Broadband Services Speeds

Question No. 732 answered with Question No. 706.

Ceisteanna (731)

Simon Harris

Ceist:

731. Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the service in an area (details supplied) in County Wicklow will be upgraded to ensure that faster broadband may be availed of by residents. [35534/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Ireland’s telecommunications market has been fully liberalised since 1999 in accordance with the requirements of binding EU Directives. The market has since developed into a well regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available in each County, including County Wicklow, can be found on ComReg’s website at www.callcosts.ie.

The State can only intervene to ensure access to broadband services in areas where the competitive market has failed to deliver such services, as in the case of the National Broadband Scheme and the Rural Broadband Scheme. The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland has met the EU Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

With basic broadband services widely available across Ireland, the focus is now on accelerating the roll out of high speed services. The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August last, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed services of 30Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible.

Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are under way in both fixed line and mobile high speed broadband services, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas. There is evidence that industry is investing beyond the targets to which they committed in the Plan with investments of up to €1 billion under way.

In tandem with these commercial developments, intensive work is under way in my Department to progress a State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access. The National Broadband Plan commits the Government to investing with the private sector to deliver high speed services to areas which are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market alone.

In order to progress the State-led investment, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained. My officials have commenced a comprehensive mapping exercise of the current and anticipated investment by the commercial sector to identify where the market is expected to deliver high speed broadband services over the coming years.

The results of this mapping exercise will inform the level of Government intervention that may be required and the areas that need to be targeted in the State-led investment as envisaged in the National Broadband Plan.

Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations including stakeholder engagement will be ongoing throughout 2013 with a view to the launch of a procurement process in 2014.

The Government remains firmly committed to increasing the availability countrywide of quality next generation broadband services and to ensuring that citizens, businesses and all parts of society are motivated, empowered and have the requisite connectivity to interact effectively in a digital environment.

Question No. 732 answered with Question No. 706.

Official Travel

Ceisteanna (733)

Derek Nolan

Ceist:

733. Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is confident that all overseas travel undertaken by staff in State agencies is necessary; if the agencies ensure a robust business case is submitted before travel is sanctioned; if the agencies ensures the objective of the travel cannot be achieved through other means; if, on their return, the staff have to submit a report on the work carried out while they were on agency business overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36041/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the information he has requested is an operational matter for the individual Bodies and Regulators concerned. All agencies have been kept up to date on public sector travel and subsistence policies and are aware of the need to minimise their operational expenses on an ongoing basis.

Departmental Agencies Staff Remuneration

Ceisteanna (734)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

734. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide, in tabular form, the annual salary of all commercial State company chief executive officers within the remit of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36090/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I wish to advise the Deputy that, following a Government decision, the salary rate for newly appointed CEOs of Commercial Semi State Companies under the aegis of my Department is as set out in the following table below with effect from 21 June 2011.

Salary Rate for newly appointed CEOs of Commercial State Companies

Name of Company

New Appointment Rate

An Post

€240,448

BGÉ

€191,014

Bord na Móna

€191,014

EirGrid

€158,459

ESB

€318,083

RTÉ

€219,871

TG4

€139,104

The Annual Reports of the companies contain details of incumbent CEOs’ salaries.

The Annual Reports are available in the library of the House.

Departmental Bodies

Ceisteanna (735)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

735. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide, in tabular form, a list of all non-commercial State-sponsored bodies under the aegis of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36213/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I can inform the Deputy that there are eleven Non-Commercial Bodies, including Regulators, under the aegis of my Department and details of these are set out in tabular form as follows.

Non Commercial State Bodies

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Digital Hub Development Agency

Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission (Loughs Agency)

National Oil Reserves Agency

Irish National Petroleum Corporation

Mining Board

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Regulators

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Commission for Energy Regulation

Commission for Communications

Regulation

Tribunals of Inquiry Recommendations

Ceisteanna (736)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

736. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on the intention expressed last year to forward the Mahon Tribunal report to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34225/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in March 2012 bringing to her attention the publication of the report. Decisions in relation to appropriate next steps are a matter for the DPP.

Local Authority Charges Application

Ceisteanna (737)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

737. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a child care facility (details supplied) in County Kildare is exempt from rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34503/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes, in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. With regard to the application of rates to childcare facilities, where childcare provision is within a community facility, operating in non-profit capacity, commercial rates do not generally apply. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority. The annual rate on valuation (ARV), which is applied to the valuation of each property, determined by the Valuation Office, to obtain the amount payable in rates, is decided by the elected members of each local authority in the annual budget and its determination is a reserved function.

Local Authority Charges Application

Ceisteanna (738)

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

738. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is considering introducing similar legislation to that of the Local Government (Dublin) Act 1930 and, in particular, section 71(1) that may act as an incentive for landlords to seek out new tenants at a faster pace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35349/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Local Government Act 1946 provides that, where a property in a county council or urban area is unoccupied on the date of the making of the rate, the owner becomes liable for payment of rates. However, the owner is entitled to a 100% refund if the property is vacant for specified purposes. These are where the premises are unoccupied for the purpose of the execution of additions, alterations or repairs; where the owner is bona fide unable to obtain a suitable tenant at a reasonable rent; and where the premises are vacant pending redevelopment. A small number of urban local authorities have historically had separate legal provision enabling a refund of 50% of rates on vacant properties. While the same criteria for refunds apply, 50% of the rates paid is refundable to the owner of vacant premises in these cities. These legislative provisions are

- section 71 of the Local Government (Dublin) Act 1930;

- section 29 of the Limerick City Management Act 1934; and

- section 20 of the Cork City Management (Amendment) Act 1941.

The majority of local authorities are, however, subject to the provisions of the 1946 Act. Any proposal to alter the existing rebate system would require legislative amendment on a nationwide basis. I recognise that these are difficult economic times for many businesses, including landlords, and I am continuing to keep all matters relating to rates under regular review.

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge Yield

Ceisteanna (739)

Derek Nolan

Ceist:

739. Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of revenue he expects to raise from the non-principal private residence charge from July to December this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35365/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties. At the end of 2012, €69.5m had been paid in respect of the 2012 liability for the Non-Principal Private Residence Charge. As of 30 June 2013, €47.4 million has been paid in respect of the 2013 liability for the Charge. Assuming that the level of payment in 2013 will be similar to that observed in 2012, some €22 million is anticipated to be raised between July and December 2013. It should be noted, however, that a considerable amount of revenue is raised in respect of a given liability date in the subsequent year. For instance, during 2013 to date, over €4.6 million has been collected in respect of the 2012 liability, which is in addition to the €69.5 million collected during 2012. I also anticipate that the operation of the Local Property Tax will have a positive impact on payment behaviour in respect of the 2013 Non-Principal Private Residence Charge.

Local Authority Charges Collection

Ceisteanna (740)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

740. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if, in the interests of the economic difficulties small businesses across the country are experiencing, he will consider bringing forward legislation that would allow for local authorities to implement a differential rates system that would see businesses being billed according to their turnover and their ability to pay, to assist the recovery of the domestic economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34134/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The Commissioner for Valuation has sole responsibility for all valuation matters, including the most appropriate method of valuation. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.

It is important to acknowledge that commercial rates, as a local tax, and the rating system generally are deeply embedded in the local government system. A large body of case law is well established and local authorities and ratepayers are, in the main, very familiar with, and generally accepting of, the operation and practice of the rating system. Rates are also a stable source of financing for local government which is not affected unduly by short-term changes in economic circumstances.

I am acutely aware of the pressures on small and medium-sized businesses at the present time.  Local authorities have been asked by my Department to exercise restraint or, where possible, to reduce commercial rates and local charges for 2013 and have responded well to such requests in recent years. In 2013, 87 out of the 88 rating authorities either reduced their ARV or kept it the same as in 2012.

Local authorities have a leading role in creating a pro-enterprise supportive environment to generate new jobs and sustain existing ones. They are committed to local economic development, and are best placed to meet many of the needs of businesses, in terms of infrastructure, local promotion and other key enabling measures. Under An Action Plan for Jobs, the local government sector has developed a sectoral strategy, Supporting Economic Recovery and Jobs – Locally, to promote employment and support local enterprise, including measures in the area of business charges, local enterprise and business support arrangements, procurement support, local development and community-based initiatives, the Green Economy and participation in employment support schemes.

The implementation of the Action Programme for Effective Local Government - Putting People First provides an opportunity to achieve a more coherent approach to rates and charges on a county-wide basis, having regard to funding requirements and the need to support employment and business competitiveness. It is vital that progress is made in this area, given the importance of local enterprises to employment and to the economy generally.

While I have no immediate plans to amend the legislation governing commercial rates, I will continue to keep the approach to rates by local authorities under active review, and I am determined that every avenue will be pursued to optimise efficiency and contain costs in the local government sector.

Environmental Regulations

Ceisteanna (741)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

741. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there are regulations controlling signage fronting the public roadway to advertise the availability of residential property for rent; and, if not, if he will consider implementing such regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34191/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Unless otherwise exempt, advertising in streets and public places is subject to the submission of a planning application in accordance with the provisions of Section 34 of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Local Authority Charges Yield

Ceisteanna (742, 780, 781)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

742. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of revenue estimated to be received from the levy on landfill disposal; and where this money is spent. [34290/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

780. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason the decision was reached to implement an increase in the landfill levy effective from 1 July. [34731/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

781. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the provisions under which the decision regarding an increase in the landfill levy was made and executed. [34732/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 742, 780 and 781 together.

The Programme for Government commits to the development of a coherent national waste policy, adhering to the waste hierarchy, which will aim to minimise waste disposal in landfill and maximise recovery. In addition, Ireland must comply with strict limits under the Landfill Directive for the volumes of material which are landfilled.

I published A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland in July 2012 which clearly signalled my intent ion to raise the landfill levy in July 2013 in order to provide certainty, in the form of both policy and legislation, so that the necessary actions and investments are progressed to achieve the policy’s objectives.

The landfill levy is chargeable on waste presented for disposal at landfill facilities.  The National Waste Report for 2011 noted that the increasing landfill levy and the economic down-turn contributed in significant ways to Ireland’s achievement of the 2010 EU Landfill Directive diversion target for biodegradable waste through significant decreases in municipal waste generation and quantity of residual waste consigned to landfill.

Preliminary 2012 data indicate that the quantity of biodegradable municipal waste disposed at landfill in 2011 was 771,551 tonnes. This is 161,551 tonnes in excess of the July 2013 EU Landfill Directive limit and 344,551 tonnes in excess of the 2016 limit. This further underlines the importance of effective economic instruments, such as the landfill levy, which are key to encouraging more sustainable management of our waste.

Accordingly, I recently, in exercise of the powers conferred on me by sections 7, 18(3) and 73 of the Waste Management Act 1996 (No. 10 of 1996), increased the landfill levy by €10 to €75 per tonne with effect from 1 July 2013 for each tonne of waste disposed of at authorised and unauthorised landfill facilities. This increase sends a further strong price signal to the producers, collectors and managers of waste, to deter against unsustainable behaviour and to encourage a shift away from landfill to waste management practices which are more closely aligned with the higher tiers of the waste hierarchy. 

The estimated 2013 total revenue to be received into the Environment Fund from the landfill levy is €50.8 million. The proceeds of the Environment Fund, which was established under the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001, can only be used for activities that are of benefit to the environment.  Section 74(9) of the Waste Management Act 1996 (as amended), specifies the purposes for which payments may be made from the Environment Fund.  These include assistance in a range of areas such as:

- schemes to prevent-reduce waste;

- waste recovery activities;

- research and development into waste management;

- production, distribution or sale of products deemed to be less harmful to the environment than other similar products;

- development of producer initiatives to prevent-reduce waste arising from their activities;

- implementation of waste management plans;

- enforcement of the provisions of any enactment relating to waste management, prevention of litter or protection of the environment;

- partnership projects, that involve local authorities, to improve the quality of the environment for particular local communities;

- promotion of awareness of the need to protect the environment, including national and regional campaigns;

- promotion-support of education and training to assist achievement of campaign objectives;

- resources (human or material) to enable education and training to be carried out;

- initiatives undertaken by community groups and others for protection of the environment;

- initiatives undertaken by international organisations and others for protection of the environment and/or sustainable development;

- such other purposes for protection of the environment as may be prescribed by the Minister in regulations.

The audited Environment Fund Accounts are available for download at http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/Environment/Waste/WasteManagement.

Tax Yield

Ceisteanna (743, 844)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

743. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the revenue received, in tabular form, from the plastic bag levy since its inception. [34292/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

844. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide, in tabular format, the levy rate and amounts generated by the plastic bag levy per annum since its introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35484/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 743 and 844 together.

The plastic bag levy is first and foremost an economic instrument, which has as its objective the encouragement of more environmentally sustainable behaviour. In particular, the levy was introduced as an anti-litter measure designed to influence consumers by encouraging them to reduce their use of disposable plastic bags.

Section 72 of the Waste Management Act 1996, as inserted by section 9 of the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001, provided for the introduction of a plastic bag levy. The Waste Management (Environmental Levy)(Plastic Bag) Order 2007 and the Waste Management (Environmental Levy) (Plastic Bag) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2007 allowed for the levy to be increased from its previous level of 15 cent per bag to 22 cent per bag from 1 July 2007.

The introduction of the levy in March 2002 led to a dramatic reduction in the number of disposable plastic bags supplied to consumers, from an estimated 328 bags per person per year prior to the introduction of the levy, to 21 bags per person by the end of 2002 and a further reduction to an estimated 14 bags per person by the end of 2012.

The National Litter Pollution Monitoring System is used to measure the impact of the plastic bag levy on an ongoing basis and my Department also monitors the receipts from the plastic bag levy to monitor trends in the average per capita consumption of plastic bags. These data are used to ensure that the plastic bag levy is set at an appropriate level. The National Litter Pollution Monitoring System Report 2012 reports that plastic bags constituted 0.30 % of litter arising in 2012. This compares with 5% prior to the levy’s introduction.

Receipts from the plastic bag levy for each year are published in the Environment Fund Annual Accounts. Copies of the Annual Accounts up to and including 2011 are available on my Department’s website (www.environ.ie). The 2012 Annual Accounts will be published on my Department’s website in due course after they have been audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Details of the amounts received for each year since the levy’s introduction in March 2002 and the rate of the levy for each year are set out in the following table.

Year

Levy Rate (€)

Plastic Bag levy (€m)

2002

0.15

10.4

2003

0.15

12.9

2004

0.15

15.3

2005

0.15

17.5

2006

0.15

19.9

2007

0.15/0.22 from 1 July

22.6

2008

0.22

26.7

2009

0.22

23.5

2010

0.22

17.5

2011

0.22

15.7

2012 Estimate (Cash Basis)

0.22

14.2

2013 Estimate (to 30 June 2013)

0.22

7.2

Total

203.4

Tax Yield

Ceisteanna (744)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

744. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the projected revenue obtained from an increase in the plastic bag levy to 25 cent and 30 cent, respectively. [34293/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The plastic bag levy is first and foremost an economic instrument, which has as its objective the encouragement of more environmentally sustainable behaviour. In particular, the levy was introduced as an anti-litter measure designed to influence consumers by encouraging them to reduce their use of disposable plastic bags. Therefore, the revenue to be obtained from the increases referred to in the question would be dependent on consumer behaviour in response to any such increase.

Noise Pollution Issues

Ceisteanna (745)

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

745. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide clarity about the obligations of local authorities with regard to noise pollution emanating from road traffic which is impacting on the lives of those living in nearby areas. [34338/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Complaints about local traffic-related noise should be addressed to the relevant roads authority in the first instance. For national road schemes, potential noise emissions are addressed as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process undertaken by, or on behalf of, the National Roads Authority.

In addition, the Environmental Noise Directive (END) 2002/49/EC sets out certain requirements for the assessment and management of environmental noise from transport sources, including the making of strategic noise maps and action plans. However the Directive does not set binding limit values, nor does it prescribe the measures to be included in the action plans, leaving those issues at the discretion of the national competent authorities.

The END was transposed into national law by the Environmental Noise Regulations 2006. The Regulations set out a two-stage process for addressing environmental noise. Firstly, noise must be assessed through the preparation of strategic noise maps for areas and infrastructure falling within defined criteria. Secondly, based on the results of the mapping process, the Regulations require the preparation of noise action plans for each area concerned. The fundamental objective of action plans is the prevention and reduction of environmental noise.

The Regulations designate noise mapping bodies and action planning authorities for the making of strategic noise maps and action plans. Primary responsibility for both noise mapping and action planning is assigned to local authorities. For the Dublin Agglomeration, distinct noise maps have been produced for all roads together with a related noise action plan for the period July 2008 to November 2013.

The Regulations require noise mapping bodies periodically to review and revise noise maps. A new round of noise mapping was conducted during 2012. Individual maps, along with details on the revised population exposure statistics, can be viewed at the following linkwww.dublincity.ie/WaterWasteEnvironment/NoiseMapsandActionPlans. Following the noise mapping, the four local authorities within the Dublin Agglomeration prepared a new draft Environmental Noise Action Plan for the period 2013 – 2018. The draft plan sets out an approach to the strategic management and control of environmental noise over the next five years. It also provides the basis for feedback and input from the statutory authorities and the public to help inform the final Noise Plan for the Dublin Agglomeration. The draft plan was recently made available for public consultation with submissions being invited before 20 June 2013. Submissions received under the consultation process are now being reviewed before the plan is finalised.

Rural Recreation Policy

Ceisteanna (746)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

746. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if two walks in County Kerry will be linked (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34357/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

My Department has no plans to link the walks referred to at this time. Such a proposal would require the development of at least an additional 20 km of trail to link with the trailhead for the Bolus Loop Walk. However, the Bolus Loop Walk is an excellent amenity and of great benefit to the local community and visitors to the area, offering leisure, health and economic opportunities. There are several B&B’s, hostels, local businesses and shops which appreciate the support of landowners on the Bolus Loop Walk as it is well used and known in the locality.

Local Authority Staff Issues

Ceisteanna (747)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

747. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the tenure of the current Sligo county manager will expire on 3 November 2013; if it has been brought to his attention that the county manager, on their retirement, will receive a severance payment of approximately €270,000 and an annual pension of approximately €68,000; if it has been brought to his attention that such an annual pension payment to a former county manager is more than twice the national industrial wage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34365/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Local authority managers who held office prior to 26 July 2012, including the current Sligo County Manager, are entitled to be considered for superannuation benefits under Article 78(1) of the Local Government (Superannuation) (Consolidation) Scheme 1998 to 2012. The particular benefits for an individual county manager are, in the first instance, a matter for his or her employer.