Questions Nos. 94 to 101, inclusive, answered orally.

Flood Relief Schemes

Questions Nos. 103 to 106, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (102)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Ceist:

102. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of funding for Kilboggett Park, Cabinteely, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26411/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

On the 28th July 2020 I announced approval of funding of €778,000 to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for the construction of a Flood Storage Area in Kilbogget Park, Cabinteely. The funding forms part of the Government’s overall proposed €9.6m investment in the Loughlinstown Flood Relief Scheme. The scheme is being led by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, with funding provided by the Office of Public Works.

The Loughlinstown scheme was listed amongst the first tranche of schemes prioritised by Government in its Flood Risk Management Plans announced in 2018. The proposed plans emanated from the Government’s Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme, which studied 80% of our primary causes of flooding in communities that house almost two thirds of our population. The implementation of the Plans is supported by the Government’s commitment of almost €1 billion for flood risk management in the National Development Plan 2018 - 2027.

While Loughlinstown is a single Flood Relief Scheme, it consists of 2 river catchments, namely Deansgrange and Carrickmines/Shanganagh. The Loughlinstown Scheme, when completed, will provide protection for an estimated 256 properties.

JBA/JB Barry were appointed in late 2019 as Consultants for the Deansgrange element of the Scheme and work is already underway in designing viable, cost effective and sustainable flood relief measures for this area.

Questions Nos. 103 to 106, inclusive, answered orally.

Public Expenditure Data

Questions Nos. 108 and 109 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (107, 128)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

107. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the level of additional expenditure in 2021 in comparison to 2020, disaggregated by precommitted expenditure demographics, PSSA and so on, Covid-19 related expenditure and Brexit related expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26741/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

128. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the level of Covid-19 related expenditure in 2021, disaggregated by Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26742/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 128 together.

The overall Budgetary Strategy for 2021 will focus on prioritising crisis management measures to address the challenges posed by Covid-19 and Brexit while preserving and maintaining existing levels of service within core expenditure programmes.

Ensuring the provision of the necessary funding to support our citizens and key public services over the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the key priority in Budget 2021. In light of this, work is ongoing in assessing the impact of Covid-19 costs in 2021. Consequently, there is a range of potential expenditure requirements that need to be worked through in detail. At this stage, on a no policy change basis, and assuming an improved position in relation to employment next year based on the latest macroeconomic projections, it is estimated that there could be a cost of approximately €9 billion in relation to Covid-19 expenditure reflecting:

- the carryover costs of the July stimulus programme;

- significant expenditure on automatic stabilisers including job-seekers payments and related supports;- ongoing costs in health to deal with Covid-19;

- the carryover costs relating to both the Roadmap for Reopening Schools, and to the package of supports to enable further and higher education students to return to college;

- And the ongoing requirement to fund public transport while employees continue to be encouraged to work from home.

Further details will be set out in detail in the 2021 Expenditure Report. It should be noted that these pressures will be dealt with separately from core expenditure increases and given their scale, will form a significant part of budgetary package.

In relation to core expenditure programmes, €70.4 billion in gross voted expenditure was allocated to Departments in the Revised Estimates for Public Services (REV) 2020 published in December 2019. At this stage it is planned that the Budget Estimates for 2021 will include an increase of approximately €3 billion in this core expenditure, comprising:

- €2 billion in current expenditure

- €1 billion in capital expenditure;

Of the €2 billion in current expenditure it is estimated that there are pre-commitments of €1.1 billion to be funded in relation to demographics, and to meet the carryover costs of prior year measures and of public service pay deals. Work is also ongoing in finalising these costs, and on the emerging core expenditure position for this year for this year. Outside of these expenditure pressures, it is estimated that there is an amount of €0.9 billion available to meet other day to day pressures on existing services across all areas of Government.

In relation to Capital expenditure, we will also ensure that the increase in capital investment set out in the National Development Plan is implemented in order to support the recovery in the economy. This would see core gross voted capital expenditure of almost €9.2 billion next year, an increase of almost €1 billion on the gross voted expenditure amount set out for this year in REV 2020.

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.

Questions Nos. 108 and 109 answered orally.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (110)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

110. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the decision to open heritage sites during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26268/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

In line with Government guidelines and Public Health advices relating to the COVID 19 emergency, OPW closed many of the heritage sites in its care and control to the public on March 15th.

OPW parks and gardens became critical facilities in their locales in the initial period of the lockdown where travel was restricted to within 2Km of one’s home. OPW staff working at these sites which included locations such as John F. Kennedy Arboretum in New Ross, Kilkenny Castle Parkland, Doneraile Park, Glebe Gallery Gardens in Donegal and the Phoenix Park in Dublin continued to work to care for and present the properties to the highest standards while ensuring the safety of all visitors to our sites.

In May, the Government published the road map for reopening society and the economy which set out very specific phasing for the reopening of outdoor and indoor visitor facilities including museums, galleries and heritage attractions. In line with this roadmap of phased reopening, the OPW developed a clear plan for how various heritage sites nationwide would return to operation across Phases 1 -4 and what facilities would be available to patrons. A key part of the approach is to ensure that sites could only reopen where it is possible to do so in accordance with public health guidance and, in particular, with the Return to Work Safely Protocol published by Government. In addition, the OPW emphasised the need to address the needs of vulnerable groups and has made special provision at certain sites in relation to people who have been cocooning. This plan was published on line and clearly set out for example if car parking, toilets and cafes were open, operational and what level of service visitors could be expect.

The vast majority of OPW Heritage sites with Visitor services therefore reopened to the public by Phase 3 (June 29th ). The majority are operating with some form of changes e.g. no group tours or self-guide visits only, in order to meet the public health guidelines for social distancing, the safe return to work of our staff and the safe return of visitors to our attractions.

There are certain tourism site locations however where the position cannot be mitigated sufficiently to operate safely and so these locations must therefore remain closed in the short term and possibly for the remainder of the 2020 visitor season. This very limited number of sites includes for example, Skellig Michael.

In relation to admission charges and access, in July, as part of the Government’s Economic Stimulus Package the Government announced an initiative to support local tourism and the restarting of the hospitality sector by providing free or reduced admission to OPW heritage sites nationwide. The purpose of this was to ensure that domestic visitors would choose to holiday at home but would also choose to explore the national heritage estate across the country and our heritage sites would act as significant attractors of tourism in their locales.

I am also pleased to advise that OPW Heritage Services has engaged with the Failte Ireland Covid Safety Charter and a large number of sites have been audited and certified with the Covid Safety certificate. Visitors can be assured that sites are operating to the highest safety standards and OPW is delivering a very safe and enjoyable experience for both our staff and our visitors.

During the summer as a measure of our confidence in the strength of our visitor offering OPW also formally opened a number of new heritage offerings such as the Viewing Point at the Blaskets Centre in Kerry and the newly refurbished Carlingford Castle in Co. Louth, both projects which were supported with capital funding from Failte Ireland.

OPW continues to operate Heritage sites in line with Government guidelines on public health. To this end, the recently published plan for living with Covid 19 sets out clear guidance for what can and cannot continue to operate at the various levels in the plan. For example in Dublin which is now at Level 3, a number of indoor heritage attractions are closed to the public for three weeks including Dublin Castle and Kilmainham Gaol. However popular outdoor sites which can remain open at Level 3 such as the National Botanic Gardens, St. Stephen’s Green and the Iveagh Gardens are fully open to the public, seven days a week.

I would encourage the public to consult Heritageireland.ie and opw.ie to access the most up-to-date information on access to our sites which are open to visitors. OPW heritage properties which continue to play an important part in supporting local tourism across the Country. A number of iconic sites including Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny Castle and Bru na Boinne will remain fully open to the public throughout the Winter in line with the prevailing public health advices and government restrictions as they might apply in the months ahead.

Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Programme

Ceisteanna (111)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

111. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on the outcome of his recent visit to County Louth to progress CFRAM works for the area; his further views on the status of CFRAM schemes relating to other areas in the county (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26271/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this issue in relation to the outcome of my recent visit to Co Louth to progress CFRAM works for the area; and the status of CFRAM Schemes in the area specifically, Drogheda, Dundalk and Blackrock south, Carlingford-Greenore, Baltray, Ardee and Mornington (Co. Meath).

Through the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme, detailed engineering analysis, assessment and extensive public consultation was undertaken for 300 communities throughout Ireland, including 90 coastal areas, which in 2012 were identified as being most likely to be impacted by future coastal and fluvial flooding. The CFRAM Programme studied 80% of properties at risk from the primary causes of flooding in Ireland, in communities that house almost two thirds of the national population.

The key outputs of the CFRAM Programme were Flood Maps showing the flood risk for the 300 communities, which support planning decisions and emergency response, and Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMP’s) - one for each River Basin in the country. The FRMP’s contain proposed flood relief measures - informed by costs, benefits and environmental factors - to address the flood risk in each community and nationwide. As portions of County Louth are located in two River Basins, Louth is included in both the Neagh-Bann and Boyne FRMP’s.

The evidence provided by the CFRAM Programme, which was launched by the Office of Public Works in May 2018, supports the Government’s €1bn planned investment to complete 151 flood relief schemes through the National Development Plan 2018-2027 as part of Project 2040.

As part of this, Louth County Council, working with the Office of Public Works, has agreed to be the Lead Authority in the delivery of flood relief schemes at Dundalk / Blackrock South, Drogheda, Carlingford / Greenore, Baltray and Ardee, all of which are in the first tranche of projects to be progressed.

- The proposed flood relief scheme at Dundalk / Blackrock South, Co. Louth, for which the current estimated total project cost is €80.9 million (this also includes the budget for the Ardee Flood Relief Scheme) would involve a series of hard defences, including flood embankments and walls, rock armour coastal protection, demountable barriers, road raising, a sluice gate and tanking of two properties, protecting 1,880 properties when completed.

- The proposed flood relief scheme at Drogheda, Co. Louth, for which the CFRAM Programme estimated a preliminary total cost of €16.83 million, would involve construction of a series of hard defences (flood embankments and walls) along the River Boyne and improvement of conveyance, hard defences and a flow diversion channel on various tributaries, protecting 381 properties when completed.

- The proposed flood relief scheme at Carlingford and Greenore, Co. Louth, for which the CFRAM Programme estimated a preliminary total cost of €23.41 million would involve construction of a series of hard defences (flood embankments and walls) and two pumping stations, protecting 409 properties when completed.

- The proposed flood relief scheme at Ardee, Co. Louth will also be progressed directly by Louth County Council in tandem with the Dundalk/Blackrock South Scheme with full funding from the Office of Public Works, the cost of which is included in the budget for that Scheme. The work proposed will involve the construction of a series of hard defences (embankments and walls) protecting 7 properties when completed.

- There is one proposed scheme initially not included in the first tranche of implementation. The scheme at Baltray, Co. Louth at a projected cost estimate of approximately €1.93 million would involve the construction of a series of hard defences (embankments and walls) protecting 73 properties when completed. However, the countywide project steering group comprising Office of Public Works and local authority representatives, has decided to progress the development of this project simultaneously with that for Drogheda.

While the CFRAM process investigated possible structural flood relief measures for both Annagassan and Termonfeckin, economically viable schemes for these communities were not identified, and so a review of the risk in these communities and the likely costs and benefits is to be undertaken to determine if viable schemes may be available. The Office of Public Works has put in place a process for undertaking such reviews as recommended in the FRMPs nationally, which is currently being piloted in a number of areas, and it is envisaged that these reviews, including those for Annagassan and Termonfeckin, will be complete within the next 12 months.

In Co. Meath, the CFRAM process also identified an outline flood relief scheme for Mornington, and this was included among the priority schemes to be progressed in an initial tranche of flood projects announced by Minister of State Moran on 3 May 2018. The Office of Public Works is currently engaging with Meath County Council to determine how best to proceed with appointing consultants to progress the project-level development and assessment of this Flood Relief Scheme, including environmental assessment as necessary and further public consultation, for refinement and preparation for planning / Exhibition and, if and as appropriate, implementation. Meath County Council has informed the Office of Public Works that they should be in a position to commence work on appointing consultants in Q4 of this year.

When developing detailed Flood Risk Management options for the selected projects, the adaptability of the option to climate change will also be assessed; for example, in a Project where a significant increase in risk is shown under the future scenarios, options with the best climate change adaptability are more important, whereas climate change adaptability in Projects with low-sensitivity is not as critical. The appointed Design Teams will produce the detailed design of the options in areas of high sensitivity and will assess whether it is appropriate for the option to be designed to handle climate change from the start of the design process, or whether it is designed to be adaptable later, e.g. building extra capacity into the foundations of a wall to allow it to be increased in the future, or to leave undeveloped areas for flood storage to be added in the future.

The Office of Public Works has also established Engineering Consultancy Framework Agreements, which Louth County Council are using to procure services to progress the design, development and planning of each project and which will help to speed up the process to construction. In addition, the Council has been provided with additional staffing resources by OPW to assist in the implementation of these schemes.

The Steering Group for flood relief schemes in County Louth has proposed the following prioritisation for progression of first tranche projects for County Louth:

1. Dundalk/Blackrock South and Ardee - to be progressed simultaneously. The tender for Engineering Consultancy Services for Dundalk / Blackrock South and Ardee was advertised on 16 October 2019, with five tenders received on 24 January 2020. Tenders have been evaluated and the contract has been awarded.

2. Drogheda and Baltray - to be progressed simultaneously. The consultants brief for Drogheda and Baltray scheme is currently being finalised and is hoped to be advertised to the framework in the coming months.

3. Carlingford/Greenore. Progress on the Carlingford / Greenore consultants brief will begin following completion of the Drogheda / Baltray brief.

The Steering Group last met on 24 September 2020 where the project is now being progressed with the consultants now appointed on the Scheme. Louth County Council is expected to tender for environmental and design consultants for the Drogheda and Baltray Flood Relief Schemes in the coming months.

It is important to note that the measures set out in the flood risk management plans are not definitive and final, and that as part of the project-level assessment required to prepare the measure for planning/ Public Exhibition, more detailed assessments are required at a local level and further public and stakeholder consultation will be undertaken. As such, there is further scope for the community's views to influence the measures that are progressed to implementation.

Once consultants are appointed to progress each scheme, consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies, as well as the general public, will take place at the appropriate stages to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to input into the development of the proposals within the scheme.

Public Sector Pay

Ceisteanna (112)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

112. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress that has been made on public sector pay deal negotiations; and if there is a planned increase in public sector pay. [26728/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As the Deputy is aware, I have instructed my officials to engage in exploratory talks with public services committee of ICTU to see if there is a basis for a successor agreement to the Public Service Stability Agreement to ensure pay stability, industrial peace and the delivery of quality public services.

To date there has been constructive engagement between the public service management and the Public Services Committee of ICTU as part of exploratory discussions.

A new collective agreement could play an important role in underpinning economic recovery, avoiding industrial unrest and supporting the delivery of quality public services at a critical time. However, any such agreement would need to reflect the broader economic context and the current fiscal position where significant challenges are emerging.

The present system of collective agreements has been in place in the public service since the Croke Park Agreement was negotiated in 2010.

These collective agreements have helped to ensure that public pay is managed in a sustainable, affordable and orderly manner. These agreements have also enabled ongoing reform of public services and changes to work practices.

The current public service agreement the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) 2018-2020 is due to expire on the 31st December 2020. The final adjustment provided for by the Agreement is due from 1 October 2020 with annualised salaries of public servants to be increased by 2%.

The pay provisions of the PSSA are given effect by the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017.

The Public Service Pay and Pensions Act also provides for the restoration of reductions to fixed allowance from 1 October 2020.

The Government has committed to honouring the remaining terms of the current deal in recognition of the contribution that our public servants have made in dealing with the Public Health Emergency and as a demonstration of our commitment to this framework of collective agreements.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (113, 137)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

113. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the value of funding spent on procurement across all Departments in 2018 and 2019 that was non-compliant with EU directives on public procurement and with Circular 10/14: Initiatives to assist SMEs in Public Procurement broken down by each Department. [26666/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

137. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the percentage of funding spent on procurement across all Departments in 2018 and 2019 that was non-compliant with EU directives on public procurement and with circular 10/14: Initiatives to assist SMEs in Public Procurement by each Department. [26665/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 137 together.

My Department does not hold details of the number or value of non-compliant tenders requested by the Deputy. Individual Accounting Officers are responsible for ensuring that their public procurement functions are discharged in line with the standard accounting and procurement rules and procedures and that contract prices are fair and reasonable and represent best value for money.

Public Procurement is governed by EU and National rules. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money. It is a basic principle of public procurement that competitive tendering should be used except in justifiably exceptional circumstances. The EU Directives acknowledge that there can be legitimate reasons for awarding contracts without the use of a competitive process, such as extreme urgency brought about by unforeseeable events or where there is a single supplier to perform the contract. Consequently, a procurement without a competitive process is not necessarily non-compliant with procurement rules.

Department of Finance Circular 40/02 places the obligation on Government Departments and Offices to report all contracts above €25,000 (exclusive of VAT) awarded without a competitive process to the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) by 31 March of the following year. The C&AG publishes this information in the Appropriation Accounts. These reports are copied to the Office of Government Procurement for information. Circular 40/02 further states that contracts awarded without a competitive process should be subject to an internal review, preferably by the Internal Audit Unit or alternatively by an appropriate senior officer who is not part of the procurement process.

The Office of Government Procurement supports compliance with the procurement rules by putting in place compliant procurement solutions, publishing guidelines and template documentation and proactive engagement with Government Departments and Offices including our sourcing partners in the Health, Education, Defence and Local Government Sectors through the Procurement Executive.

Circular 10/14 sets out a number of measures Contracting Authorities should implement to assist SMEs in competing for public contracts as follows.

- Proportionate financial capacity criterion (turnover requirements limited to twice the contract value)

- Contracting authorities are encouraged to divide public contracts into lots

- Provision for “consortia bidding” to assist SMEs to participate in procurement procedures where they would not have the relevant capability or scale

- Public bodies are required to advertise contracts for goods and services valued above €25,000 on the national eTenders portal.

Contracting Authorities are reminded that any measures undertaken must be implemented in accordance with the principles of EU law, and in a manner that is fully compliant with EU public procurement law and national guidelines.

Flood Prevention Measures

Ceisteanna (114)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

114. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the measures his Department and bodies under his aegis are taking to address flooding along the River Shannon specifically in County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25253/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

At this time of the year, as we approach the Winter season, it is opportune that we consider our preparedness as a country to respond to severe weather events such as flooding. I am acutely aware of the impact that the recent flooding has had on individual households and on communities at large. Since taking up my current position I have visited a number of areas affected by the recent storms, witnessed the damage caused and met and spoken with the people and business owners directly affected.

I acknowledge that people want assurance that the Government can provide support to them in response to a flood event and also assurance that it is planning to mitigate the risk from flooding in the future.

The Government’s Framework for Major Emergency Management underpins coordination of response to all emergencies in Ireland, including flooding. Through that Framework, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is the Lead Government Department with national responsibility for co-ordinating the response to Severe Weather Emergencies including flooding. Local Authorities are designated as “lead agency” for response to flooding events within their administrative areas and for ensuring that effective arrangements are put in place to receive and respond to public service weather warnings issued by Met Éireann.

I want to recognise the proactive planning of the Local Authorities in putting in place temporary flood defences and putting response staff on standby in preparation for these recent weather events. Their planning and rapid response to flood events helped to mitigate the damage and devastation caused. Each local area has its own individual plan in the event of flooding. An Garda Síochana, Civil Defence and the HSE are all involved in these plans and I want too to acknowledge their work in responding to the recent floods.

In addition, the OPW is co-ordinating Ireland’s whole of Government approach to flood risk management across three strategic policy areas - Prevention, Protection and Preparedness. The Interdepartmental Flood Policy Co-ordination Group was established for the purpose of examining the potential non-structural measures that will inform the ten-year implementation strategy of the Flood Risk Management Plans and to ensure that policies that can benefit communities directly – to be prepared for and respond to flood risk, are carefully considered.

The Government also established the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group in 2016 to support existing plans in place to address flooding on the Shannon and to enhance the ongoing co-operation of all State Agencies involved with the River Shannon.

The Group has taken a number of significant decisions since its establishment, including targeted maintenance activities at a number of locations, trialling the lowering of the levels on Lough Allen and a study on the cause, degree and rate of restriction downstream of Parteen Weir. In October 2019, the Group agreed to a €7m strategic programme of maintenance and the removal of constrictions or ‘pinch points’ on the bed of the River Shannon at the Callows Region between Athlone and Meelick Weir. Progression of these works will be subject to the full environmental assessments required and planning consent to proceed. The decision to undertake these projects was noted by the Government in December 2019. Waterways Ireland has advised that it has commenced work on advancing the various interventions for these works with implementation expected to commence in 2021.

This investment as well as helping to manage flooding can support the tourism, navigation and agricultural sectors for this region.

In relation to the water levels on the River Shannon, the ESB manages the weirs, sluices and other works that are part of the Shannon Scheme, and the water levels on Lough Allen, Lough Ree and Lough Derg. The levels in between the lakes are managed by Waterways Ireland for navigation purposes. Both organisations are members of the Group and communicate on a daily basis to ensure a co-ordinated approach to managing water levels on the river. Queries arising on the protocols for managing the water levels at any given time should be directed to the ESB and Waterways Ireland.

In relation to planning to mitigate flood damage in the future - on 3rd May 2018, the Office of Public Works launched 29 Flood Risk Management Plans and €1bn investment in flood risk over the coming decade. These Plans are the output from the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme - the largest ever flood risk study carried out in the State. The Plans set out the measures proposed to address the flood risk nationally, and include 119 new schemes to protect towns, villages and cities nationally. These include flood relief schemes recommended for both Rahan and Birr, Co. Offaly. Procurement of 60 of the 119 flood relief schemes is now progressing or, in some places, complete. These schemes will together with the 46 already complete (including a scheme in Tullamore, Co. Offaly) mean that 95% of at risk properties will be protected by Flood Relief Schemes.

I would like to conclude by assuring the Deputy and the Members of this House that I and the Government are working extremely hard to ensure that the greatest possible progress is made over the next number of years on the continued delivery of a very ambitious programme of investment in flood defence and flood risk management measures. The commitment of €1 billion in the National Development Plan to this objective is a clear sign of how high a priority this is for the Government.

Public Sector Pay

Ceisteanna (115)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

115. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a commitment will be given to not renew FEMPI when it comes before Dáil Éireann in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26725/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Public Service Pay and Pension Act 2017 provides for the restoration of reductions made to public service pay and pensions by the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2010-2013. That process of restoration began on 1st January 2018 and is due to conclude by 1st July 2022.

In that regard, on 1st October 2020, public servants will receive a 2% pay increase. This will complete pay restoration for public servants earning up to €70,000 per annum.

Also on 1st October, reductions of between 5% and 8% made to certain allowances in 2010 will cease.

The Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 provides that by end 2020, an order is made to restore, at a date to be decided, reductions made to certain public service pensions.

In addition, Section 20 of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 provides explicitly that for certain public servants, pay restoration cannot be completed before 2 October 2021.

Under section 12 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013 (No. 18 of 2013) the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is obliged, before 30 June each year, to submit a written report of the operation, effectiveness and impact of the FEMPI Acts of 2009, No.2 of 2009, 2010 and 2013 to the Oireachtas and as part of that report, to consider whether or not any of the provisions of the relevant Acts continue to be necessary having regard to the purposes of those Acts, the revenues of the State and State commitments in respect of public service pay and pensions. Key considerations include the economic circumstances of the State, the budgetary outlook, debt, returns from taxation, BREXIT and preparedness for other economic shocks.

The 2020 report laid before this House last June concluded, on the basis of the prevailing economic and fiscal outlook, that the timetable for pay and pensions restoration up to July 2022 continued to be appropriate and necessary.

I can assure the Deputy that the Government will continue to take the most appropriate course of action in this key policy area into the future.

Ministerial Advisers

Ceisteanna (116)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

116. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of special advisers across each Department; the salaries of each; if the information will be compared with the Government of 2011, 2016 and 2016 to 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26721/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As the Deputy will be aware on the commencement of every Dáil, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform issues guidelines setting out the arrangements for the staffing of Ministerial Offices. The appointment of Special Advisers is subject to Section 11 of the Public Services Management Act 1997.

The Guidelines for the appointment of Ministerial Appointments for the 33rd Dáil were approved by Government last month and have been published by my Department on the gov.ie website.

These Guidelines, which are consistent with those applying to the 32nd Dáil, set out the number of Special Advisors that each Minister or Minister of State may appoint and the associated rates of pay to apply to Special Advisors on appointment.

The appointment of individual Special Advisers is a matter for each Government Minister, subject to the terms of the aforementioned Guidelines, although the appointments are also subject to formal Government approval in accordance with Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. The process to formally appoint Special Advisors, following recent approval of the Guidelines, is presently underway.

In line with existing practice, my Department will prepare and publish a List of Special Advisers, to include salary information, on the gov.ie website once the formal appointment of all Special Advisors to Ministers and Ministers of State for the 33rd Dáil has concluded.

The attached tables set out details of the Special Advisers appointed to Ministers and Ministers of State for the 31st and 32nd Dáil.

docu1

docu2

EU Directives

Ceisteanna (117)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

117. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the transposition into Irish legislation of the EU whistleblowing directive; when the findings of the consultation process which concluded in July 2020 will be published; when the directive will be fully transposed here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26682/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The EU formally adopted Directive 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law ("the Whistleblowing Directive") on 23 October 2019. All Member States, including Ireland, have until 17 December 2021 to transpose the Directive into national law. Ireland is one of just 10 EU Member States to already have comprehensive whistleblower protection laws in place in the form of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. Transposition of the Directive will require amendments to the 2014 Act.

As the Deputy is aware, my Department concluded a public consultation on the transposition of the Directive on 10 July. Some 24 submissions were received from a wide range of both Irish and international interested parties and these have been published on the public consultation page on the gov.ie website.

The consultation will feed into the process of transposing the Directive, on which work is ongoing in my Department. I hope to publish draft legislation in early 2021 with a view to achieving enactment and full transposition by the EU's deadline of 17 December 2021.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (118)

Pa Daly

Ceist:

118. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on working time agreements across the Civil Service. [26342/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Government Departments and Offices have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated public health requirements by introducing new measures of flexibility in working arrangements.

Civil Service Departments and Offices have been advised by my Department, as standard practice across the public service during COVID-19, to consider all forms of flexible working including:

- working from home where possible

- working adjusted hours and providing for alternative arrangements where possible, including flexible shifts, staggered hours, wider opening hours including weekend work, both for those working from home and when workplace attendance is required

These arrangements enable Departments and Offices to, for example:

- support civil servants to balance work and caring responsibilities during the restrictions

- support public health measures such as maintaining social distance when workplace attendance is required

- ensure the continuity of essential services

Due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on normal working arrangements, the operation of traditional flexi-time and attendance management rules do not support the flexible arrangements and agility required during this extraordinary situation. These arrangements were temporarily suspended in April 2020 to facilitate the required new ways of working across the public service.

As more public servants have returned to their workplaces over recent months, flexi-time arrangements were re-introduced, with effect from 24 August 2020, for those employees who are attending work on their pre-COVID arrangements.

In order to ensure that there is good communication about changes to working arrangements in the civil service, my Department has developed Guidance and FAQs on working arrangements and temporary assignments during COVID-19 for civil and public service employers . This Guidance and FAQs document has been continually updated to reflect public health and Government policy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the Guidance and FAQs, my Department developed guidance for Civil Service organisations on Working from Home during COVID-19 Guidance for Civil Service Organisations.

For both sets of guidance, and their associated issues, my officials have consulted with civil service employers and union representatives.

Public Expenditure Policy

Ceisteanna (119)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

119. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the scope for accelerating the delivery of important public investment priorities at a time when private investment is likely to fall sharply and a demand stimulus will be needed has been examined. [26413/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The jobs stimulus plan announced in July contained a €500 million package for accelerated capital works and other capital supports across a range of areas in support of employment-intensive economic activity in 2020. The projects and programmes announced as part of the stimulus cover a broad geographic and sectoral scope, including housing, education, transport, justice, environment and heritage/tourism.

The Government is committed to sustaining investment in capital projects and programmes to support economic recovery. In that regard, we have introduced an unprecedented series of public health measures and invested heavily in supports to help businesses and our people. Some of these measures include the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Restart Grant, Rates Waivers, and credit schemes for businesses of all sizes.

There will be an ongoing requirement for a significant expenditure allocation to respond to COVID-19 next year across a number of areas in particular, Health, Schools, Further and Higher Education, and Social Protection. In addition, funding will need to be provided to address the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. In this context, for core expenditure programmes, Budget 2021 will prioritise preserving and maintaining existing levels of service and delivering the increased resources for capital investment set out in the NDP. Additional crisis-related supports will be tailored to those sectors and workers who are most in need. In line with the Programme for Government, sectoral priorities will be health, housing and climate change.

The forthcoming NDP Review will provide a basis for longer-term decisions on capital investment.

Civil Service

Ceisteanna (120)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

120. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his longer-term vision and strategy for the Civil Service; his views on the provision of regional locations for support offices and services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26657/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Work is underway on a successor to the 2014 Civil Service Renewal Plan. This strategy will outline an ambitious programme of reform for the Irish Civil Service over a 10 year period. There is no doubt that the changes in how we work and where we work that have come about as a result of the pandemic will inform the next Renewal Plan.

The public health requirements brought about by the pandemic have led to the transformation of work arrangements across all sectors and businesses. It has highlighted the potential for the Civil Service to work from locations beyond the 'traditional office'. Like many other organisations the Civil Service has shown that much of the work previously done in offices can be done remotely.

Our experience over the last six months has shown that we must now consider new and alternative work practices that can achieve positive outcomes for our Civil Service. Different working models are possible, and one that has been mentioned by the deputy is the concept of regional Government office “hubs”.

Similar to many Government buildings in provincial towns, establishing well located departmental office hubs is certainly one option for consideration. Hub spaces facilitate remote working for those where home based work is not a real alternative beyond COVID. They also have the potential to address staff commuting issues and the cost issues associated with a concentration in Dublin and the Central Business District.

Any decision to set up regional hubs requires: careful analysis of the most suitable locations; must meet the operational needs of Government departments; and must be consistent with the National Planning Framework. As part the analysis on regional hubs over 18500 Civil Servants nationwide to-date have shared their views on this issue through the Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey.

Heritage Sites

Ceisteanna (121)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

121. 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 in 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. [26374/20]

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.

Public Expenditure Data

Ceisteanna (122, 150)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

122. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his projections for public spending in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26685/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

150. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he is planning increased supports for sectors that have been especially badly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26713/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 150 together.

Budgetary policy has responded quickly in order to counter the worst effects of the pandemic. It is estimated that approximately €16 billion will be provided over the course of the year to respond to Covid-19 across a wide range of sectors, including;

- the additional funding provided for labour market supports that will bring Social Protection expenditure to over €30 billion for the year;

- €2 billion voted by the Dáil for the Health sector, with further expenditure to be allocated by way of Supplementary Estimate that will help deliver the winter plan and meet further costs in relation to PPE;

- additional Exchequer funding of €1.5 billion provided to support businesses including through restart grants, liquidity measures and commercial rates waivers; and

- the significant resources allocated to support the reopening of schools and the return to higher and further education.

Looking at the position at the end of August, gross voted expenditure was €10 billion or 24% ahead of the same period in 2019. The main drivers of this increase are in the areas of Social Protection, Health and business supports, and is reflective of the additional Covid-19 related expenditure introduced by Government to date. All told, it is currently estimated that gross voted expenditure for 2020 will be over €86 billion, an increase of over €19 billion or almost 30% relative to the outturn last year.

In relation to Budget 2021, which is now just weeks away, as per the Programme for Government, the sectoral priorities for this Government will primarily be concerned with addressing issues in the key sectors of health, housing and climate change. Further to this, assessing the appropriate Covid-19 measures for next year will also form a key part of the Estimates process. Ensuring that our existing services also continue to be delivered to citizens efficiently and effectively will also be a key consideration, particularly as we continue with reopening our society and turn our attention towards economic recovery. Further details will be set out in detail in the 2021 Expenditure Report on Budget day.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (123)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

123. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the measures taken by his Department to prepare for Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26726/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Ireland continues to support the closest possible future relationship between the EU and the UK. Nevertheless we recognise that, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations on the future relationship, the UK will leave the Single Market and the Customs Union on 1 January 2021. This will have significant implications for us.

As the Deputy will be aware, a whole of Government approach is being adopted to addressing the challenges posed by Brexit. My Department is playing a full part in responding to those challenges.

Within my Department, matters related to Brexit are coordinated by a dedicated Unit dealing with EU and Brexit issues, with an attaché based in Ireland's Permanent Representation in Brussels. The Unit leads on EU work across the Department and its agencies, and represents the Department on the various groups that coordinate the Government's response to Brexit.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU, and with attention now on the future relationship negotiations and the expiry of the transition period at the end of the year, my Department’s priorities for Brexit are: readiness for the conclusion of the transition period, including overseeing preparations at the ports and airports; implementation of aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol; addressing certain policy areas that will be impacted by the negotiations, e.g. public procurement, EU funding and the new post-Brexit PEACE PLUS programme; and the ongoing public expenditure implications of Brexit response measures.

Public Expenditure Policy

Ceisteanna (124, 141, 144)

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

124. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on the Central Bank Governor's pre-budget letter; his views on whether the need for prudent use of public funds must be ensured to the largest extent possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26739/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

141. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of his discussion with Ministers in advance of budget 2021 and the National Economic Plan; his views on whether Departments should seek to ensure public expenditure induces progressive structural changes that achieve long-term savings for the Exchequer such as the diagnostic hubs and community clinical hubs proposed in the HSE winter plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26737/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

144. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the specific oversight measures and metrics he is considering to ensure an economic, social and environmental return from pandemic related stimulus spending; if he has held discussion with Ministers regarding the importance of ensuring that spending generates a high social return for the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26736/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124, 141 and 144 together.

In his pre-Budget letter to the Minister for Finance, Governor Makhlouf sets out three key areas on which policy should focus. These are:

- Supporting the productive capacity of the economy;

- Eventually setting a path to a lower and more sustainable debt and deficit ratios; and

- Building resilience to future shocks.

The Governor acknowledges the significant supports that have been put in place thus far in response to Covid-19 and notes that the scale of these supports has helped to contain the extent of the downturn and mitigate some of its impact. In terms of protecting the productive capacity of the economy, this is something that the Government has prioritised. It is clear that the labour market has borne much of the economic impact of the crisis to date. Significant steps have been taken to cushion the impact of this on households and firms and to minimise the potential longer term effects on businesses and employment. Protecting incomes and supporting business through this time has been a central element of the Covid-19 crisis. This is reflected in the level of additional funding allocated in 2020 including:

- over €9 billion for income support and job activation schemes bringing total Social Protection spend to over €30 billion; and

- approximately €1½ billion provided for a range of business supports to help firms that have been impacted by the crisis.

As we look towards the medium term a crucial part of any sustainable expenditure strategy is prudent use of funds. There are a number of processes and frameworks already in place that aim to embed value for money, efficiency and effectiveness in public expenditure policy. This includes initiatives such as Performance Budgeting and the Spending Review process. These projects are important pillars in evidence-based approaches to policy development.

Looking at the economic, social and environmental return generated from expenditure, there are also frameworks in place which aim to examine the ways in which public expenditure impacts on peoples’ lives and wellbeing. Equality Budgeting, which was introduced in 2017, considers the budget as a process that embodies long-standing societal choices about how resources are used, rather than simply a neutral process of resource allocation. Dedicated equality indicators are included in the REV and, since 2017, the Public Service Performance Report has included an Equality Budgeting Update.

Further to this, the Programme for Government set out a commitment to develop a set of well-being indices to create a well-rounded, holistic view of how Irish society is faring; to use these well-being indicators, as well as economic indicators, to highlight inequalities and ensure that policies are driven by a desire to do better by people. Officials in my Department are now preparing a programme of work that will support the Government in meeting this commitment, building on the experience to date with Performance and Equality Budgeting.

All of these initiatives are about ensuring that public services are being delivered in the best possible way, identifying and acting on areas for improvement over time and making sure that the citizen is at the heart of policy decisions.

Finally, as Budget 2021 is now fast approaching, budget discussions are well underway. Official level bilateral meetings have been underway for a number of weeks. I am engaging with my Ministerial colleagues over the coming weeks with a view to agreeing allocations for next year.

Flood Prevention Measures

Ceisteanna (125, 134)

Ciaran Cannon

Ceist:

125. Deputy Ciarán Cannon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way in which the OPW plans to develop its policy on flood relief and flood mitigation in view of the significant climate change challenges that Ireland faces over the coming years. [26269/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Christopher O'Sullivan

Ceist:

134. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the actions he is taking to examine and address likely increased rates of flooding as a result of climate change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25133/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 134 together.

It is likely that climate change will have significant impacts on flooding and flood risk in Ireland due to rising sea levels, increased rainfall in winter, more heavy rain days and more intense storms. The Office of Public Works has been preparing to adapt to these projected climate changes.

The National Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme undertook detailed assessments of flooding and its impacts for 300 communities potentially at risk from flooding. These communities are home to approximately two-thirds of the population, and 80% of properties potentially at risk in Ireland from rivers and seas.

This detailed assessment concluded there are over 34,000 properties currently at significant risk from a flooding event. The evidence provided by CFRAM Programme supports the Government’s €1bn planned investment to complete 151 flood relief schemes through the National Development Plan 2018-2027 as part of Project 2040. Since May 2018, the number of flood relief schemes under design and construction, by the OPW in partnership with Local Authorities, has increased to approximately 90. Together with the 46 schemes already completed or substantially completed, this means that the OPW and Local Authorities have completed, or are now actively working on, projects to protect 80% of those properties to be protected in this decade.

The CFRAM Programme included an assessment of the flood risk that could arise in the future due to climate change. The two climate change scenarios adopted by the CFRAM are in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and national research, and include a sea level rise of up to 1m by the year 2100. These assessments are kept under continuous review by the OPW.

The OPW programme of flood relief schemes is taking account of climate change in their design and construction to facilitate adaptation that may be necessary in the future for the scheme to continue to provide protection.

As the lead agency with responsibility for Flood Risk Management, the OPW developed the Climate Change Sectoral Adaptation Plan that was approved by Government in October 2019. The overall aim of the Plan is to promote sustainable communities and support our environment through the effective management of the potential impacts of climate change on flooding and flood risk.

To deliver on this goal, the OPW has identified the following adaptation objectives:

- Enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the potential impacts of climate change for flooding and flood risk management through research and assessment

- Adapting flood risk management practice to effectively manage the potential impact of climate change on future flood risk

- Aligning adaptation to the impact of climate change on flood risk and flood risk management across sectors and wider Government policy

The OPW has identified a number of actions under each of these objectives, in the areas of flood risk prevention, protection, and preparedness / resilience, as well as in further research and capacity building. Current activities that are ongoing include indicative flood mapping projects, including mapping for potential future scenarios; pilot Scheme Adaptation Plans being prepared for new flood relief schemes; liaison with the Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs); and Research into the impacts of climate change on fluvial flood flows.