Header Item Written Answers Nos. 244-255
 Header Item Teacher Recruitment
 Header Item Teacher Training Provision
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Water Charges Exemptions
 Header Item Building Regulations Compliance
 Header Item Planning Issues
 Header Item Housing Grant Payments
 Header Item Tenant Purchase Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Waste Management
 Header Item Water Charges Administration
 Header Item Water Charges Administration

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 851 No. 4

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Written Answers Nos. 244-255

Teacher Recruitment

 244. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the estimated cost of expediting teacher recruitment so that primary schools would be allocated teachers on the basis of the current school year’s enrolment figures as distinct from the previous year’s enrolment figures. [36352/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Data in relation to enrolment figures in primary schools in the current school are not yet available to my Department. The number of pupils enrolled in individual schools is provided in the National School Annual Census and refers to the number of pupils enrolled as of the 30th of September in the given academic year. The National School Annual Census is generally returned by schools to the Department by end October. The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to primary schools is published annually. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing arrangements for the 2014/15 school year are set out in Circular 0007/2014 which is available on the Department website.

The staffing schedule includes the provision whereby schools experiencing rapid increases in enrolment can apply for additional permanent mainstream posts on developing grounds, using projected enrolment for September 2014. In addition, the staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

In addition, the staffing appeals process at primary level was extended for the current school year to allow schools that are not gaining an additional teaching post under the developing schools criterion to submit an appeal to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board. This appeal criterion is targeted at those schools that make a significant contribution to the provision of school places and so assist the response to demographic growth within their area and, as a result, are under significant pressure on their class sizes at infants level. Circular 0007/2014 provides details for schools wishing to make an appeal.

The allocation of all teaching posts is contingent on compliance with redeployment arrangements. The core function of the redeployment arrangements is to facilitate the redeployment of all surplus permanent teachers to other schools that have vacancies. The redeployment of all surplus permanent teachers is key to the Department's ability to manage within its payroll budget and ceiling on teacher numbers.

I believe that allocating resources based on projected enrolments for the coming school year is not practical and would impact negatively on the teacher allocation and redeployment process and the timeframes in which this process is completed.

Teacher Training Provision

 245. Deputy Michael Lowry Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she will review the decision made by her predecessor in 2012 which removed the subsidy that was granted to student teachers to undertake a mandatory Gaeltacht placement; if her attention has been drawn to the huge additional costs being imposed on student teachers due to this decision; if she will confirm the annual cost of this subsidy to the State in 2012; her views on whether this decision was fair; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [36354/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I acknowledge that the cost of the Gaeltacht Placement is a significant cost to students and their families. However, the decision to abolish the grants was not taken lightly, and it has to be viewed in the context of the prevailing requirement to reduce costs and achieve efficiencies where possible. In making difficult decisions such as this, priority was given to protecting resources for front line education services as far as possible in the coming years, which is especially challenging with rising numbers of school-going children.

The requirement for two separate two week placements is part of the Teaching Council's revised requirements for Gaeilge in Initial Teacher Education. The DES supports the changes as they contribute to overall quality improvement.   

For the reasons I have outlined, I am not in a position at this time to reinstate funding to this area. In 2012 my Department paid a total of €862,682 to Irish Summer Colleges in respect of student teachers' attendance at Gaeltacht courses.

Apprenticeship Programmes

 246. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the annual spend on apprenticeship training in each year since 2010; the number of apprentices in training in each year; the way this is broken down across employment sectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36384/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The information requested by the Deputy is held by SOLAS and I have asked it to reply directly to the Deputy with this information.

  Question No. 247 answered with Question No. 235.

Water Charges Exemptions

 248. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if persons with an ileo anal pouch will qualify for an increased water allowance.  [36321/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 1524, 1551, 1570 and 1618 of 17 September 2014.

Building Regulations Compliance

 249. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly the costings that have been provided for a reduction in Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to 15%,10%, 5%, or its complete abolition in terms of estimated social housing unit reductions and financial loss to local authorities on an annual basis from 2015 to 2020.  [36328/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Part V Review carried out by the Housing Agency at my Department's request, has been completed and will be submitted to Government shortly. The review considered a wide range of options. It is anticipated that any legislative changes required on foot of the review will, subject to Government approval, be incorporated into the General Scheme of a new Planning Bill, which is expected to be published shortly. It would not be appropriate to set out the findings of the review until the Government has had the opportunity to consider them, but it is my intention to publish the Housing Agency’s review in due course.

As the extent of social housing gain from Part V is directly related to private housing construction, the current situation is that there is very limited Part V delivery in terms of social housing. I am committed to the principle of a social housing gain from private development but to maximise that gain we need a properly functioning and sustainable construction sector. I believe that the Part V mechanism has the potential to again be a significant contributor to social housing in the context of a recovering housing market.

The Government's Construction 2020 strategy, published in May 2014, aims to build a competitive, innovative, and sustainable construction sector. My intention is that the Social Housing Strategy, required under Action 8 of Construction 2020 and now in preparation, will be both challenging and innovative, and will provide the basis for an enhanced approach to social housing provision in Ireland. I expect that the strategy will be considered by Government in the coming weeks and published thereafter.

Planning Issues

 250. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly the estimated yield from a vacant site levy on unused urban land at a rate of 3% of market value; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36329/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I intend to introduce a new Planning Bill later this year to facilitate the implementation of certain planning-related actions in the Government's Construction 2020 Strategy published in May 2014. Action 23 commits to examining the possibility of enabling local authorities, should they wish to do so, to adopt new measures to incentivise the use and development of vacant sites in urban areas. A final decision on this matter will be taken in the context of the forthcoming Planning Bill. Accordingly, it is not possible at this stage to provide an estimate of the yield that might be raised from such a measure which, as indicated, is still under consideration.

Housing Grant Payments

 251. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he will provide costings of the full restoration of capital housing grants to 2008 levels. [36330/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability were introduced in November 2007 and are 80% funded by my Department, with a 20% contribution from the local authorities.

The amount allocated to these grants in 2008 was €72.197m, of which €14.439m was provided from the local authorities' own resources. The level of capital funding available to my Department has decreased significantly in the intervening period as part of the process of restoring stability to the public finances. For 2014, my Department has been able to provide increased allocations to all local authorities over last year’s funding, with total allocations of €48m, including the local authorities’ own contributions.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Eligibility

 252. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he will provide costings on the creation of a tenant purchase scheme for homes in the voluntary housing association sector.  [36331/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Approved housing bodies (AHBs) are organisations approved under section 6 of the Housing (scellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 to provide social housing support in conjunction with local authorities. These organisations include voluntary housing associations.   

  Since the late 1980s, close to 25,000 units of accommodation have been provided under capital funding schemes underpinned by mortgages. More recently, a scheme was introduced that provides an up-front capital payment of up to 30% of the property value to facilitate AHBs in raising private finance to acquire or build new social housing units. The capital advanced is repayable at the end of a payment and availability agreement, usually after 30 years.   

  Under the terms of these various funding schemes, AHBs are the de facto owners of these properties and are required to make them available for social renting for the duration of the mortgage or, as the case may be, the availability agreement.  My Department cannot unilaterally make provision for their sale to tenants. Any such decision would have to involve the AHB concerned and have regard to the mortgage on the property. On expiry of the mortgage period and subject to compliance with the terms of the funding agreement, the AHB becomes the owner of the property.   

  Section 45 of the Housing (scellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 does provide for the sale by housing authorities and AHBs of designated new houses to eligible households, subject to specified terms and conditions. However, any such sales would have to be done in consultation with AHBs. There are currently no proposals or plans for a tenant purchase scheme in relation to AHB houses and therefore no costings have been developed.   

Waste Management

 253. Deputy Joe Costello Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly the contingency plans in place in the event of a company (details supplied) being found to be in breach of health and safety legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36159/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996 precludes me from the exercise of any power or control in relation to the performance by a local authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in under the Act.  Waste collection is the statutory responsibility of local authorities, in this case, Dublin City Council. Under section 33 of the Waste Management Act 1996 (as amended) there is a general duty on a local authority to either itself collect the household waste in its functional area or alternatively to arrange for its collection by third parties.

Given the strategic importance of waste management to the welfare of the environment and society in general, my Department wrote earlier this month to Dublin City Council requesting a written report on the contingency/scenario planning that has been undertaken by the City Council to provide/arrange for the provision of an alternative household waste collection service in the event of an inability of the particular company in question to maintain collection services to their customers in the City Council area. The City Council confirmed that it was satisfied that there are a sufficient number of other permitted operators in a position to provide a household waste collection service to households in the City Council area at a competitive price.

I understand that the industrial relations dispute referred to has now been resolved and that normal collections have been restored.

Water Charges Administration

 254. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly his views on correspondence (details supplied) on water charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [36164/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides Irish Water with the power to charge customers in respect of the services provided. The Act also provides that responsibility for the independent economic regulation of the water sector is assigned to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers. The Act defines the customer as the occupier of the premises in respect of which the water services are provided. It also provides, unless the contrary is proved, that the owner of a premises is also the occupier of the premises. Irish Water is currently undertaking a customer verification exercise to obtain the details of customers in receipt of services from Irish Water.   

  The Act also requires that Irish Water prepare codes of practice on a range of matters, including standards in relation to the performance by Irish Water of its functions and billing by Irish Water of persons in respect of water services provided. The CER recently held a public consultation which covered a range of issues, including a number of proposed payment options. The CER is currently reviewing submissions received on the consultation and a determination will be made by the CER later this month. Full details of the CER public consultation are available on www.cer.ie.

Water Charges Administration

 255. Deputy Michael Creed Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he will provide an update on negotiations between his Department and Irish Water regarding the taking in charge of housing estates (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36173/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that where an estate is completed to the satisfaction of the planning authority in accordance with the planning permission (and any conditions attached to the permission), the planning authority must initiate taking in charge procedures as soon as possible following a request to do so by the developer or by the majority of the owners. Similarly, where an estate has not been completed to the standard outlined in the planning permission and the planning authority has not taken enforcement action within seven years of the expiry of the permission authorising the development, section 180 also provides that the planning authority must initiate taking in charge procedures if requested to do so by the owners of the units concerned. The decision as to whether an estate should be taken in charge is ultimately one for the elected members of the planning authority.

Section 180 was amended in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 to provide that a local authority may take in charge an unfinished estate, at the request of the owners of the housing units, at any time after the expiration of the planning permission, in situations where enforcement actions have commenced or where the local authority considers that enforcement action will not result in the satisfactory completion of the estate by the developer.

Contrary to certain misunderstandings that may exist, there is no specific legal impediment to the taking in charge of water services infrastructure by local authorities. The Water Services Acts 2013, which provided for the transfer of water services functions to Irish Water, did not alter the role of planning authorities in relation to planning legislation. The potential to streamline this process for the future is currently under review.

In Circular Letter PL 21/13, issued by my Department to planning authorities on 30 December 2013 in the light of the transfer of certain statutory water services functions from local authorities to Irish Water with effect from 1 January 2014, it was stated that legislative amendments to further clarify the existing provisions on the taking in charge of housing estates would be made in 2014.

In order to clarify the current up-to-date position with regard to the taking in charge of estates, my Department will shortly issue a further circular letter to planning authorities with a view to clearing up any misunderstandings that may exist in this regard.

My Department has no responsibility for, or role to play in, the day to day management, maintenance or operation of water or waste water infrastructure. However, it is aware of problems with some water services infrastructure that was provided by developers and which is not connected to the public network. My Department is currently considering what long-term solutions might be appropriate in such cases and is engaging with local authorities, including Cork County Council, regarding possible approaches to deal with these cases.


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