Plastic Bag Levy

Ceisteanna (562)

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

562. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown of the total amount raised by the plastic bag levy since its introduction in tabular form by year; if he will provide a breakdown of the way this levy was spent; the amounts provided to bodies including industry representative associations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2622/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Receipts from the plastic bag levy and landfill levy for each year are published in the Environment Fund Annual Accounts. Annual Accounts for the Environment Fund up to and including 2012 are available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Waste/EnvironmentFund/. The 2013 Annual Accounts will be published on my Department’s website in due course, after they have been audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Funding from Environment Fund can only be used for activities or initiatives in a range of areas such as, inter alia:

- schemes to prevent/reduce waste;

- waste recovery activities;

- research & 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;

- 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;

- 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.

As receipts from both the plastic bag levy and the landfill levy are aggregated into the Environment Fund prior to their disbursement for the above purposes, it is not possible to give a detailed breakdown of how funds from the plastic bag levy alone are distributed. However, no funding from the Environment Fund is provided to the Irish Waste Management Association, the representative association for the waste management industry in Ireland.

Irish Water Administration

Ceisteanna (563)

Arthur Spring

Ceist:

563. Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding Irish Water automatically assuming responsibility for the provision of water services in housing estates which have not been taken in charge by the local authority; and if such responsibilities have changed in recent months. [2677/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, sets out the process by which local authorities can take in charge housing estates. When taking an estate in charge under the terms of this provision, a planning authority must take in charge, among other things, any, sewers, water mains or drains within the attendant grounds of the development. The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides for the transfer of responsibility for the provision of public water services from local authorities to Irish Water. In addition, it provides a mechanism whereby water services infrastructure taken in charge by local authorities pursuant to section 180 of the Act of 2000 will be subsequently transferred by Ministerial Order to Irish Water.

In circumstances where a housing estate, and its associated water services infrastructure, has not yet been taken in charge by the relevant local authority, and therefore not yet transferred to Irish Water by way of Ministerial Order, the responsibility for the provision of water services remains with the developer of the estate. This responsibility has not changed in recent months.

My Department, following consultation with Irish Water and local authorities, issued a guidance circular to local authorities on 5 November 2014 clarifying the procedures to be followed by local authorities in relation to the taking in charge of existing residential estates that are connected to public water supply and/or wastewater collection systems followed by the transfer, or otherwise, of water services infrastructural assets in agreement with Irish Water. This advice is intended to facilitate and expedite the taking in charge of housing estates by local authorities and the subsequent transfer of the water services infrastructure and, consequently, the responsibility for the maintenance of water services, to Irish Water.

This matter will be kept under review by my Department and further guidance will be issued if required.

Water Charges Administration

Ceisteanna (564)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

564. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 1033 of 4 November 2014 if he will introduce measures to address the specific problem of tenants of business premises, as distinct from domestic tenants, who leave landlords saddled with unpaid water bills; his views on the creation of a register of tenants who have outstanding bills, in order that the tenant cannot just move on to another premises and repeat the process; if he will ensure that local authorities must inform landlords before a service is cut off in order that the landlord does not have to incur an expensive reconnection fee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2719/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides for the transfer of responsibility for the delivery of water services from the local authorities to Irish Water and, with effect from 1 January 2014, Irish Water is responsible for the provision of public water services, including responsibility for the charging of non-domestic customers. The Act provides that Irish Water can collect charges from its customers in receipt of water services provided by it. The Act also provides that responsibility for the independent economic regulation of the water sector is assigned to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers.

The existing arrangements for all non-domestic customers are remaining in place with no changes for the time being. The CER will be reviewing all aspects of non-domestic water tariffs under a series of public consultations and will publish the time-line for this process in the next few months.

Seniors Alert Scheme

Ceisteanna (565)

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

565. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if funding will be maintained for the senior alerts scheme; when the scheme will be extended to include specialist alarms for the hearing impaired; when such devices will be made available to local community and voluntary groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2721/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

My Department manages the Seniors Alert Scheme which encourages community support for vulnerable older people in our communities by providing grant assistance towards the purchase and installation of personal monitored alarms to enable older persons, of limited means, to continue to live securely in their homes with confidence, independence and peace of mind. The scheme is administered by local community and voluntary groups with the support of my Department. The funding allocated for the Seniors Alert Scheme in 2014 was €2.35m and this allocation has been maintained for 2015.

My Department undertook to consider new approaches to the Seniors Alert Scheme in 2014 and arising from this, it was decided that the scheme would be managed by Pobal, who deliver many programmes on behalf of Government.

Pobal issued an invitation to tender for the supply and installation of personal monitored alarms under the scheme on 20 October 2014. The tender included a requirement for suppliers to set out their value added services, which may include hearing impaired alerts. The tender process, which is being led by Pobal, is almost complete and following completion of the process a panel of regional suppliers will be contracted to provide the required equipment within specific regional areas.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (566)

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

566. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the recent work on tackling short-term homelessness in the Dublin region which has ensured that a surplus stock of beds is now in place, if such a focus can be placed on other cities such as Galway so as to eliminate short-term homelessness while other measures such as social housing rejuvenation and development, and assistance with accommodation rental and purchase are under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2734/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

On 4 December 2014, I hosted a special Summit on Homelessness to reaffirm the Government's commitment to end involuntary long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. A number of actions arising from the Summit were considered at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform on 8 December and were then formalised into an Action Plan to Address Homelessness which was noted by the Government at its meeting on 9 December 2014. A copy of this action plan is available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/SpecialNeeds/HomelessPeople/. Progress in implementing this plan is overseen by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform.

The action plan focuses on the Dublin region because the issue of homelessness is most acute in this region. However, there are a number of actions in the plan which address homelessness in other regions including the other major urban centres such as Galway City. I understand that there is sufficient emergency bed capacity in Galway so that there is no reason for anyone to sleep rough due to lack of accommodation.

Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with individual housing authorities and the purposes for which housing authorities may incur expenditure in addressing homelessness are prescribed in Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988. Additional funding for homeless services across the country in 2015 will ensure continued progress toward the achievement of the Government's target of ending involuntary long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. My Department is currently considering the appropriate allocation of the 2015 homelessness budget so as to ensure that Section 10 homelessness funding contributes to meeting the needs in the various regions.

Rental Accommodation Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (567)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

567. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the housing situation for rental accommodation scheme applicants in respect of a family (details supplied) in Dublin 5; his plans to sort out the problem of the lack of social housing for many families such as highlighted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2747/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 specifically provides that the Minister's power to issue policy directions and guidelines to housing authorities in relation to their housing functions shall not be construed as enabling him to exercise any power or control in relation to any individual case with which a housing authority is or may be concerned. Accommodation provided under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is governed by the terms of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended. The Act provides the main regulatory framework for the private rented residential sector and provides for security of tenure. The grounds upon which a tenancy in the private rented residential sector may be legally terminated are clearly set out in the 2004 Act. It also specifies minimum obligations for both landlords and tenants under a tenancy.

In accordance with the terms of the Scheme local authorities retain the responsibility to source further accommodation for a household accommodated under RAS should the dwelling that the household is living in become unavailable through no fault of their own. It is a matter for local authorities to make every effort to secure suitable alternative accommodation for any household in RAS in the circumstances outlined as quickly as possible.

In light of the well documented pressures on the rental market in certain locations it is not always straightforward to source new RAS properties. In all cases, not just where a tenancy is under threat, there is no bar on RAS households from sourcing alternative accommodation themselves, if they so desire, independent of the local authority. Once the local authority is satisfied that the accommodation meets the needs of the household and conforms to standards for rental accommodation which are set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 the property can be brought into the RAS Scheme.

The supply of social housing is a key priority for the Government. The Social Housing Strategy 2020, which I published in November 2014, sets out clear, measurable actions and targets to increase the supply of social housing, reform delivery arrangements and meet the housing needs of all households on the housing list.

The Strategy provides for a total targeted provision of over 110,000 social housing units, through the delivery of 35,000 new social housing units and aims to meet the housing needs of some 75,000 households through the Housing Assistance Payment and Rental Accommodation Scheme, consequently addressing the needs of the 90,000 households currently on the housing waiting list in full, with flexibility to meet potential future demand.  Implementing the Strategy will require a considerable and co-ordinated effort from key stakeholders. The detailed governance structure, including dedicated work streams, will ensure the actions in the Strategy are overseen and delivered. I and Minister of State Coffey will chair the Oversight Group which will be driving the implementation of the Strategy as a whole.

Local and Community Development Programme Project Funding

Ceisteanna (568, 569, 570)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

568. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a meeting with a group (details supplied) in Dublin 10 will be facilitated in view of an earlier indication by him to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2773/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Collins

Ceist:

569. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to reverse the cut of a further 6.5% in the funding of an organisation (details supplied) in Dublin 10. [2776/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Collins

Ceist:

570. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding funding to a group (details supplied) in Dublin 10 in view of verbal assurances given by an officer in his Department; if the group will receive interim funding after 31 March 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2778/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 568 to 570, inclusive, together.

My Department's Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP) superseded the Local Development Social Inclusion and the Community Development Programmes in 2010. LCDP is the largest social inclusion intervention of its kind in the State. The current Programme officially ended at the end of 2013 having operated for four years with funding of €281 million over that period. It is being implemented on a transitional basis until March 2015, pending the roll out of the new Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) in April 2015.

In accordance with the Public Spending Code, legal advice, good practice internationally and in order to ensure the optimum delivery of the services to clients, SICAP is subject to a public procurement process, which is currently underway. The closing date for receipt of tenders under stage two was noon on 19 December 2014. The tenders received are currently being evaluated and tenderers will be informed of the outcome by mid February. Contracts for SICAP will be determined following the outcome of the procurement process.

The procurement process for SICAP was open to Local Development Companies, other not-for-profit community groups, commercial firms and national organisations that can provide the services to be tendered for to deliver the new Programme. In Stage one, joint applications were encouraged and organisations of varying sizes (for example smaller organisations working in consortia with larger organisations) were invited to submit joint applications.

Consistent with the transitional arrangements to extend the LCDP until the roll out of SICAP in April 2015 and to ensure business continuity, interim LCDP funding will be provided to the Cherry Orchard Equine, Education and Training Centre up to end March 2015, pending the outcome of the SICAP competitive process. As Stage two of the process (Invitation to Tender) is currently underway, I am not in a position to meet with the group concerned at this time.

My Department appreciates the importance of the work of the Cherry Orchard Equine, Education and Training Centre. Nevertheless, the issues involved are broader than just those relating to SICAP. However, it is my Department’s intention to examine the position with regards to a number of groups, including the Cherry Orchard Equine, Education and Training Centre, in the near future and my Department will be in contact with the group in that regard.

Local and Community Development Programme Project Funding

Ceisteanna (571)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

571. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans regarding the 2015 funding for an organisation (details supplied); and if he will arrange to meet with these two national networks as a matter of urgency to discuss their future funding arrangements. [2779/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

My Department’s Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP) is the largest social inclusion intervention of its kind in the State. The current Programme officially ended at the end of 2013 having operated for four years with funding of €281 million over that period.  It is being implemented on a transitional basis until March 2015, pending the roll out of the new Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) in April 2015. In accordance with the Public Spending Code, legal advice, good practice internationally and in order to ensure the optimum delivery of services to clients, SICAP is subject to a public procurement process, which is currently underway.

The public procurement process is a competitive process that is open to Local Development Companies, other not-for-profit community groups, commercial firms and national organisations that can provide the services to be tendered for to deliver the new Programme. In Stage one, joint applications were encouraged and organisations of varying sizes (for example smaller organisations working in consortia with larger organisations) were invited to submit joint applications. That said, I understand that some small groups, such as the groups under the remit of the National Collective of Community Based Networks (NCCWN) and the National Traveller Partnership (NTP), faced a number of challenges in competing in the Stage one process. The results of Stage one were released on 24 September 2014 and I can confirm that none of the NCCWN groups expressed an interest either as lead applicants or as part of a consortium. I am now considering the implications of that for NCCWN and my Department is liaising with other relevant Departments to find a workable solution. My Department will be arranging a meeting with the NCCWN shortly.

With regard to NTP, the majority of its affiliated groups did express an interest at stage one, as part of consortia. The outcome of the SICAP procurement process will be known next month.

Separate to, and outside of SICAP, discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality are nearing conclusion to design a Traveller support scheme based on, inter alia, Traveller Inter Agency projects and supports.

I can confirm that interim LCDP funding, based on a small budgetary reduction in the order of 6.5%, on 2014 levels, will be provided to NCCWN and NTP up to end March 2015.

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Ceisteanna (572)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

572. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to update tenancy law in order to provide greater protection to tenants by ensuring better security of tenure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2793/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 regulates the landlord-tenant relationship in the private rented residential sector and sets out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants relating to, inter alia, security of tenure and the termination of tenancies. The 2004 Act represented the most significant legislative reform in the private rented sector in over a century. Prior to this there was little or no security of tenure for tenants and in most tenancies the landlord had a virtually absolute right to terminate the tenancy subject to only 28 days' notice.

Security of tenure under the 2004 Act is based on rolling four-year tenancy cycles. Where a tenant has been in occupation of a dwelling for a continuous period of 6 months and no notice of termination has been served in respect of that tenancy before the expiry of the period of 6 months, the tenancy is established for the remainder of the four year period. This is referred to in the Act as a ‘Part 4’ tenancy. Landlords and tenants may not contract out of any of the provisions of Part 4 of the Residential Tenancies Act and no lease, tenancy agreement, contract or other agreement may operate to vary or modify the provisions of Part 4 of the Act.

Where a Part 4 tenancy lasts for four years without a notice of termination being served by the landlord or the tenant, a further Part 4 tenancy comes into being and this will continue on at the expiration of each further four year period unless the tenancy is validly terminated by either the landlord or the tenant on one of the grounds under the Act.

A landlord may not serve a notice of termination except in very clearly defined circumstances such as a failure by the tenant to comply with his or her obligations in relation to the tenancy. Notice periods for the termination of a tenancy by the landlord vary depending on the duration of the tenancy but periods of up to 112 days are provided for under the Act. Where there is a dispute regarding the appropriate period of notice to be given in respect of a tenancy or the validity of a notice of termination, or where the tenant does not comply with the notice of termination, the dispute may be referred to the Private Residential Tenancies Board for resolution.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2012 is currently before the Oireachtas and will amend the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to provide, inter alia, for repeal of section 42 of the 2004 Act which allows a landlord to terminate a further Part 4 tenancy within the first six months of that tenancy for no stated ground. The Bill has passed all stages in the Dáil, together with Second Stage in the Seanad.

Private Rented Accommodation Costs

Ceisteanna (573)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

573. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce rent controls in order to protect tenants from exorbitant increases which in many cases currently are rendering tenants homeless; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2794/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 regulates the landlord-tenant relationship in the private rented sector and sets out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants relating to, inter-alia, security of tenure, termination of tenancies, rent and rent reviews. The 2004 Act provides that rents may not be greater than the open market rate and may only be reviewed upward or downward once a year, unless there has been a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation that warrants a review. In the third quarter of 2014, rents were 5.6% higher nationally than in the same quarter of 2013, according to the most recent rent index from the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB). Rents for houses were 4.3% higher while apartment rents were 7.3% higher than in the same quarter of 2013. In Dublin, which is seeing the highest rates of increase nationally, overall rents were higher by 9.5%.

A recent poll for the PRTB found that only 64% of tenants were aware of their rights under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. Tenants must be given 28 days’ notice of new rent and can make an application for dispute resolution to the PRTB where they feel the rent increase is in excess of the market rent. These provisions have effect notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in a lease or tenancy agreement.

The PRTB is developing a new communications strategy, which will include increasing awareness of existing rights and obligations under the legislation. The first element in the strategy, a ‘do you know’ campaign, commences in the national press this week.

Ultimately, the main cause of rising rents is a lack of supply in the market and the recently published Social Housing Strategy 2020 sets out clear, measurable actions and targets to increase the supply of social housing, reform delivery arrangements and meet the housing needs of all households on the housing list. In addition, the implementation of the range of actions under the Government’s Construction 2020 Strategy will support increased supply in the wider housing market.

Pyrite Remediation Programme Implementation

Ceisteanna (574, 575)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

574. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the contracts awarded to date to each of the firms on the pyrite remediation panel. [2816/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

575. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of applications made to the pyrite resolution board for remediation; the numbers approved for inclusion in the scheme; the number where works have gone to tender; the likely start date for remediation; and when those in estates which have not been included can expect to have their applications processed. [2817/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 574 and 575 together.

The pyrite remediation scheme involves a number of stages commencing with a validation process by the Pyrite Resolution Board to check each application for compliance with the scheme’s eligibility criteria. The next step involves a damage verification process carried out by the Housing Agency which is followed by approval from the Board for the inclusion, or exclusion, of a dwelling in to the scheme. As matters stand, the Board has received in the order of 627 completed applications across 26 developments containing multiple applications plus 47 single site applications and these are currently being processed. A total of 485 applications have now been validated and forwarded to the Housing Agency for the verification stage; of those 295 have now been approved by the Board for inclusion in the scheme and the applicants have been notified. Applications for dwellings not yet included in the scheme are being processed as quickly as individual circumstances allow.

Following the inclusion of a dwelling in the scheme, tendering processes are arranged by the Housing Agency for the appointment of a design professional and for a works contractor with contracts awarded for the preparation and execution of a remedial works plan in respect of the dwelling(s) concerned. Framework Agreements for design professionals and contractors have been established by the Housing Agency in this regard. Details of contracts awarded under these processes are a matter for the Housing Agency, which can be contacted at (01) 6564100 or at info@housing.ie.

Foreshore Licence Applications

Ceisteanna (576)

Jim Daly

Ceist:

576. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a decision will be finalised regarding a foreshore licence application in respect of a person (details supplied) in view of the urgency of the particular case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2837/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Legal complexities regarding the assignment of the foreshore leasehold interest have arisen in this case. Advice from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office is awaited.

Motor Tax Exemptions

Ceisteanna (577)

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

577. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding a car tax exemption in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2842/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Where a vehicle is under current taxation and where there is a minimum of three months remaining on a disc at the time of surrender of the disc, an owner may surrender the disc to the issuing licensing authority, and where the licensing authority is satisfied that the owner has ceased to use the vehicle because of illness, injury or other physical disability, a refund will issue for the remaining period of the disc. A vehicle may also be declared off the road in advance of the expiry of an existing tax disc or previously made declaration of non-use. The owner must make the declaration during the final month of the disc or declaration of non-use.

If a vehicle was not taxed prior to a period of non-use or where a declaration of non-use was not made during the final month of the tax on the vehicle, the vehicle must be taxed for the minimum of three months provided for in motor tax legislation and any arrears due must be paid.

Waste Management Regulations

Ceisteanna (578)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

578. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce a new household waste management Bill. [2859/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

My Department is currently considering options for the development of a new regulatory framework to reform the regulation of the collection of household waste. Such options might include measures to require collectors to have a customer charter in place, and to meet certain minimum standards of customer service, such as specified frequencies of collection for different bin types. Consideration of these policy provisions will also determine whether primary and/or secondary legislation will be required to underpin their introduction. It will also be important that the development of the new framework take cognisance of emerging new EU waste proposals. In this context, it is anticipated that the European Commission will publish a revised package of proposals on the circular economy during 2015.