Header Item Written Answers Nos. 135 - 141
 Header Item Wind Energy Generation
 Header Item EU Funding
 Header Item Water Charges Yield
 Header Item EU Funding
 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding
 Header Item Local Authority Services
 Header Item Local Authority Services

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 831 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 135 - 141

Wind Energy Generation

 135. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the total number of operational wind turbines supplying the national grid that are located here; and if he will provide a breakdown of the number of said turbines in each county. [8519/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Eirgrid (the Transmission System Operator) and ESB Networks (the Distribution System Operator) provide online data on size and location of windfarms connected to the national grid. While EirGrid and ESB do not compile information on a county basis, information on the size and location of wind farms is publicly available on their websites at www.eirgrid.com and www.esb.ie respectively. EirGrid have calculated that there are 1,386 operational wind turbines supplying the national grid.   

EU Funding

 136. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the reason he is not seeking immediate funds from the EU Solidarity Fund. [8546/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan My Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have had initial discussions with the European Commission on possible EU funding under the Solidarity and Regional Support schemes. The purpose of the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) is to allow Member States to request financial aid in the event of major natural disasters. There is a damage threshold per Member State which is set at 0.6% of GNI. The estimated costs of damage caused by the storms between 13 December 2013 and 6 January 2014 of €61.472 m, plus other costs estimated at €10 m, while substantial in the context of the local impact, are well below the non-negotiable GNI threshold of 0.6% (€770m in the case of Ireland) of the Solidarity Fund. Assistance from the Fund is limited to financing emergency operations undertaken by the public authorities alleviating non-insurable damages.

The possibility of a regional application has also been considered. This is also subject to a series of impact criteria, (including 50% of population of an affected region) which this situation does not appear to meet.

Water Charges Yield

 137. Deputy Kevin Humphreys Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will provide in tabular form a breakdown by local authority and town council of the amount collected in 2012 and 2013 commercial water charges; the arrears rate for each local authority in those years; if he will confirm that these figures have been provided to Irish Water; the plans there are to collect arrears; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8440/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Audited local authority financial data for 2012 and 2013 are not yet available. The audit of the 2012 local authority Annual Financial Statements is scheduled for completion by end March 2014. Data relating to the water charges collected by the local authorities in 2011 were published in the Local Government Audit Service Activity Report 2013. This report is available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/LocalGovernmentAuditService/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,32617,en.pdf  

  Proposals are currently being developed by my Department, in consultation with Irish Water and the water services authorities, to arrange for the transfer of water services assets and liabilities from the water services authorities to Irish Water. This will include the approach in relation to commercial water charges arrears.

EU Funding

 138. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the way he will characterise the draw down rate for the LIFE + programme 2007-2013 by Ireland; if he will put this sum in context with reference to the draw down by other EU Member States.  [8447/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The EU LIFE+ Programme 2007-2013 is a dedicated EU funding instrument for the environment, with the aim of contributing to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation by co-financing pilot or demonstration projects. The Programme is administered directly by the European Commission with funding allocated to projects on merit in accordance with established criteria and following a rigorous assessment process. The table shows that in the period 2007 to 2012 seven Irish projects out of twenty one submitted qualified for funding under LIFE+, resulting in an aggregate EU contribution of almost €8.5 million.   Anecdotally, we understand that this success rate is broadly similar to the average achieved across all Member States.

Irish applications under LIFE+ Programme 2007-2013

Year No. of applications submitted No. of successful applications Total Budget (successful applications) EU Contribution



2007 3 2 €3,266,640 €1,652,804

2008 3 0 - -

2009 5 2 €4,147,154 €2,226,447

2010 2 1 €3,157,910 €1,562,672

2011 4 1 €2,225,205 €1,108,872

2012 4 1 €2,597,685 €1,941,188

2013 13

N/A N/A N/A


Total


34


7


€15,394,594


€8,491,983

Applications submitted under the 2013 call for proposals are still being assessed by the European Commission. Thirteen Irish applications were submitted under that call, with three of these reaching the final stage of the award process. This significant increase in Irish applications is due partly to a concerted effort by my Department in recent years to raise awareness of the programme and to provide practical support to project applicants. A final decision on the successful applicants under the 2013 call will be made in April.   

  For the duration of the LIFE+ Programme, Ireland has had an annual national allocation of some €4 million for which matching funding is required. The aim of national allocations, which are based on criteria set out in the LIFE+ Regulation, is to ensure a proportionate distribution of projects throughout Member States.   In its Mid-term Review of the LIFE+ Regulation for the period 2007-2009, the European Commission noted Ireland’s percentage use of its national allocation to be 41%. Similarly, the majority of other Member States failed to draw down their full national allocation in that period. The Mid-term Review also noted that the greatest number of applications was received from Italy, Spain and Germany, with the total amount awarded to beneficiaries in these Member States totalling some €98 million in 2008, almost half of the total LIFE+ budget available in that year. A full database of successful LIFE+ applications is available on the European Commission’s website athttp://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding

 139. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan when the sewage treatment plant at a location (details supplied) in County Laois, which is not functioning properly will be allocated funding for an upgrade.  [8451/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I have no responsibility for, or role in relation to, the management, operation or maintenance of water services infrastructure.

Upgrade works to the sewage treatment plant at Killimy Road, Emo, Co Laois were not included in my Department’s Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013.

From 1 January 2014 Irish Water is responsible for the delivery of water services capital infrastructure. It is currently preparing a Capital Investment Plan for 2014 – 2016 that will provide for the transition of projects included in the 2010 – 2013 Water Services Investment Programme. From 1 January 2014, the further progression of all water services capital projects is a matter for Irish Water.

My Department has asked Irish Water to put in place specific arrangements to address the queries which public representatives may have in relation to matters pertaining to the operation of water services under the new utility. I understand that Irish Water will be in contact with Oireachtas members during the course of this week to outline the arrangements for addressing such queries in a timely manner.

Local Authority Services

 140. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the services that will now be fully funded by local authorities following the retention of the local property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8476/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The local government funding model has changed considerably in 2014. For example, the establishment of Irish Water and its financial relationship with the local government sector will have a considerable impact on the arrangements for local authority financing. In addition, under the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, the Minister for Finance, from 2014 onwards, is to pay into the Local Government Fund an amount equivalent to the Local Property Tax paid into the Central Fund during that year; this will contribute to a range of financial supports being provided to local authorities, including General Purpose Grants and funding, on the basis of Service Level Agreements, for water services which local authorities will be providing on behalf of Irish Water.

The Government has indicated an intention to move to 80% retention of all Local Property Tax receipts within the local authority area where the Tax is raised. Given the significant changes to local government financing already taking place in 2014, as outlined above, it has been necessary to defer defining a certain proportion of the proceeds of the Local Property Tax to be retained in each local authority until 2015. This approach allows maximum flexibility in allocating Local Property Tax proceeds in 2014, particularly in terms of General Purpose Grants, with a priority to support those local authorities with weaker funding bases.

I expect the Local Property Tax to have multiple benefits, including a more sustainable and resilient system of funding for local authorities and therefore a sounder financial footing for the provision of essential local services; greater local scope for financial decision-making concerning service provision; and a strengthening of democracy at local level with a more active relationship between local authorities and local electorates. A stronger democratic relationship and clearer lines of accountability can only have a beneficial impact on service provision from the perspective of the service user.

The implications of local retention of Local Property Tax are being considered in the context of preparations for the budgetary process for 2015. It is a matter for each local authority to determine its own spending priorities in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to both locally identified needs and available resources.

Local Authority Services

 141. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if his Department has carried out an assessment of the service impact of a 15% reduction in the local property tax from 2015 in each local authority area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8477/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Under section 20 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, a local authority may, as a reserved function to be discharged by the elected members, resolve to vary the rate of the Local Property Tax within its functional area by a maximum of +/-15%. This power will be available to local authorities effective from 2015, as the relevant sections of the Act will come into operation on 1 July 2014. Section 20 of the Act requires that, in varying the rate, a local authority must take account of its financial position, its income and expenditure, and of the financial effect of the varied rate on the economy of its functional area, including on those persons who will be liable to pay the Local Property Tax. Section 20 also provides that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government may make regulations, including in respect of public consultation requirements prior to the variation of the rate of the Tax. I will give consideration to the making of such regulations in advance of the coming into operation of section 20 of the 2012 Act.

It is a matter for each local authority to determine its own spending priorities in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to both locally identified needs and available resources.


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