped by my Department to Sligo Borough Council in respect of costs incurred on the regeneration project. There are a number of other projects being progressed by the Council in addition to the refurbishment works in the Cranmore estate and which will be funded out of the €2 million allocation for 2011. It is a matter for Sligo Borough Council to submit the relevant recoupment claims in respect of these projects or other recently completed projects.

Departmental Expenditure

Joan Collins

Ceist:

284 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of regeneration funding spent in 2009 on the Dublin City inner city flat complexes regeneration scheme, the Tralee town Mitchel’s Crescent regeneration scheme, the Sligo borough Cranmore regeneration scheme, the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Laurel Avenue regeneration scheme and the Waterford city regeneration scheme; the expenditure on project staff salaries on each of the said regeneration schemes; the project staff salaries as a percentage of overall expenditure on each scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32144/11]

My Department supports an ambitious programme of regeneration projects to deliver integrated physical, social and economic regeneration, ranging from large-scale urban regeneration projects such as Ballymun and Limerick city to smaller estate regeneration projects in a number of regional towns around the country.

As with all projects of this nature and complexity outside consultants have been required for various planning, design and research activities. All local authorities have been advised that, in carrying out the planning and design stages of projects and in supervising construction/refurbishment works, in-house staff and resources should be used to the fullest extent possible before procuring these services from outside consultants and service providers. The extent to which this work is done in-house depends on the availability and skill-set of the relevant staff.

The detailed information sought in relation to regeneration programmes in five cities and towns could involve up to 28 individual regeneration projects, each with a research, planning/design and construction element. It will take some time for my Department to examine the relevant records, liaise with the local authorities involved and collate the detailed information sought. This will be forwarded to the Deputy when this work is completed.

Local Authority Rent Schemes

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

285 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the details of all differential rent schemes across all the local authorities. [32145/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

286 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will make the necessary changes to the differential rent scheme in order that a person in receipt of an incapacitated child tax credit does not then pay more rent as a result. [32146/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 285 and 286 together.

Local authority rents are set in accordance with a rent scheme adopted by each local council. The making and amending of rent schemes is the responsibility of local authorities as an integral part of their housing management functions, subject to broad principles laid down by my Department in Circular letter HRT 3/2002.

It is a matter for local authorities, when assessing individual households, to consider whether rents payable are in accordance with the authority's rent scheme. Therefore, decisions on whether or not to disregard either a proportion of income or particular sources of income for the purposes of calculating rents are matters for each individual local authority to consider in accordance with their own rent scheme.

As there is no requirement under current legislation for my Department to approve rent schemes, it does not maintain an up to date register of housing authorities' rent schemes. Details of rent schemes are normally published on the relevant authorities' websites.

Section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, when commenced, will replace existing enactments in relation to differential rent schemes. Regulations and guidelines for housing authorities to give effect to section 31 are currently in preparation in my Department. When these are made, in the coming months, section 31 will be commenced and authorities will have one year in which to put in place a differential rent scheme under the new provisions. While it is not the intention to introduce a national standardised differential rent scheme, the regulations to be made will more clearly set out the matters that may be included in a local rents scheme, including —

the level, type and sources of household income that may be assessed for rent purposes;

how dependants will be accounted for in calculating rent;

the manner in which the size, standard, etc., of any class or classes of dwellings shall be taken into account in determining rent, having regard to the market rent in respect of dwellings of similar size, standard, etc., in the administrative area concerned; and

procedures for rent reviews.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Nicky McFadden

Ceist:

287 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if funds will be allocated through RAPID dormant accounts funding to provide capital funding of €50,000 for the development of a youth café for Mullingar, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32148/11]

A capital project has been prioritised by POBAL, under the RAPID Additionality Measure, to establish a youth café in Mullingar. The matter of progressing the RAPID Additionality Measures to contract stage is being kept under active review in the light of availability of funding/levels of expenditure across the Department's Vote during 2011 and, if necessary, into 2012.

Flood Risk Management

Simon Harris

Ceist:

288 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the Management of Severe Weather Events in Ireland and Related Matters, July 2010, have been implemented by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32178/11]

Simon Harris

Ceist:

289 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the consolidation of responsibilities relating to the management of severe weather events and flooding, carried out by a multitude of agencies, have been considered in view of the 2010 report into the management of severe weather events in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32179/11]

Simon Harris

Ceist:

290 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if specific flood and severe weather plans have been prepared by each of the local authorities under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32180/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 288 to 290, inclusive, together.

The Office of Public works has responsibility for flood risk management in Ireland, while the response to flooding incidents is delivered by the Principal Response Agencies, led by the relevant local authorities. The principal response agencies co-ordinate their response to flooding in accordance with the 2006 Framework for Emergency Management, each operating under its own Major Emergency Plan. The co-ordination and response management arrangements may be invoked to manage a flooding incident whether a major emergency is declared or not. The Framework requires local authorities to prepare severe weather plans and flood emergency plans, as sub-plans of their Major Emergency Plan. I understand that all local authorities have Severe Weather Plans in place and, where appropriate in accordance with local risk assessment, have Flood Emergency Plans also. As lead Government Department for Severe Weather Emergencies, my Department published The Report on the Review of the Response to Exceptional Severe Weather Events of 2009-2010 in August 2011. The Report, which is available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie, describes the response to the severe weather events of January and December 2010. It describes emergency preparedness in Ireland and draws various conclusions, and makes recommendations to improve preparedness for, and increase resilience to, future severe weather events. The Government Task Force on Emergency Planning endorsed the Report prior to its publication. Relevant Government Departments and agencies are in the process of implementing the recommendations for their sectors, with a particular focus on those which need to be in place before the coming winter. Progress is being reported through the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning.

The publication of the above-mentioned Report, and the ongoing implementation of the recommendations therein addresses the recommendations of the 2010 Report of the Joint Committee on The Management of Severe Weather Events in Ireland and Related Matters in so far as they relate to my Department. The Joint Committee made a number of recommendations which are relevant to other Government Departments and agencies.

In relation to the involvement of a multitude of agencies in response to severe weather emergencies and flooding events, it is appropriate that a number of agencies are involved in accordance with their mandates and responsibilities. As outlined above, what is important is that the efforts of all are co-ordinated around common objectives, and the Framework for Major Emergency Management provides for this at the local level. When the scale of events merits national level co-ordination, which is led by my Department, the Guidelines for Co-ordinating a National Level Emergency/Crisis Response published by the Office for Emergency Planning provides a template for multi-agency co-ordination which has been shown to be effective.

Fire Services

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

291 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm that two emergency tenders were designed and built for the Dublin Fire Brigade in 2009; if he will confirm that both are currently in use; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32221/11]

The provision of a fire service, including the provision of fire fighting appliances and emergency equipment, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities as set out in the Fire Services Act, 1981. My Department supports fire authorities through the setting of general policy and the provision of capital funding, including the recoupment (within the overall funding available) of costs incurred by fire authorities in relation to the approved purchase of fire appliances and equipment.

Dublin City Council's Fire Brigade manages the procurement process from invitation to tender through to delivery and deployment of appliances. In 2009 funding to support the acquisition of three fire appliances was allocated to the Dublin Fire Brigade, two of which have since been delivered. The deployment of fire appliances is an operational matter for the fire authority.

Question No. 292 answered with Question No. 257.

Building Control Act

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

293 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the Building Control Act 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32247/11]

Alex White

Ceist:

303 Deputy Alex White asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is planned to amend the Building Control Act 2007 to insert a grandfather clause with a view to allowing experienced self-taught architects to use the term architect in carrying out their business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32394/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 293 and 303 together.

I have no plans to amend the Building Control Act 2007 along the lines suggested and there is no question of non-registered persons being allowed to use the title of architect.

Section 22 of the act makes specific provision for a category of practically trained persons who had already been providing architectural services in Ireland commensurate with those understood as being provided by Architects for the purpose of the Building Control Act 2007 for a period of ten years at the time the Act became law. This provision is transitional in nature and enables this category of persons to become registered once they have been assessed as eligible for registration by the Technical Assessment Board in accordance with the practical experience assessment procedure.

The assertion in the details supplied that an applicant would have to have sat a five year degree course in order to be successful under the technical assessment route is incorrect. The technical assessment route is specifically provided for practitioners who are not academically qualified.

Questions Nos. 294 and 295 answered with Question No. 257.

Departmental Programmes

John Browne

Ceist:

296 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the funding for the projects already approved for the RAPID programme in Enniscorthy town, County Wexford, will be issued. [32264/11]

Eight capital projects have been prioritised by POBAL under the RAPID Additionality Measure for Enniscorthy. The matter of progressing the RAPID Additionality measures to contract stage will be kept under active review in the light of availability of funding/levels of expenditure across the Department's Vote during 2011 and, if necessary, into 2012.

Question No. 297 answered with Question No. 278.

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

298 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of money yet to be spent under his Department’s 2011 budget allocation before the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32284/11]

The information requested is set out in the following table:

Revised Estimates Volume Provision June 2011

Amount Spent to end October 2011

Balance Remaining

€000s

€000s

€000s

Capital

1,047,900

538,959

508,941

Current

613,796

467,399

146,397

Total

1,661,696

1,006,358

655,338

While annual capital expenditure on programmes for which my Department is responsible has traditionally been end loaded, there has been slower than expected progress on a number of such programmes so far in 2011.

I anticipate that there will be a significant increase in expenditure on the relevant programmes over the coming period.

Departmental Properties

Robert Troy

Ceist:

299 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has any property leased in private sector in County Westmeath; if so, the type of property; and the annual rent payable. [32299/11]

My Department does not lease or rent any property in County Westmeath.

Tax Code

Joan Collins

Ceist:

300 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views that there is an inbuilt inequity to the proposed household charge of a flat fee of €100 for every household. [32318/11]

The EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland commits the Government to the introduction of a property tax for 2012. The Programme reflects the need, in the context of the State's overall financial position, to put the funding of locally delivered services on a sound financial footing, improve accountability and better align the cost of providing services with the demand for such services.

In light of the complex issues involved, a property tax, requiring a comprehensive property valuation system, would take time to introduce and accordingly, to meet the requirements in the EU/IMF Programme, the Government has decided to introduce a household charge in 2012. The household charge is an interim measure and proposals for a full property tax will be considered by the Government in due course.

The household charge is being set at a modest amount of €100 for 2012 and I will provide for a number of exemptions and waivers to the charge. In addition, to mitigate the impact on homeowners, provision will be made for the payment of the charge by instalments.

The legislation to underpin the household charge will contain the precise details of the charge and will be published and brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas shortly.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Simon Harris

Ceist:

301 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will increase funding for a planned sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Wicklow which has been needed for over ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32349/11]

The Dunlavin Sewerage Scheme is included for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 as a scheme to start within the lifetime of the Programme.

My Department has approved Wicklow County Council's Preliminary Report for the scheme. Under the devolved procedures applying to the scheme my Department's next involvement would normally be to approve funding for the work following the completion of the tender process by Wicklow County Council. The Council has, however, asked my Department to review the level of the local contribution towards the scheme. This matter is under examination and a decision will be made as quickly as possible.

Question No. 302 answered with Question No. 257.
Question No. 303 answered with Question No. 293.

Local Authority Housing

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

304 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total amount of funding that was made available for the capital assistance scheme that approved housing bodies could avail of when developing housing in 2007 to 2011, inclusive; the amount that will be available in 2012; and in each of the years mentioned the amount of the funding that was given to groups dealing with domestic violence such as women’s refuges. [32398/11]

Under the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS), funding of up to 100% of the approved cost is available for the provision of accommodation to meet the needs of persons with specific categories of housing need including older people, people with an intellectual, physical or mental health disability, the homeless, returning emigrants and victims of domestic violence.

The administration of the scheme, including the nomination of tenants from the local authority housing list, is the responsibility of the relevant housing authority. Given that individual approved housing bodies may cater for a range of special housing need and considering that the accommodation provided by these bodies under the CAS may be multi-purpose, it is not possible to disaggregate the expenditure figures to provide information in relation to any specific category of tenant such as victims of domestic violence.

The information requested in relation to the funding provided under the Capital Assistance Scheme over the period 2007 to date is set out in the following table:

Year

Amount

2007

113,765,517

2008

156,290,000

2009

158,512,741

2010

113,647,625

2011

90,000,000

The capital allocation for the CAS in 2012 will be determined as soon as possible following the conclusion of the estimates process.

Private Rented Accommodation

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

305 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will review the regulatory framework for the privately rented accommodation sector; if he will consider the introduction of a certificate or rating system to be operated by local authorities; if he will also consider amendments to this framework relating to thermal insulation, sound insulation, energy efficiency, insect infestation, increasing the responsibility on tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32412/11]

The Residential Tenancies Act, 2004 sets out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants in the private rented residential sector. The Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) was established under the Residential Tenancies Act in September 2004 to operate a national tenancy registration system and to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants in the private rented residential sector.

My Department conducted a review of the Residential Tenancies Act in 2009 with a specific emphasis on whether the Act best supports the PRTB's key functions and on whether legislative amendments would support either the achievement of additional operational efficiencies by the PRTB in the delivery of those functions or the broader good working of the private rented sector. The outcomes of the review were announced by my predecessor in April 2010. Consideration of the introduction of a certification or rating system to be operated by local authorities did not feature in any of the recommendations arising from the review. The Government approved the preparation of the Heads of a Bill to deliver on the review's recommendations. Full details in relation to the background to the review, the associated terms of reference and the outcomes of the review are available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

The drafting of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2011 was approved by Government in July 2011. The Bill is currently in preparation by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in collaboration with my Department.

An EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings, which was transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2006 — 2008, introduced a requirement for a Building Energy Rating (BER) system.

In the case of buildings offered for letting, the Regulations require a landlord to produce a copy of the BER certificate and advisory report in relation to the building to any person who expresses an interest in availing of the letting.

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. These Regulations were further amended by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009, which specify a number of requirements in relation to a range of matters including sanitary facilities, refuse facilities, heating, lighting and ventilation. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with the Regulations. Responsibility for enforcement rests with the relevant local authority, supported by a dedicated stream of funding allocated by my Department.

The standards are kept under review by my Department and there are no proposals under consideration at present to make amendments to them.

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

306 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider amending the Private Residential Tenancies Act 2004 so that landlords would have to register a property rather than a tenancy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32413/11]

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 regulates the tenant-landlord relationship in the private rented residential sector. My Department conducted a review of the Act in 2009 with a specific emphasis on whether the Act best supports the PRTB's key functions and on whether legislative amendments would support either the achievement of additional operational efficiencies by the PRTB in the delivery of those functions or the broader good working of the private rented sector. The outcomes of the review were announced by my predecessor in April 2010. The drafting of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2011 was approved by Government in July 2011 and the Bill is currently in preparation by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in collaboration with my Department.

The Act provides that a landlord must apply to register the tenancy of a dwelling with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB). Such registration must be accompanied by a fee, the level of which is dependent on whether the tenancy is registered within one month of its commencement or later than one month after the commencement of the tenancy. There is also a specific fee for the registration of several tenancies within the same property within one month of the commencement of the tenancies. The maximum duration of a tenancy under the Act is four years, after which a new tenancy must be registered with the Board. In the case of a dwelling subject to several different tenancies in a 12 month period, no more than two registration fees are payable.

The issue as to whether dwellings or tenancies should be the focus of registration was considered by the Commission on the Private Rented Sector, on whose report and recommendations the Act was modelled. The Commission recommended, in July 2000, the registration of tenancies and I do not propose to revisit this fundamental aspect of the Act at present.

Regeneration Programmes

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

307 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding an application submitted by Dublin City Council in respect of the redevelopment of an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32414/11]

My Department provided approval in February 2007 for the inclusion of the project in question in Dublin City Council's PPP Regeneration Programme. In response to the downturn in the housing market and the prevailing economic climate in 2008, Dublin City Council suspended its PPP programme, which included a proposal for the regeneration of Matt Talbot Court.

Dublin City Council subsequently decided to examine a range of options to progress a programme of redevelopment at Matt Talbot Court outside of the Nationa