Carbon Tax Yield

Ceisteanna (307)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

307. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his expectations of likely funding available from carbon tax in 2020 and over the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27254/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the estimated carbon tax receipts for 2020 are €455m (VAT exclusive). This estimate is based on trends seen to date during the year, including the fall in consumption due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

With regard to carbon tax receipts over the period 2021 to 2025, this will depend on a number of factors, such as changes in the world price of crude oil, exchange rate movements, general economic performance, changes in consumer behaviour arising from increases to the carbon tax, the uptake in cleaner technologies for transportation and heating purposes, potential changes to EU legislation which are directed at reducing or dis- incentivising fossil fuel consumption, and indeed several other considerations including any enduring Covid impacts.

Based on the 2019 tax base,  where the tax was applied to a volume of fossil fuels which in total when combusted releases approximately 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the full year receipts from a tax rate of €26 per tonne CO2 are of the order of €550 million (VAT exclusive).

Financial Services Sector

Ceisteanna (308)

Mairéad Farrell

Ceist:

308. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Finance if a list of members of a group (details supplied) in its current formation will be provided. [27347/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

In 2015 a strategy was launched called IFS2020: A Strategy for Ireland’s International Financial Services Sector 2015–2020.  New implementation structures were established under that Strategy and the Clearing House Group no longer exists.  This committee structure continues under the most recent Strategy for the development of the international financial services sector to 2025 ‘Ireland for Finance’ (2019).  The new committee structure is a modernisation to reflect the profile and characteristics of the sector as well as new models of engagement which have worked well in driving growth and job creation through the Action Plan for Jobs and other successful government strategies.  Furthermore, given the nationwide nature of international financial services the new structures are better placed to promote the continued regional development of the industry than the IFSC Clearing House Group.

Under the new structures, an Industry Advisory Committee (IAC) represents the industry expertise and a High Level Implementation Committee (HLIC) which is a senior group of civil and public servants represents the public sector.  The public sector High Level Implementation Committee meets quarterly as a standalone committee. It and the Industry Advisory Committee meet jointly as the Ireland for Finance Joint Committee each quarter.

Minister of State Sean Fleming TD at the Department of Finance chairs the public sector High Level Implementation Committee, which consists of senior officials in the Departments of the Taoiseach, of Finance, of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, of Education and Skills, and of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the CEOs of Enterprise Ireland and the IDA. The High Level Implementation Committee provides strategic leadership to continue the development of the sector and ensures coordinated, timely and effective implementation of the strategy.

The Industry Advisory Committee consists of executives from Irish and international firms representing all sub-sectors in the international financial services sector. The Industry Advisory Committee supports the High Level Implementation Committee in implementing the strategy and in monitoring and reporting on progress. 

A list of members of the public sector High-Level Implementation Committee and the Industry Advisory Committee who meet together as the Joint Committee is set out below: 

Current members of the High-Level Implementation Committee (HLIC)

Name

Role

Organisation

Seán Fleming TD

Minister of State (chair)

D/Finance

Martin Fraser

Secretary General

D/Taoiseach

Orlaigh Quinn

Secretary General

D/Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Jim Breslin

Secretary General

D/Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science

Niall Burgess

Secretary General

D/Foreign Affairs

Michael McGrath

Assistant Secretary General

Financial Services Division D/Finance  

Julie Sinnamon

CEO

Enterprise Ireland

Martin Shanahan

CEO

IDA Ireland

Karen Cullen

Secretary to HLIC

Head, International Financial Services Unit D/Finance

Current Members of the Industry Advisory Committee (IAC):

Name

Firm

Nominated By

Deirdre O'Connor

International Member

(public competitive process)

Ruth McCarthy

Fexco Corporate Payments

Enterprise Ireland

Aidan Holton

SCOR RE

Insurance Ireland

Declan Lynch

Elavon Financial Services

Banking & Payments Federation Ireland/Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland

Derek Kehoe

BNP Paribas Group

Banking & Payments Federation Ireland/Federation of   International Banks in Ireland

Joe Duffy

BNY Mellon

Financial Services Ireland

Cecilia Ronan

Citi

Financial Services Ireland

Ann Prendergast (temporary   replacement for Victoria Brown of Aberdeen Standard Investments)

State Street

Irish Association of Investment Managers

Olwyn Alexander

PwC

Irish Funds

Tadhg Young

State Street

Irish Funds

David Swan

SMBC Aviation Capital

Aircraft Leasing Ireland

Teresa O'Flynn

BlackRock

Sustainable finance rep

Gary Conroy

TransferMate Global Payments

Enterprise Ireland

Andrea Reynolds 

Swoop Funding

Enterprise Ireland

Barrie O'Connell

KPMG

Chartered Accountants Ireland

Maurice Crowley

Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (Secretariat)

IAC Secretariat (Banking & Payments Federation Ireland)

Financial Services Sector

Ceisteanna (309)

Mairéad Farrell

Ceist:

309. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Finance if a group (details supplied) has advised on Covid-19 related expenditure measures. [27348/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

In relation to the Deputy's question, I would like to begin by noting that the IFSC Clearing House Group no longer exists.  In its place there is the ‘Joint Committee’ which was established under IFS2020: A Strategy for Ireland’s International Financial Services Sector 2015–2020. The Joint Committee consists of two committees which have continued into the Ireland for Finance strategy, the public service High Level Implementation Committee (HLIC) and the Industry Advisory Committee (IAC). The Chair of the Joint Committee is the Minister of State in the Department of Finance. Further details have been provided on this change in PQ REF 27347/20.

Since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year, the Ireland for Finance Joint Committee held a meeting in May 2020. At this meeting, discussions were held around the resilience of the international financial services sector and how the public and private stakeholders had responded to Covid-19.

It is understood from stakeholder feedback that the early signs are that the IFS sector has been fairly resilient to the impact of Covid-19 but the true impact won’t be clear until at least the end of the year.

With the onset of the pandemic, the enterprise agencies of IDA and Enterprise Ireland have engaged in an extensive, country-wide client outreach programme to offer support to businesses during this difficult period. This involved virtual bilateral engagements with companies, as well as virtual group meetings to share experiences around working safely and effectively during the pandemic and to discuss best practice with regard to returning to the office. It was important that the IFS sector was included as an ‘essential service’ early on and the transition to working from home went relatively seamlessly for most companies.

Having said that, FDI is not immune to Covid-19, and IDA are dealing with supply and demand shocks.

Enterprise Ireland has been working on connecting companies to financial supports is part of their stabilisation process. EI’s overseas offices have been offering guidance on the different markets and how things are shifting.

As work gets underway to develop Action Plan 2021, there will be engagment with the public and private stakeholders on the Joint Committee to consider what measures may assist the national recovery and minimise Covid 19 impacts.

The minutes of the public sector High-level Implementation Committee and the Joint Committee meetings are published on the Department of Finance website once agreed by the Joint Committee members at their next meeting on Tuesday, 29th September.

National Debt

Ceisteanna (310)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

310. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which Ireland's debt as a proportion of GDP, GNP and GNI has fluctuated in the past ten years to date; if there is a need for corrective action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27349/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

For the purpose of this reply it is assumed that the Deputy is referring to GNI* rather GNI.   

The fluctuation in gross general government debt as a proportion of GDP, GNP and GNI* over the past ten years has been two-fold; a steady increase from 2009-2012 contrasted by a sharp decline from 2012-2019, across all three debt ratios.

The table below sets out the outturn data in respect of gross general government debt as portion of GDP, GNP and GNI* for the year 2009 to 2019 inclusive, which represents the finalised outturn data.

Year

Gross G.G. Debt as % of GDP

Gross G.G. Debt as % of GNP

Gross G.G. Debt as % of GNI*

2009

61.5

74.6

77.6

2010

86.0

103.6

111.8

2011

111.1

138.3

150.2

2012

119.9

150.3

166.0

2013

119.9

143.3

157.2

2014

104.2

124.2

136.4

2015

76.7

100.4

124.0

2016

74.1

91.3

114.8

2017

67.0

84.5

108.1

2018

63.0

80.3

103.6

2019

57.3

74.4

95.5

A significant milestone was achieved in 2019, with the debt-to-GDP ratio falling below the Stability and Growth Pact’s 60 per cent threshold for the first time since 2008. 

However, as the Deputy will be aware, the fiscal measures introduced to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic (income supports for households and firms, ramping up healthcare capacity), have been largely financed by borrowing.  Accordingly, Ireland’s public indebtedness will increase as a result of this unprecedented shock to the economy.  This is also the case for almost all advanced economies.

Once the most intense part of the current crisis abates, it will be necessary to put the debt ratio on a downward trajectory - it is my expectation that this can mostly be achieved by economic recovery. 

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (311)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

311. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance the number of requests on hand from his Department and from State agencies under the aegis of his Department for approval to increase staff levels; the number of public and civil servants in total involved in these requests; the method by which decisions are made on the requests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26474/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I wish to inform the Deputy that I currently have no requests to increase staff levels in my Department. During the summer a Unit was put in place in the EU & International Division of my Department to support my role of President of the Euro Group of Finance Ministers. There are currently 7 staff members assigned to this Unit. All requests to increase staff levels in my Department are agreed with the Secretary General and the Executive Board.

There are 17 Bodies under the aegis of my Department.  While my Department does not currently have any requests from the Bodies for increases to staff levels, 2 have submitted requests to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform as part of their annual estimates process. 

The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General has requested additional funding corresponding to an increase of 5 staff (civil servants) as part of its annual estimate’s process to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners has submitted a business case seeking an increase of 310 staff (civil servants) to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in line with its annual estimates process. This request has been made as part of preparatory work being carried out by Revenue to ensure that they will have the necessary customs framework in place to facilitate trade compliance with EU customs obligations and to underpin the protection of national and EU borders.

Banking Sector

Ceisteanna (312)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

312. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the engagement he has had with a bank (details supplied) to clarify the security of its employees and customers in view of reported plans to reduce the banks’ operations in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27354/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am aware of the reports that NatWest is engaged in a strategic review of its operations, including those of  Ulster Bank Ireland. The Government has no formal role in such a review or any commercial decisions that result as these are a matter for the Board and Management of the Bank and its parent company, NatWest.  I understand that the process is ongoing and that no decisions have been made. 

I will not comment or speculate on possible outcomes as there is no basis for such  speculation, which would be open to misinterpretation.

News of the review is, of course, unsettling for all stakeholders, especially the staff and customers. I expect Ulster Bank to keep all its stakeholders, especially its staff and customers, fully informed about any developments in the review and engage with them in relation to any proposals or decisions that result from the review promptly. 

The continued presence of a viable and active Ulster Bank in the Irish market would be the most welcome outcome. Ulster Bank is a significant employer and has 88 branches across the country. Ulster Bank is also important in terms of providing competition in the Irish retail banking market. 

The Bank will also have to keep the Central Bank of Ireland fully informed and comply with its requirements in its decision making process. The Deputy should note that the Central Bank's consumer protection framework for all bank customers is comprehensive and covers a very wide range of situations.  However, I must reiterate that I have no role in any review undertaken by a commercial entity and I cannot comment or speculate on such a process because it would be inappropriate and I have no basis to do so.  My officials will continue to monitor developments.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (313)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

313. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the reason for delaying remaining sections of the Consumer Insurance Contracts Act 2019 until September 2021; if he will expedite their commencement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27356/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The majority of the Consumer Insurance Contracts Act 2019 came into force from the 1st of September 2020, with 22 of the 27 sections now in operation.  The Act represents a major reform of insurance contracts and re-balances the relationship between consumer and insurer. It is my full expectation this will be positive for Irish consumers. For example, amongst other things, the Act obliges insurers to engage meaningfully with consumers when a claim has been submitted; places a limit the amount of a claim settlement offer that an insurer can retain until repairs have been completed, and restricts the circumstances in which insurers can repudiate the contract on materially unrelated grounds.

While the majority of the Act is now law, I have made the decision that sections 8, 9, 12, 14(1)-(5) will come into effect on the 1st September 2021. It is important to note that significant systems changes are required by the industry before the related provisions could go live. Accordingly, the sections being commenced next year broadly relate to insurers' obligations to provide more detailed information when signing consumers up to a contract (Section 8), and providing greater consumer transparency about their  claim and premium history at renewal (Section 12). Section 9 and 14(1)-(5) are intrinsically linked to the information requirements set out in section 8 and therefore also require a longer commencement period. All of these significant new contract and renewal requirements will require insurers to upgrade their systems, which require time to implement because of the technical nature and scale of what will be required.

Separately, I will consider the commencement of Section 18 when a specific technical legal point has been resolved.

In conclusion my decision to implement the Act in this manner is based on my considered  judgement which recognises the significant impact some aspects of this Act has on insurers’ operations, whilst at the same time proceeding with the wider reforms this Act provides. This I believe is the most appropriate way forward for industry and consumers alike in these circumstances.

Question No. 314 answered with Question No. 46.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (315)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

315. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the value of funds expected to be drawn down by Ireland in 2021 from the Brexit adjustment reserve announced as part of the EU multi-annual financial framework; the way in which it will be allocated across sectors and measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27358/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As the Deputy will be aware, on 21st July 2020, Heads of State and Government reached agreement on the Post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and Next Generation EU, totalling €1.82 trillion. Difficult discussions took place over four days, but the Government welcomes this agreement. This is a fair and balanced outcome and demonstrates that Europe can work collectively to deal with this once-in-a-generation crisis. Council conclusions set out the leaders’ agreement for the European Commission to borrow €750 billion, supporting Member States with €390 billion in grants and €360 billion in loans. Agreement was also reached on a new MFF from 2021 – 2027, totalling €1.074 trillion, which will support rural and regional development, and the transformation of our economies in line with the climate transition, research and development, and digital agendas.

As part of the final agreement reached, leaders also agreed on the setting up of a new special Brexit Adjustment Reserve of €5 billion. This Reserve will help to counter the unforeseen and adverse consequences in Member States and sectors that are worst affected by Brexit. Leaders invited the European Commission to present a proposal on the Brexit Adjustment Reserve by November 2020.

We await publication of the European Commission's proposal including their proposal for allocating the funds. Thus, I am not in a position to provide details on how much Ireland may be able to draw down from the Reserve in 2021 or in the years after or indeed on the way in which funds may be allocated across sectors and measures. However, I can assure the Deputy that I am aware of the importance which this Reserve is likely to have for Ireland. I can also assure the Deputy that the Government will continue to communicate with the European Commission and other Member States the needs arising from our unique situation in relation to Brexit, in order to ensure that Ireland, as the Member State likely to be the hardest hit by Brexit, receives its fair share of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.   

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (316)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

316. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when contracts will be signed for construction of the new Bailieborough Garda station, County Cavan; when the opening of the new station is expected; the reason there is a delay in appointing a contractor; if the new Garda operational model will have an effect on the progression of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26402/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

DRAFT REPLY

As I stated in response to a similar Parliamentary Question on 8 September last, it is expected that, subject to approval, tender documentation will issue in October 2020, with a Contract being awarded following tender receipt and evaluation.  Construction work will take approx. 18 months to complete.  The impact of the new Garda operational model is a matter for An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality.

Regional Assemblies

Ceisteanna (317)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

317. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Northern and Western Regional Assembly will continue to have responsibility as the managing authority for the ERDF; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26473/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

A decision will be made shortly regarding the role of Managing Authorities for the 2021 - 2027 European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) Operational Programmes.  In the meantime, the three Regional Assemblies are playing a very active role in the process of programming for the next round of ERDF, in conjunction and cooperation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.   They are also represented on the Partnership Process Steering Group, which guides and advises on the programming of all of the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) programmes, through the development process of the Partnership Agreement for the period 2021 – 2027. 

The Steering Group oversaw the development of a Needs Analysis by Indecon Economic Consultants, which specifically looked at regional development needs. This report has a chapter focused on the needs in the Northern Western region. This chapter was included in the report in recognition of the change in the region's status under the European Commission's methodology to a region in transition, and the unique challenges faced in the region. 

The Northern and Western Regional Assembly and the other two Regional Assemblies are also part of a working group which launched a consultation process to inform the selection of priorities for the use of EU cohesion funding for the next period.  As part of this consultation a webinar was held on the 28th of July, breakout sessions were organised on a regional basis, and this included a focus on the main priorities of the individual Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies. The working group is currently preparing a report, the primary purpose of which is to present the findings and analysis from the public consultation submissions, including the qualitative messages from the national workshop event conducted on 28th  July. This report, along with the Needs Analysis, adopted by the PPSG in July, will inform the ERDF programming for 2021 – 2027.

Public Procurement Contracts

Ceisteanna (318)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

318. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his Department is undertaking a review of construction procurement policy; the review terms of reference; the person or body on the review panel; when the review is due to conclude; and if he will provide an interim update on the review. [26765/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF) represents the tools that a public body must use to procure and manage the external resources necessary to deliver a public works project that is to be delivered under the Exchequer-funded element of the National Development Plan.

A review of the policies and practices deployed in the procurement of public works projects was commenced in March 2019.  The review is being conducted by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) with the support of the Government Construction Contracts Committee (GCCC). The focus of the review is on improving the delivery of construction projects in terms of quality, timely delivery and cost outcomes. 

The OGP has developed a high-level strategy with the GCCC to guide the implementation which will be addressed primarily through the progressive refinement and enhancement of the CWMF.  The following objectives summarise the strategy:

The CWMF will enable the delivery of sustainable assets under the NDP by:

- Developing procurement and contracting strategies that prioritise quality solutions and support the most efficient means of delivery;

- Embedding appropriate risk management measures within the project development, procurement and construction stages;

- Deploying digital solutions throughout the project delivery stages.

The review will deliver significant changes to the CWMF over the coming years. The OGP has prepared a methodology for extensive structured engagement, both with industry stakeholders, and with the public bodies charged with the delivery of public works projects to inform the implementation of the strategy. It is planned to publish a series of position papers on a broad range of issues to foster debate and engagement on specific issues such as:

- price variation;

- risk management;

- creating a better quality: price balance in the award of contracts;

- adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) on public works projects;

- liability, indemnity and insurance requirements;

- performance evaluation;

- encouraging collaborative working.

Risk and quality information are two aspects that will inform any amendments that may be introduced to the CWMF.  Risk is to be brought front and centre with regards to the decisions that are to be taken during a project’s development.  It will be a requirement for risk to be identified at the outset and evaluated before determining how it is best addressed and, crucially, who is to manage it.  Risk weightings will be applied to projects which will translate to a contingency sum at each of a project’s review gates.

Quality information will become a central tenet to all aspects of project delivery.  Standards will be set for information at all stages of a project’s development.  Whilst this measure is being introduced to ensure informed decisions are made at critical points in the project’s development it also anticipates the widespread adoption of BIM across the NDP over the coming years.

Upon conclusion of the consultation period for each issue, the GCCC will prepare a recommendation for approval at the appropriate level.  It is envisaged that the process of engagement will extend over the next 12 – 18 months, however where the GCCC’s recommendations are accepted they may be implemented without waiting for the entire process to conclude providing it is practicable to do so.

The onset of Covid-19 impacted on the conduct of the review both in terms of engagement with stakeholders and reassignment of internal resources in order to address the impact of the shutdown and the restart phase on the NDP.

- The initial focus is on the engagement of consultancy services, which is aimed at driving better project definition, in order to provide greater certainty for all those engaged in the construction stage.  Overall improvement in project definition is required through establishing minimum standards for information at the different stages of a project’s development.  A consultation paper was published in May 2019 setting out four measures that will improve the service provided:

1. Setting minimum standards for Project Briefs;

2. Establishing standard definitions for the scope of services required from the main consultancy appointments;

3. Linking the fee makeup to the scope of services;

4. Introducing clear reporting lines for each member of the design team with a particular focus on cost reporting.

1. Work is ongoing on the detailed implementation aspects which will be delivered by means of changes to the template tender documents, publication of new guidance material and exploring digital solutions to the presentation of 2) and 3) above.  Work on implementing the changes will commence in 2021.

- A review of the price variation mechanisms used in both the CWMF consultancy and construction contracts is currently underway with a view to publish revised contracts and guidance on price variation mechanisms early in 2021.

- BIM has the potential to transform the processes surrounding project and data management on construction projects and can drive significant efficiencies.  The OGP is currently engaged with National Standards Authority of Ireland on preparing a national annex to the international standard (ISO) for BIM implementation.  The aim is to ensure a consistent approach to its application across the public and private sectors.  An implementation plan for the adoption of BIM will be launched shortly setting out dates for a phased adoption of BIM.

- The OGP is engaging with key stakeholders on the issue of liability, indemnities and insurance and is also reviewing broader aspects of the required terms in the contracts used to engage design teams and contractors.  A number of meetings have been held in February/March with further engagement necessary before a position paper is prepared for consultation purposes.

- Engagement is ongoing in developing standard metrics for life cycle costing and life cycle analysis that can be applied to the evaluation of projects’ cost of use in service and full life cycle analysis, including the carbon impact of individual projects.  The OGP is liaising with the GCCC and the Irish Green Building Council in developing these metrics.

- The Cost Control Templates published under the CWMF are undergoing review to incorporate the International Construction Measurement Standard (ICMS).  A working group has been established and revised templates will be published in 2021. ICMS is a global standard for benchmarking and reporting of construction project cost and covers both capital and whole life costing while providing a way of presenting costs in a consistent format.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (319)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

319. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the projected level of core, Covid-19-related and Brexit-related expenditure in 2021 disaggregated by Department; the projected level of borrowing as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27355/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

On a no-policy change basis, a deficit in the range of -4½ to -5½ per cent of GDP is projected for next year. These figures remains a work-in-progress, with significant moving parts in relation to both revenue and expenditure still being considered in the context of the upcoming Budget 2021. 

Excluding Covid-19 related expenditure, it is estimated that for core current expenditure there are pre-commitments of €1.1 billion, relating to demographics €0.5 billion, carryover costs of Budget 2020 measures of over €0.2 billion, and approximately €0.35 billion in relation to pay costs reflecting the carryover impact of the public service stability agreement.

Further to this, and as announced in the July stimulus plan, capital expenditure would increase from the amount of €8.16 billion for 2020 as set out in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2020 published in December last year, to €9.16 billion in 2021.    

There will also be an ongoing requirement to provide funding in respect of Covid-19 with, on a no-policy change basis, expenditure required to fund the Health service, meet the carryover costs relating to already agreed measures including the July stimulus plan, the Roadmap for Reopening Schools, and the plan for return to further and higher education. In addition the macroeconomic projections that are currently being worked through will impact on the level of expenditure on income supports next year. It is estimated that there could be a cost of approximately €9 billion in relation to these Covid-19 expenditure costs.

Finally, Budget 2021 will also be prepared on the assumption that the trading relationship between the UK and EU will be on WTO terms in 2021. This will necessitate additional supports for the most affected sectors of the Irish economy next year. The costs associated with these supports will form an essential part of budgetary discussions and details of these costs will be set out in the 2021 Expenditure Report on Budget day.

Heritage Sites

Ceisteanna (320)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

320. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his long-term plans for Westgate House, Narrow West Street, Drogheda, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26307/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Westgate House, Narrow West Street, Drogheda, County Louth is in the ownership of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland. 

Officials in my Department have informed me that the property has been identified as a surplus State property and that they are in the process of transferring it to Louth County Council, in line with the OPW’s disposal policy.  The transfer is likely to be completed by end-2020. 

While the long term plans for the property will be a matter for the Council, I understand that the Council proposes to develop the adjoining part of the property, previously the Drogheda Youth Centre, as an enterprise hub.

Court Accommodation

Ceisteanna (321)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

321. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the surveys the Office of Public Works have carried out on Carndonagh courthouse, County Donegal; and the works required to allow the building to be reopened for the Courts Service at the earliest opportunity. [26439/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

While the Office of Public Works has no responsibility for Court buildings, it does provide technical and other services on request to the Courts Service in relation to its buildings.  A Roof Report was prepared by OPW in 2019 and provided to the Courts Service. Previously reports on works required were provided by OPW to the Courts Service in 2007 and 2010.

Flood Relief Schemes

Ceisteanna (322)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

322. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of progress for the Crossmolina flood relief scheme; his plans to review and expedite the timeline in view of the ongoing flood threat in winter 2020 to the residents of the town; the proposed timeline for completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26536/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

There were some delays to the programme as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions, due to the consultants being unable to carry out the final environmental surveys during the nationwide lockdown. Since the easing of restrictions, the consultants carried out the final elements of these environmental surveys, and the project team are now in the process of finalising this suite of documents for the confirmation process. It is anticipated that the scheme documents will be finalised and submitted to Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) in the coming weeks.  

The Scheme now requires formal confirmation to proceed from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (MPER). This is a statutory requirement under the Arterial Drainage Acts , which now, under the recent European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Arterial Drainage) Regulations 2019, also requires the MPER to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed Scheme.  This will involve, inter alia, a formal review by MPER of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) prepared by the Commissioners and recently submitted (along with a Natura Impact Statement) to the MPER as part of the formal confirmation process.  

In order to assist the MPER in making an informed decision to consent to the scheme, the EIA will require appropriate assessment, as required under the 2019 regulations, public consultation for a period of 30 days and a detailed technical review of the scheme by environmental consultants appointed by the MPER. 

If DPER find that they are satisfied with the proposed scheme, the next stage in the process will be the construction phase. In order to expedite this timeline, the project team will prepare for construction in parallel with DPER’s review. This will ensure that we are in a position to mobilise as soon as we are given approval to implement the flood defences for the town of Crossmolina. It is anticipated that the construction phase will take up to 24 months to complete. This may be subject to change as otherwise unforeseen issues may become apparent once the construction team are on the ground.

With regard to preparing for the flood threat in winter of this year, Mayo County Council, with funding provided by the OPW, have already rolled out an Individual Property Protection project, which has provided flood gates to over 100 residents in the town of Crossmolina. Additionally, the OPW has also approved Mayo County Council’s (MCC)’s application for funding for a number of minor works projects in the town, and these have been put in place by Mayo County Council. Since 2016, €230,000 has been approved for minor works in Crossmolina. And finally, the OPW Western Drainage Maintenance Section have carried out a number of maintenance works along the River Deel, and continue to do so in line with their maintenance plan. I understand that residents of Crossmolina will be fearful coming into the winter months, and empathise completely with their situation.

 The implementation of this flood relief scheme is a priority for myself and for the OPW as a whole, and we have taken all possible measures to provide a standard of protection in the interim.

Heritage Sites

Ceisteanna (323)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

323. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the OPW heritage sites at Rockfleet Castle, Newport and Clare Island Castle, County Mayo; if funding will be ring-fenced to enhance the visitor experiences at each location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26537/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Rockfleet Castle (also known as Carrickahowley Castle or Granuaile's Castle) near Newport Co. Mayo is a privately-owned National Monument which is in the care of the Office of Public Works.   Some years ago, the building was closed to the public because of certain serious Health and Safety risks arising.   While work was underway in relation to mitigating these risks in recent years, it also became apparent that there was also a serious structural defect in the building which would require a substantial conservation project to correct.   This will be addressed by the OPW's directly-employed skilled labour force in the context of their ongoing work to preserve National Monuments in their care in the western region.   To this end, OPW is currently pursuing relevant statutory permissions to enable the project to go ahead including a Foreshore Licence Application, Natura Impact Statement and Ministerial Consent under the National Monuments Acts and is also in direct contact with Inland Fisheries Ireland.   Anticipating a works start on site this year, the building was scaffolded prior to the Covid-19 shutdown and work will progress on the project as soon as it is practicable and safe for OPW staff to do so. 

Clare Island Castle in Co. Mayo (reputed as another of Granuaile's Castles) is a National Monument in State Ownership standing on a prominent site at the entrance to Clare Island harbour.   The Monument is a roofless ruin and, following engagement with a local group, OPW have carried out general maintenance work to improve the appearance of the site to visitors including cleaning and removal of debris surrounding the structure and provision of new fencing and interpretative signage.   Some minor works remain to complete the landscaping at the site which will be addressed as soon as access is feasible.

As both these undertakings fall within the general maintenance and conservation remit of the OPW, they will be fully funded from within the OPW's allocation for National Monuments.   Some expenditure has already obviously been incurred and it is expected that the remainder will fall into 2021.

Flood Relief Schemes

Ceisteanna (324)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

324. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the minor flooding relief schemes received from Mayo County Council in 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26538/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Local flooding issues are a matter, in the first instance, for each Local Authority to investigate and address. Local authorities may carry out flood mitigation works using its own resources or apply under the OPW’s Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme, which makes funds available to Local Authorities to undertake minor flood mitigation works or studies to address localised flooding problems within their administrative areas.  The eligibility criteria of this scheme, including a requirement that any measures are cost beneficial, are published on the OPW website www.gov.ie/opw It is open to the Council to submit a funding application for flood mitigation works under the Scheme.  Any application received will be considered in accordance with the scheme's eligibility criteria and the overall availability of resources for flood risk management.  

Please see below in tabular form all applications received from Mayo County Council under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme in 2018 and to date in 2020 and the status of each as provided by the Council.

Local Authority

Applications Submitted- Project   Location

Project Details

Approved Funding

Status

Mayo County Council

 

 

 

 

2018

Neale-Cross

A prefeasibility study, stage 1 feasibility study, preferred option identification & surveys

€151,635

Expected to be completed early 2021

2019

Carrowholly                            (coastal)

Addition of   embankments to the existing flood defences Associated works

€358,787

Expected to be completed - 2021 (delay due to Covid)

 

Creggaunbaun,                    Louisburg

Provide embankment   around dwelling house & sheds with non-return valves on drainage outlets

€28,333

Expected to be completed by   end October 2020

2020

Kilmurray National   School, Crossmolina

Replace existing   riverside wall with reinforced concrete wall to specified height, and provide   pump sump

€20,000

Expected to be completed by   mid October 2020

 

Crossmolina

Provide two pump   sumps to utilise when river levels are elevated and flooding is occurring

€8,190

Expected to be completed by   mid October 2020

 

Bohola Village

Replacement of   existing steam culvert, installation of a field drainage culvert, maintenance/river cleaning & associated works

€58,666

Expected to be completed by   mid October 2020

 

Cloondaff,                                   Glenhest

Vegetation clearance & wall repairs

€6,660

Expected to be completed by   mid November 2020

Civil Service

Ceisteanna (325)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

325. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the plans in place to allow the Civil Service to work remotely but at full capacity during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25966/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The recently published Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19 sets out five levels of a Framework for Restrictive Measures. The Framework provides for home working to continue where possible across the five levels.  Civil Service Departments and Offices will continue with this arrangement where possible, and having regard to the differing requirements at each level of the Framework.

The Resilience and Recovery Plan also recognises the importance of public services, and highlights the need for civil and public service organisations to ensure they identify backlogs in service delivery and develop medium term "catch-up" plans.  In this context, the continuation of important public services during COVID-19 is a priority for the civil service, and Departments and Offices will regularly assess whether workplace attendance is necessary in order to continue to provide services to the public, whilst at the same prioritising public health.  

My Department developed guidance for civil service organisations - Working from Home during COVID-19 Guidance for Civil Service Organisations - in response to the requirement by Government for employees to work from home where possible during COVID.

https://hr.per.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Working-from-Home-Guidelines-Final-version-26-June.pdf

The purpose of this guidance, which issued to civil service employers in June, was to support the health and wellbeing of employees; to ensure good practice has been followed by employees when working from home during COVID; and to support the regular and effective delivery of service.

The Government, has committed, in the Programme for Government, to mandating public sector employers to move to 20% home and remote working in 2021.  In this context, my Department is now, as a matter of priority, working with employers across the civil service to develop the longer term approach to remote working in the sector. My officials are also working closely with the wider public sector to ensure a consistency of approach.

Flood Prevention Measures

Ceisteanna (326)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

326. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress being made to advance An Sulán flood defences for Ballyvourney, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26375/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that the Ballyvourney and Ballymakeera flood relief scheme is currently at outline design stage.  The preferred options of the scheme are now nearing finalisation.

My Office is aware of the ‘high’ water quality status of the respective water body in the area around Baile Mhic Ire and Baile Bhuirne.  The Project Team is currently assessing the potential impact of any proposed flood relief measures in that respect, and engaging with the Project’s Environmental Consultants in order to ensure that suitable mitigation requirements are implemented, and appropriate processes to comply with statutory provisions are followed.  This is obviously an important consideration, and resolving some outstanding issues is taking longer than had previously been envisaged.  Nonetheless, it is hoped that the scheme can progress to Public Exhibition within the coming months.

When these considerations have been successfully finalised and provided the proposals are broadly accepted by the public and the stakeholders and the scheme is technically, environmentally and economically viable the scheme will proceed to detailed design stage and formal Confirmation by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995 following which construction can commence.

Work commenced on the development of the flood relief scheme for Ballymakeera/Ballyvourney following recent severe floods and the conclusions of the Lee CFRAM study commissioned by my Office, which included an investigation on the flood risk associated within the village.

The main sources of flooding along the River Sullane arise when the capacity of the river channel itself is exceeded, along with the three tributaries to the north of the village, including a storm network, which can independently cause flooding through the gullies and overland flow.

As with all schemes, a site investigation was completed to assist in determining the preferred options and in order to develop accurate costings for the project.  Among the environmental considerations that have presented, the presence of freshwater pearl mussels necessitated an additional survey and a proposal to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for translocation, which has been subsequently approved. 

My Office held a Public Information Day in Ballymakeera in March 2018, where the relevant stakeholders and members of the public were invited to provide feedback on the emerging preferred option.  This is an important element in the development of a scheme as local knowledge can provide valuable background information for the scheme.

As the Ballymakeera Study Area has notable environmental and fisheries’ sensitivities, it is essential that the environmental screening of a range of options is considered carefully, having regard to sensitive environmental constraints in the area.  This necessitated the preparation of a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) and an Operation and Maintenance Plan, which, in line with legislation, need to be completed prior to the finalisation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR).  My Office engaged engineering consultants, Byrne Looby, to finalise scheme drawings for this purpose.  Once these are complete, the environmental consultants, RPS, can then finalise the EIAR. A Public Exhibition of the preferred scheme is now expected to take place later this year.  This will give the community an opportunity to examine and provide formal comments and observations over a four-week period.

In the interim, Cork County Council has been approved funding under the OPW’s Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection scheme an additional €187,248 in October 2018 for the provision of temporary flood defence measures including a sand bag defence structure, two non-return valves at existing drainage outfalls and pumping sumps to allow over pumping during flood events. A Part 8 planning application is currently being progressed by Cork County Council, and following approval, works will then commence.

A Preliminary Invasive Alien Species Management Plan (IASMP) was prepared for the Scheme identified the presence of invasive species around or close to the works area of the FRS, including Giant Knotweed, Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Knotweed.   Cork County Council has appointed Japanese Knotweed Ireland to undertake the planned treatment of these species in the immediate vicinity of the proposed works, and have confirmed that a second round of treatment of knotweed was completed in September 2019.A further round of treatment is to be carried out in October 2020.

The flood relief scheme will be funded from within the allocated €1 billion for flood risk management over the period 2018-2027. Provision for the cost of the Scheme is included in the Office of Public Works' multi annual capital allocation.

Civil Service

Ceisteanna (327)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

327. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to facilitate remote working of civil servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26664/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

My Department developed guidance for civil service organisations - Working from Home during COVID-19 Guidance for Civil Service Organisations - in response to the requirement by Government for employees to work from home where possible during COVID.

https://hr.per.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Working-from-Home-Guidelines-Final-version-26-June.pdf

The purpose of this guidance, which issued to civil service employers in June, was to support the health and wellbeing of employees; to ensure good practice has been followed by employees when working from home during COVID; and to support the regular and effective delivery of service.

The Government, has committed, in the Programme for Government, to mandating public sector employers to move to 20% home and remote working in 2021.  In this context, my Department is now, as a matter of priority, working with employers across the civil service to develop the longer term approach to remote working in the sector. My officials are also working closely with the wider public sector to ensure a consistency of approach.