I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, for coming to the House. He is a regular visitor and as somebody who was a Member of the House, he knows the format and the value of having a Minister or Minister of State replying to Senators' queries. My issue is local to Letterkenny, with a problem immediately affecting four estates. The ESB has written to the residents associations and told them the ESB would switch off power to the sewerage pumps because money has not been paid. The residents made inquiries through the council and by their own research found that the developer had gone bust. The developer was from Northern Ireland and the receiver appears to have abandoned ship altogether. These residents had to go to the ESB and in the past day or two it was indicated that power would not be cut off immediately, although this had been scheduled for 20 November. There has been no indication of who will pay the bill.
The residents and possibly a school would be affected if the power is switched off. These residents bought their properties in good faith and never expected to arrive at such a position. As a member of Letterkenny Town Council and Donegal County Council for many years, I believe the council has a responsibility for residents and must ultimately pick up the tab because of the lack of a system. At a council meeting last year I asked how many bonds had been called upon and only one has ever been used. I question the value of having a bond and the way bonds have been administered in the planning process, which leaves much to be desired. To date nobody has got to grips with when a bond can be called in or if they can be used. There seem to be many conditions attached to calling in a bond.
My experience at the council leads me to believe there is an obligation to take over estates after seven years but in many cases the cost of doing so would be prohibitive. Will the Minister of State clarify the issue? Builders have gone bust in the Minister of State's constituency and the seven-year period is up. In some cases estates may be 25 or 30 years old but the council would not have taken over. At what stage is a council legally obliged to take over the running of an estate? In the Letterkenny case the developer is from outside the jurisdiction and has no means of paying the ESB. Who has to pay it and will it come back to the residents? Some of the houses may be owned by developers or investors with no real interest in the local area. Houses may also be empty. Such people will not pay up and I would not expect a resident to have to pay for a developer's obligation.
I know the financial position of local authorities is difficult but it is more difficult for residents and a family home should be sacrosanct. The previous Administration allowed this get out of hand to such a degree that this is only now hitting home. It is not a tragedy but it is an injustice.