Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 1 Dec 1993


I move amendment No. 53:

In page 25, subsection (2) (a) (i), line 43, to delete "borough" and substitute "Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council".

I intend to withdraw this amendment. In the light of the discussion we had I do not see any point in going around the houses again with this. May I seek leave to redraw the amendment?

That is fine.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 39 agreed to.

Amendment No. 54 which seeks to insert a new section is out of order.

While I accept I cannot move the amendment, I would like permission, on behalf of Deputy Currie, to re-enter an amendment covering this topic on Report Stage, He wants to express his concern in relation to the handling of the Liffey valley issue in the new structures which will be established after the commencement date of this legislation.

That can be done.

Amendment No. 54 not moved.
First Schedule agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Second Schedule be the Second Schedule to the Bill".

This Schedule, if I understand it correctly, deals with the division of the debt of Dublin County Council between the three new councils. It is a most important issue for the three new authorities. I think the debt is approximately £12 million, I am subject to correction on that. Will the Minister indicate to the House how he envisages that debt being divided equitably among the three councils? Will he divide it by three or will he be able to ascertain how that debt accrued and divide accordingly? There is much concern among these councils that they will be starting their life seriously handicapped by a debt which will make the development function, which we would like to think local authorities have, practically impossible.

I appreciate the other side of the argument. Does the Minister just take over the debt of £12 million and the tax paying body make good the difference? I accept that there is a major downside in proposing that as the converse. However, it is an area about which we need to talk. We need to know the Minister's intentions and his response to the concerns being articulated in relation to the three new authorities and the debt with which they will start life.

I do not want to make a big issue of this or highlight it in any way. Given what has been achieved over the past 18 months by Dublin County Council, there will inevitably be a once-off cost to the three councils in relation to the establishment arrangements by Dublin County Council. Inevitably there will be a once-off cost to the councils due to the set up arrangements in relation to staffing, computers and so on. New offices will be required, for example, in Fingal. It could be two or three years down the road and the cost could be in the region of £10 million. I know there are many factors involved but given what has been achieved by the council and the staff I ask the Minister to be flexible and to leave a door open to the three managers for a discussion with him.

In the context of the new Bill and the setting up of the new councils I have a final point which I know is not relevant to this section but I want to bring it to the attention of the Minister. It is necessary to publicise the setting up of the three new county councils. What better way to do this than for the Minister and his Department to authorise a car registration system for the three new councils?

In the Minister's area of Tipperary, both the north riding and south riding have their own distinctive registration system. It is one thing that would bring home to the people of the greater Dublin area that there are three new counties. I ask the Minister to deal with this point in a flexible manner.

I looked again at the possibility of some modest financial help for the start up. I am talking in modest terms and I have yet to resolve this matter in the areas in which it must be processed. I listened attentively to what was said on Second Stage on this matter and we have to accept that there are some start up costs. I do not want to be misjudged or misinterpreted in terms of what I want to achieve here in a limited way.

Deputy Ryan spoke about informing the Dublin public. One could ask how, since 1991, 78 county councillors failed to communicate with their constituents to that extent. In a marginal three seat constituency I could not afford that luxury. Having said that, there is an opportunity of which we all have to avail and I will give whatever support I can in early January to the launch and whatever else would help. Deputy Ryan will be mindful of the fact that I am already booked for the final days of the old councils. We are going to consider the best way to celebrate the dissolution of the old council before we get too involved in the scheme of things for the new ones.

Obviously that debt will be increased considerably by the time the Minister is finished.

Deputy Doyle's question is dealt with in the allocation of assets and liability in the reorganisation report. It is not an area in which I have a special function. Emphasis has always been placed on the debts these councils will inherit and I understand, apart from the assets that they inherit, there are considerable resources due to all councils from different sources. I hope they will be able to ensure that all these are paid up before then.

Are they collectable?

I understand there are some millions collectable but it is not an area in which I am involved. It is clearly one which has to be ironed out in the various discussions that will take place between the area managers and the elected representatives as we go forward. Is the Deputy suggesting that Wexford county has a surplus that they would be prepared to contribute? I want to be sure exactly what she is saying in relation to these matters.

The Minister may recall that the PLV case taken by Irish farmers against agricultural rates originated in Wexford. After a couple of years of non-payment of rates we have a rather large debt hanging over us there too.

We are glad that the Minister is responding to our pleas in relation to financing for the initial set up costs which unfortunately may be quite substantial. We hope that he will come some way down the road with us. I am disappointed to hear him wash his hands of our liabilities. I do not know if I can persuade him to find money somewhere for all or some of us but at least he has come some way in relation to the set up costs. I would remind him that they are particularly difficult in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown because of the problems of merging two separate authorities.

Question put and agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 55 and 56 are related and will be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 55:

In page 40 paragraph 4, lines 31 to 42, to delete subparagraphs (d) and (e) and substitute the following:

"(d) In default of agreement between the principal authorities concerned as to the consideration to be given, the order shall record such failure and the consideration shall be determined by arbitration under and in accordance with the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919 as amended, extended or adapted by any other legislation.".

This amendment requests that the provisions of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919 should apply to any disposals of land under the Act. I will not elaborate further. We have discussed at length our concerns about the situation in which Dublin Corporation could be left and the need for compensating a local authority that has, in the exercise of its statutory functions, built up a considerable land bank — 1,800 acres in the Dublin County Council area.— for housing, industrial development and amenity development of one kind or another.

I consider the treatment of Dublin Corporation in terms of the transfer of this land and indeed housing and other assets to be a most important part of the establishment of three new local authorities under this Bill and I would appreciate if the Minister could accept these amendments. The Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919 applies in similar areas involving State and semi-State organisations and so on and I would like it to apply in this case also.

I support Deputy Doyle. The Minister or the person he would appoint effectively becomes the tribunal where there is a problem in relation to the valuations and so on that might be placed on land. To be fair to Dublin City Council, I would like him to rethink the area and look at some possibility of either this amendment or some similar device which would allay the very real fears that people in Dublin City Council have about this major asset. It is a body that by and large finances itself because it has to.

Over the last seven or eight years it would have received £300 million to £400 million in rate support grant had the rate system continued. Many people still live in virtually Third World conditions in parts of the city. I accept that the Minister has embarked on a programme of support for refurbishment of those localities, but nonetheless there is a great need for resources for Dublin City Council and there should be at least some access to arbitration.

Deputy Doyle always looks very well and has no health problems but I am unable to say the same for Deputy Broughan or myself. To allow Deputies the opportunity to brace themselves for what I am going to say arising from this amendment I thought I should have some consideration for the health of those present. This Act facilitates compensation where property is being compulsorily acquired by a State authority from a private person. It would be totally inappropriate in circumstances involving a transfer of property from one public body to another. If there are 7,500 houses valued at an average of £30,000 each, that is £225 million. I had no idea Members had those kind of resources in mind for this transfer of the century.

Sale of the century.

I could not use that word.

The county council would owe the corporation the sum of £225 million if the transfer were done on a commercial basis,

That would be the case if the criteria in the amendment was met. Is the taxpayer to fund the simple rearrangement of responsibilities between local authorities? The Deputy is surely not seriously making that proposition.

The converse is true. The ratepayers or taxpayers of Dublin Corporation are forced to do without their assets.

Their foresight created this asset in the first place.

Unfortunately a council's foresight is connected to what the Minister for the Environment — or somebody else — provides by way of resources in the first place. If, however, this means that local authorities are now in a position to provide housing from their own resources so that in future they will be able to get compensation for them, that is perfectly acceptable.

Is amendment No. 55 being pressed?

I wish to enter it again at Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 56:

In page 43, paragraph 4, lines 19 to 30, to delete subparagraphs (d) and (e) and substitute the following:

"(d) In default of agreement between the principal authorities concerned as to the consideration to be given, the order shall record such failure and the consideration shall be determined by arbitration under and in accordance with the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, as amended, extended or adapted by any other legislation.".

As I may not have an opportunity at the end of the debate, I wish to say a brief word of thanks to the Chairman and my colleagues on all sides of the House who have come in for a very long day today and last evening to try to ensure that we had legislation as good as possible in this area. We still have to move on to Report Stage but because it has been such a very long day I wanted to say a word of thanks to all of you who have stayed on to co-operate and help to get through the work.

I apologise to the Minister for the fact that we were not able to finish as early as we would have liked, despite the fact that he has to go to Brussels tonight for tomorrow's meeting. I wish to thank Members and the spokespersons for the various parties for an interesting debate.

I wish to thank the Minister for bearing with a very difficult and intricate change in the administration of Dublin. I know he will appreciate that since it concerns so many people so deeply it is necessary to be thorough.

I thank the Minister's officials and the staff of the Houses for bearing with us on our long day. They must be remembered too when proceedings drag on this late. I hope no one thinks that the lateness of the hour is justification for not taking each section as seriously as we would at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. We all get tired and perhaps we do not have the same enthusiasm for proposing amendments, nonetheless the issues must be discussed. We are only reiterating concerns about which we feel very strongly or concerns that have been brought to our attention from other quarters in relation to this Bill. Everything, even issues brought in during the last hour are of equal importance when it comes to legislation as important as this.

I was quite happy, regardless of personal problems, to give the longest possible opportunity for debate because it is a new area for all of us, we are testing new ground and none of us is certain of all the answers. There is a process that the Bill can now go through as well. It will benefit from the contributions made here in getting us to Report Stage with more comprehensive legislation, but more importantly, workable effective legislation which will resolve some of the problems of the people whom we serve.

This has been a long and worthwhile debate and I wish to thank you, Chairman, the officials of the House and the Minister and his officials, because while I had the opportunity to leave once or twice, they had to stay here all the time. I appreciate the time, effort and patience they have all shown. To a certain extent we will be going into the unknown from the beginning of January and it is a challenge to which I look forward.

Amendment put.
The Select Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 15.

Bradford, Paul.

Doyle, Avril.

Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Finucane Michael.

Connor, John.

Higgins, Jim.

Crawford, Seymour.

Keogh, Helen.

Nealon, Ted.


Ahern, Dermot.

Kenneally, Brendan.

Ahern, Michael.

Killeen, Tony.

Broughan, Tommy.

Martin, Micheál

Connolly, Ger

Ó Cuív, Eamon.

Ellis, John.

O'Leary, John.

Foley, Denis.

Ryan, Seán.

Hilliard, Colm.

Smith, Brendan.

Smith, Michael.

Amendment declared lost.
Third Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.

I propose the following draft report:

The Select Committee has considered the Bill and has made amendments thereto.

Report agreed to.

Ordered to report to the Dáil accordingly.

The Select Committee adjourned at 10.15 p.m.