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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 304-319
 Header Item Public Services Provision
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item EU Directives
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Provision
 Header Item Property Taxation Application
 Header Item Property Management Company Issues
 Header Item Local Government Structures
 Header Item Electoral Boundary Changes
 Header Item Homelessness Strategy
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Property Management Company Issues
 Header Item Gangland Killings

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 304-319

Public Services Provision

 304. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan further to Parliamentary Question No. 237 of 4 December 2012, if he will provide a list of all new services across his Department that have been tested for external service delivery since March 2011. [55430/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan My Department has not provided any such new services during the period in question. My Department is committed to the implementation of the action in the Public Service Reform Plan, agreed by Government in November 2011, to evaluate the opportunity for the external delivery of some non-core public services.

Departmental Expenditure

 305. 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 he will outline the reasons behind the capital underspend in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55528/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan My Department is responsible for a wide range of programmes, including in the areas of housing, water services, environmental protection, local government services, and community and rural development.

The Revised Estimates for Public Services 2012, published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in February 2012, detail gross expenditure of €467 million on the current side of the Vote and gross capital expenditure (including carryover) of €895 million in respect of my Department in 2012.

Current spending in 2012 is running close to the profile established at the start of the year. Capital spending is behind profile; this is due primarily to fewer new water services contracts than had been expected commencing in 2012 and to slower than anticipated drawdown of housing expenditure by local authorities. I expect significant further drawdown of expenditure to take place by end 2012.

Consideration will be given, in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to the appropriate use of any potential savings arising on the Vote. In this regard, the Estimates for Public Services 2013  published as part of Budget 2013 provide for carryover of €43 million of capital funding from 2012 for use on my Department’s programmes in the housing, environmental, local government and community areas.

EU Directives

 306. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if Directive 85/337/EEC as amended, EIA Directive, has been fully transposed into Irish legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55556/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive), as amended by Directives 97/11/EC, 2003/35/EC and 2009/31/EC, has been transposed into Irish law primarily by means of the European Communities (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 1989 to 1999, and they have also been incorporated more generally into various consent legislation.

In March 2011, the Court of Justice of the European Union found against Ireland in Case C-50/09 to the effect that Ireland had not fully or correctly transposed elements of the EIA Directive, as amended. As I indicated in the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 469 of 28 February 2012, which detailed the measures being taken to rectify matters in this case, sections 53 and 54 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 directly transpose Article 3 of the EIA Directive into Irish planning legislation.

Furthermore, acknowledging the wider applicability of Article 3 to the entirety of operative consent systems provided for in Irish law, amending regulations pursuant to the European Communities Act 1972 have been introduced by the relevant Departments in the development areas of aquaculture, arterial drainage, flood risk, foreshore, forestry, gas, petroleum and planning.

Accordingly, I am satisfied that the EIA Directive, as amended, has now been fully and properly transposed into Irish legislation.

  Question No. 307 answered with Question No. 287.

Local Authority Housing Provision

 308. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if his Department is dealing with a funding application for South Dublin County Council to allow the authority purchase an apartment block on Cookstown Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55596/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan In July 2012 my Department approved the purchase by South Dublin County Council of seven apartments in a 45-unit development at Cookstown Road, Tallaght. The Council subsequently advised that it would not be possible to proceed with the acquisition of these properties and requested my Department's approval for a revised proposal to acquire housing units at an alternative location. This was agreed. There are no further proposals with my Department for the purchase of apartments at this location.

Property Taxation Application

 309. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will ensure that an estate (details supplied) in County Westmeath falls under the correct category 3 or 4 when considering estates to be exempt from the property tax. The estate came under category 1 when the areas for exemption were calculated for payment of household charge, even though it is an estate that is clearly unfinished and unsafe; if he will ensure that this estate is correctly labelled and granted an exemption from this pending tax.  [55631/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, published by my Department in October 2011, local authorities provided details of all unfinished housing developments in their areas. Unfinished housing developments were divided into four categories as follows:   

Category one, where the development is still being actively completed by the developer, or where no serious public safety issues exist;

Category two, where a receiver has been appointed;

Category three, where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and   

Category four, where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.

Other relevant factors for the purposes of the categorisation process included, inter alia :

the state of completion of roads, footpaths, public lighting, piped water and sewerage facilities and open spaces or similar amenities within the development;   

the extent to which the development complies with the terms of applicable planning permission;   

the extent to which it complies with the provisions of the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007;   

the provisions of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964 as they pertain to dangerous places and dangerous structures within the meaning of the Act;   

the extent to which facilities within the development have been taken in charge by the local authority concerned; and   

where there is an agreement regarding the maintenance of such facilities, the extent to which this agreement has been complied with.

This categorisation formed the basis for the list of those unfinished developments eligible for a waiver on the annual household charge. Only households in developments in categories three and four are eligible for the waiver from payment of the household charge. The list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012.   

In the context of Budget 2013, the Government announced the introduction of a local property tax which will replace the annual household charge. It was also decided that certain exemptions will apply; a prescribed list of unfinished estates, subject to certain criteria and identified as part of the National Housing Development Survey 2012, which will be exempted from the property tax for 2013 in accordance with the Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012, will be prepared.

Property Management Company Issues

 310. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if his attention has been drawn to any conflict between guidelines issued by his Department in 2006 Circular Letter PD 5/06 of 5 July 2006 regarding the establishment of management companies in multi-unit developments and the text of the Multi-Unit Development Act, 2010 which defines multi-unit developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55637/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan My Department is not aware of any such conflict. The Multi-Unit Developments Act, 2011 falls under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Local Government Structures

 311. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the consideration he has given to the increased costs of additional council seats in the four Dublin local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55642/12]

 312. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will justify his proposal to increase the number of council seats in any of the four Dublin local authorities on grounds other than population ratio; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55643/12]

 313. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will outline the increased costs of administering additional members of the four Dublin local authorities on the basis of the terms of reference issued to the Local Election Boundary Committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55644/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 311, 312 and 313 together.   

I announced the establishment of an independent Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee on 15 November 2012. An objective in reviewing electoral areas is to achieve a better balance and consistency in representation ratios and, logically, there is a strong case for reducing the degree of representational imbalance currently in the Dublin authorities. The terms of reference for Committee specify, therefore, that the number of members in Dublin City Council shall be fixed at 63 and in every other council, other than Cork County Council, shall be subject to a minimum of 18 and a maximum of 40 members.       

In this context, I am conscious that any decrease in the population to member ratio as a result of rebalancing of representation, will have implications for the size of some councils and the associated efficiency and cost. Nonetheless, I am satisfied that the substantial reduction in council seats country wide together with the implementation of changes to structures, functions and funding and the pursuit of operational and organisational efficiency measures, including a revised financial support framework for councillors, will result in a local government system that delivers a wide range of functions and services more efficiently and effectively.   

In relation to the cost of additional council seats, the Action Programme for Effective Local Government - Putting People First, proposes that the structures for, and levels of, all payments to councillors will be reviewed, while having regard to the reformed sub-county structure and regional governance and the need to ensure sufficient incentive for high-quality representation of the community.  Currently it is estimated that payments to councillors in the Dublin local authorities amount to approximately €26,000 per annum.

Electoral Boundary Changes

 314. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the date on which the electoral boundary changes proposed for the new Dáil constituencies will be enacted into law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55645/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Bill 2012 was published on 5 October 2012. Debate on the Bill commenced in the Dáil on 20 November 2012. The constituencies specified in the Bill would come into effect upon the dissolution of the Dáil occurring next after the enactment of the Bill.   

  Question No. 315 answered with Question No. 298.

Homelessness Strategy

 316. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan when his policy statement on homelessness will be published and if it will focus upon a housing led approach to deal with this important issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55663/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Programme for Government committed to reviewing the homeless strategy, The Way Home: A Strategy to Address Adult Homelessness in Ireland 2008-2013 and to implementing a housing led approach to homelessness. Work on the review is almost complete and I intend to issue a policy statement on homelessness shortly. That statement will take account of demands on existing housing, and will assess how best to continue providing services in a manner consistent with the elimination of existing homelessness and to ensure more effective prevention strategies. I will be indicating what I expect from housing authorities and other stakeholders in accelerating progress towards realising the ambition of eliminating involuntary long-term homelessness.

Proposed Legislation

 317. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if there is provision being made under the Mental Capacity Bill to take account of the nomination form as per section 21 of the 1997 Credit Union Act. [55160/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Bill, which is being finalised with a view to publication early in the New Year, will include extensive provisions with respect to the management of the financial affairs of a person whose decision-making capacity is impaired. It is envisaged that the financial arrangements referred to by the Deputy will fall within the scope of these provisions.

Property Management Company Issues

 318. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will clarify under existing legislation the precise circumstances under which a management company may be formed in multi-unit developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55636/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The position is that section 3 of the Multi-Unit Development Act 2011, which came into effect on 1 April 2011, provides that a residential unit in a new multi-unit development, i.e. a development in which no such unit had been sold prior to 1 April 2011, may not be sold unless an owners' management company (OMC) has been established at the expense of the developer concerned and ownership of the relevant parts of the common areas has been transferred to the OMC.

Under the 2011 Act, an OMC is a company established under the Companies Acts for the purpose of becoming the owner of the common areas of a multi-unit development and for managing and maintaining such areas. The membership of the OMC comprises the owners of residential units in the development.

While section 3 of the 2011 Act does not apply to multi-unit developments in which residential units had been sold prior to 1 April 2011, the factual position is that the most of these developments have OMCs in place and they are subject to the Act's provisions in relation to the holding of annual meetings, reporting requirements, the fixing of annual charges and the establishment of a sinking fund.

Gangland Killings

 319. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the steps he has taken to tackle the increase in gangland murders over the past number of months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55544/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I share the widespread outrage at the type of criminality to which the Deputy refers. The brutal nature of these crimes is a stark reminder to us of the mentality of those involved in organised criminality and the danger which they pose to our society.

I am in ongoing contact with the Garda Commissioner about all aspects of serious crime and the Gardaí will continue to bear down heavily on the activities of those involved in gangland crime. The only effective way to combat organised crime is by disrupting and prosecuting those involved in its operations, and especially the drugs trade which is at the heart of much of its profits. There have been extensive Garda operations launched against gangs as well as significant drug seizures in recent months and weeks with drugs seizures estimated at €90.4m for the first nine months of this year.

We shouldn't underestimate the difficulties the Gardaí face in trying to prevent gangland killings and related crimes and in bringing the perpetrators to justice. These crimes are carefully planned and are carried out by people who are very familiar with criminal and forensic investigation techniques. Moreover, despite the clear risk to themselves, members of gangs will not generally cooperate with Garda investigations.

It would be wrong to characterise this as a budgetary matter. There has been gangland violence for some time in Ireland, and the number of murders was in fact higher when Garda numbers were higher than they are now. It is also unrealistic to expect that the Commissioner would devote his entire resources, to individually protecting people who are routinely trying to avoid the Gardaí so that they can continue to engage in criminal activity. Such an approach could only come at the expense of ordinary Garda activity to protect the community generally. We should also remember that week in week out the Gardaí are successfully bringing people involved in gangland activities before the Courts, securing convictions and that a substantial number are presently serving their sentences in prison.

There is already very strong anti-gangland legislation in place. As Minister I will continue to pursue important improvements to our overall legislative architecture. In this regard, the legislative priority for combating crime is the publication and enactment of a new Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill. This Bill represents a major step forward in the fight against serious crime. It will lead to the establishment, for the first time, of a national DNA database in Ireland. It will give the Gardaí access to intelligence on a scale and of a quality that was not previously been available in this country.

Finally I have made it clear to the Garda Commissioner that if he feels there are other measures which might be taken in this area I will look at that very positively.


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