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 Header Item Rental Accommodation Scheme Administration (Continued)
 Header Item Other Questions
 Header Item Water Meters Installation

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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  3 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis] In several instances across the country they have not done so. In an incident in Bray, tenants barricaded themselves into the local council because they had to go into homeless accommodation due to the removal of the rental accommodation scheme tenancy. Their children are being forced into homelessness and it is unacceptable. That is not what this was about, according to the rules laid down. We are seeing this more and more. Landlords are using the excuse that they must sell their houses. The rules are too lax and we are allowing them off the hook too easily.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan There have been difficulties where, for various reasons, the rental accommodation scheme landlords end tenancies. There are various conditions under which landlords can end tenancies. Then, the local authority works with the tenants to try to find suitable accommodation. Ultimately, the local authority has the responsibility and if it cannot find an alternative in the area where a person or family wants to live, there may be cases where people are offered accommodation they consider unsuitable. However, the local authority has an obligation to offer something.

The rental accommodation scheme tenant has the protection of the Residential Tenancies Act and is entitled to the normal notice period required in any private residential tenancy. It presents difficulties where there are supply issues, particularly in areas of high demand and where it is difficult to find suitable accommodation. Although I am aware of the case to which Deputy Ellis refers, I cannot comment on individual cases. My Department will provide any assistance it can but, ultimately, the local authority must fulfil its obligations in so far as it can and meet the requirements of the tenants.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis It is unacceptable that some contracts are for three and four years but landlords are saying properties must be sold six months into the contracts because the banks are forcing them to do so. Under the forthcoming insolvency system, I can see this increasing because banks are putting more and more pressure on landlords to meet their obligations. The families pay the price and it is unacceptable.

In one case, ten people are in a hotel because they cannot receive rent supplement. It is totally unacceptable. It is difficult to get rent supplement for ten people but setting a level of €950 for ten people allows no flexibility in terms of the number of people. If they are going for a three-bedroom house, they are entitled to €950, irrespective of whether there are three or ten people. Even that would not be sufficient to deal with the problem. There are major problems and when the local authority takes over the role, the problems may get bigger because we are not building enough social housing. We need to bring these people into more permanent housing. In the recent past, the Minister of State said she was looking at the matter of more social housing. I would welcome that.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan We must try to address people's needs in the various ways available to us. As soon as we can do so, that will include the direct provision of more local authority houses. Deputy Ellis had raised this case with me at a meeting of the committee. The Minister for Social Protection recently announced revised caps, which in the case of the Dublin area are an improvement on the current situation. There are different rules for different types of housing, whether it concerns rent supplement or the rental accommodation scheme. That is why we are working towards having a system whereby people with a housing need, apart from short-term needs, are catered for under the local authority system. Then, we will get rationalisation. There is a supply problem partly as a result of the fact that, despite the Celtic tiger era, waiting lists increased consistently over a number of years and are now very high. We must address that in whatever way we can.

Other Questions

Water Meters Installation

 6. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the schedule for the installation of water meters in the different local authority areas. [28077/13]

 7. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number of sub-contractors that have been appointed to implement water metering roll-out; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [27988/13]

 17. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if his Department has estimated the cost of fixing leakages that may be discovered in the course of the installation of water meters; and who will bear the cost of paying for the fixing of these leakages. [28078/13]

 30. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the estimated number of jobs from the roll-out of water metering; the estimated length of employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [27990/13]

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 7, 17 and 30 together.

The programme for Government and the memorandum of understanding with the EU, the IMF and the ECB both provide for the introduction of domestic water charges. The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and has decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. The Government has also decided that Irish Water, a new State-owned water company to be established as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group, will be responsible for the metering programme. The Water Services Act 2013 provided for the establishment of Irish Water. The Act assigns the necessary powers to allow Irish Water to undertake the metering programme. The installation of meter boxes and domestic water meters is scheduled to commence in July 2013 and will be rolled out nationally as quickly as possible thereafter.

The procurement process for the metering programme, which is being managed by Irish Water, is at an advanced stage. The criteria for the procurement process were developed by my Department, in consultation with Bord Gáis Éireann, to ensure SMEs have an opportunity to compete for contracts. No subcontractors have yet been appointed to implement the national water metering programme but tendering for acceptance onto a panel of subcontractors established by my Department remains open until the end of this month. Some 158 eligible subcontractors have already been accepted onto the panel. Regional management contractors, to be recruited by Irish Water through public tendering procedures, are due to be selected later this month. These contractors will have responsibility for appointing subcontractors and it is expected they will be utilising the resources of the subcontractors from the pre-qualified panel created by my Department.

I expect 1,600 jobs will be sustained through the national metering programme. The contracts for the installation programme have been prepared to ensure that 25% of the jobs generated will be for people from small businesses, the unemployment register, school leavers, graduates and apprentices. These jobs will be sustained over a two to three year period while the installation programme is being rolled out.

Irish Water recently announced that it has awarded a contract to Cork-based company Abtran to set up and run a customer support call centre for the service. The call centre will employ up to 100 people initially to support roll-out of the national metering programme, with 400 jobs to be created by the end of 2014.

Measures to address leakage will be complementary to the water metering programme. The Department, in consultation with Irish Water, is developing proposals for customer side leaks detected as a result of the metering programme. With regard to water mains rehabilitation, significant investment has been made in recent years in water management systems and active leakage control has provided the platform for more intensive water mains repair and replacement contracts under the current water services investment programme. Over €247 million has been spent on water conservation projects in total over the past decade, with €39.9 million spent in 2011 and a further €39.25 million in 2012.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins What is the anticipated cost of the water metering programme nationwide? A figure of hundreds of millions of euro has been mooted. I call on the Minister to agree that the drive for water meters at people's homes is a misapplication of those funds. It is incredible that, when 50% to 60% of water treated by taxpayers' funds is leaking into the grounds in many local authorities, the Minister does not apply the funds at that point to amplify the inadequate spending on rehabilitation. Is it not obvious where the funds should go? Is it not obvious the Minister could create thousands of jobs in construction and plumbing for a fruitful outcome rather than what he is undertaking?

Is it not clear the Government's agenda is not primarily conservation but the establishment of yet another local tax? Along with property tax, water charges will increase to over €1,000 per household, an intolerable burden for many families. I call on the Minister to change policy in this regard.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Deputy Joe Higgins prefers to pick figures off the top of his head. The sum of €1,000 per family is way off the mark and he knows it. People are paying, through their taxes, for the treatment of good quality water at a cost of €1 billion. It comes from ordinary working people, as Deputy Joe Higgins call them. They are already paying through their taxes. I am not in a position to tell Deputy Higgins what funds will be made available to the water metering programme because we are in the final stages of a tendering programme for regional contracts, which will roll out the metering programme to 1.1 million households.

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