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 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status (Continued)
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Capitation Grants

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton] The design team had been in regular contact with Sammon since handing over the building in an attempt to get the snags resolved and the siteworks completed, but in spite of many promises from the contractor, particularly over recent months, no significant progress was forthcoming.

On 5 April 2018 Sammon entered into examinership and on 5 June the company was placed into liquidation. The Department then terminated the contract with Sammon Contracting under clause 12 of the public works contract.

There is a performance bond in place for this project and the Department has instructed the design team to liaise with the bondsman with the intention of calling on the bond to cover the costs of finishing out the works. The design team has been asked to produce a detailed scope of works which, as there is a live bond in place for this contract, can be used to request the bondsman to have the works completed without the need for a public tender process. This would be the quickest way of getting the works completed. If the bondsman is not prepared to complete the works then the design team will tender for a completion contractor to carry out the works and the remediation of the outstanding snags. Then the bill will be presented to the bondsman.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan The people in Gaelscoil Bharra were in unsuitable prefabs for over 20 years. They suffered from the usual prefab problems in that it was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. I wish to acknowledge the work of the principal and the staff in working and surviving in those conditions for over 20 years.

Some months ago I visited the new school. It is state of the art and the atmosphere is completely different. It is a wonderful school. It has wonderful premises and everything is going well there. The official opening was only a couple of weeks ago. It is really a shame that the outstanding works have been allowed to go on for so long. The danger with outstanding works is that if they are not addressed urgently, quickly and promptly then they drag on and on. That would be a shame for this wonderful school. Those involved have the building they had been waiting on for so long. They are at the mercy of something that had nothing to do with them. What can be done now to progress this and to see it remedied as a matter of urgency?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The outstanding works concern Naomh Fionnbarra, the adjoining GAA club. The approach is that the bondsman has a liability. The quickest way to get the works done is if the bondsman exercises the right to bring in contractors and completes the work. The alternative would be more bureaucratic. It would involve the Department tendering for the works. We would then get it done and present the bill to the bondsman. We are trying the quicker and less bureaucratic way to get this done. That is the approach we are taking. I have been contacted by a former Deputy who is chairman of the club in question and so I know the level of concern.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan It is a shame because the facilities outside with the GAA club are left idle during the summer. We have beautiful weather and they could be used by the community and youth projects. As the Minister is aware, the Department is committed to the use of school facilities outside school time. Is there anything else the Minister can do with the bondsman to hurry up the process? Can anything be done with the GAA club and the school so that the facilities can be in full use and so that this will not drag on after the summer?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton That is exactly what the design team is seeking to do. They are looking to do it in the quickest possible way. We await.

  Question No. 65 replied to with Written Answers.

Schools Building Projects Status

 66. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton to outline the steps taken since 22 May 2018 to move forward with the delivery of the new school building for a school (details supplied) in view of the fact that Fingal County Council has stated that it has advanced the site acquisition as far as it can; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [28858/18]

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly We agreed to forfeit the 30 seconds.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is aware, a project to deliver a new building for the school to which she refers is included in my Department's capital programme. As outlined previously, the site acquisition process in respect of this project proved to be extremely challenging. Although officials in my Department proposed an alternative and more expedient accommodation solution, the school authority stated a preference for the site acquisition process to proceed. The Department officials have, therefore, continued to engage with officials in the relevant local authority under the memorandum of understanding for the acquisition of school sites with a view to securing a site for the school.

I have previously outlined to the Deputy that my officials were working to clarify some technical aspects associated with the proposed development of the site. This assessment process has been completed and the outcome communicated to officials in the local authority. Engagement with the landowner is now under way with a view to finalising the terms of the acquisition and progressing matters as expeditiously as possible. Simultaneously, my officials are working to advance the project to planning stages and will be progressing this in tandem with the finalisation of the site acquisition.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly The problem is that we are at the end of the school term now. Parents, teachers and children are none the wiser about when this school will actually be developed. The school has been operating out of a converted farmhouse for years in wholly unsuitable circumstances.

The Minister's has told me virtually word-for-word what he told me on 6 June in a letter. We are one month on and I am still not any clearer on the position. When is the planning application going in? The Minister told me on 6 June that the development of the site assessment and the technical aspects would be sorted. He said that assuming no issues arose the project would proceed straight away to the terms of site acquisition. Is the Minister now saying that no issues have arisen? Is the site acquisition in the process of being finalised? When will the conveyancing process be dealt with by the solicitors? When will the planning application go in? When will parents and children find out when this project, which is planned, will actually begin to be delivered?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Since Deputy Daly last raised this question, the various technical issues which related to access and connections to services have been addressed. They were the challenges. The clarifications needed were provided. Those involved are satisfied that they can resolve the issues but the resolution will impact on the contracts and so on. That work is being undertaken now. No unnecessary delay is occurring. Those responsible are seeking to progress this but, obviously, before they can submit final planning documents they must have all the i's dotted and t's crossed. That is the reality.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly What the Minister is saying is that the technical issues have been identified and resolved and that these are not impediments to the project.

A second question then arises. The terms of the site acquisition can now be finalised. When is that likely? When will the conveyancing be completed? When will the planning application be put in? The Minister says there has been no unnecessary delay. That is fine on one level, but the parents and children have been in this school for well over ten years in most unsuitable circumstances and it has been an incredibly long wait for them. They need some concrete answers on when the nightmare will begin to end.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I am not a technical person but as I understand it the project requires various rights of way and wayleaves. Those responsible need to be satisfied that the proposed solution meets planning requirements in terms of whatever building standards are to be met. That involves certain infrastructure upgrades that have to be put in place. Certain links in the chain have to be put in place for this to be robust.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly How long is it likely to take?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton They cannot give a definitive timeframe. It is the nature of these things that, with the best will in the world, we cannot foresee everything. It may involve either getting wayleaves or satisfying planners that the standards are met by whatever is being proposed. None of these things is in the hands of the design team alone. They require a counterparty to sign up. Even with the best endeavours I cannot give timelines. All I can assure the Deputy of is that this is actively being pursued by the officials in my Department and the design team involved.

  Questions Nos. 67-69, inclusive replied to with Written Answers.

Capitation Grants

 70. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the adequacy of the school capitation grant will be reviewed in order to meet the running costs of schools, especially small, medium and DEIS schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29232/18]

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran My question is to ask the Minister to review the adequacy of the capitation grant, in particular for small and medium-sized schools in respect of the running costs they incur.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I thank Deputy Curran. I recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools, including DEIS schools, having regard to the reductions that were necessary over recent years.

Restoring of capitation funding as resources permit is one of the actions included in the Action Plan for Education and I remain committed to achieving this. However, I must be prudent in the context of ongoing budgetary pressures and prioritise where it is not possible to do everything that I would like to do.

As Deputy Curran is aware, I have made provision for 6,000 additional teachers, 3,000 extra special needs assistants and 3,000 new middle-management posts. These resources were allocated to improve the learning experience throughout the sector with a particular focus on children with special needs.

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