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 Header Item Water Charges Introduction (Continued)
 Header Item National Spatial Strategy

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 839 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen] Despite the huge expense and great cost to the taxpayer of establishing the quango that is Irish Water, the bonus-driven culture that exists within it and the amount given to many consultants for expertise which we were led to believe was already within Bord Gáis but which actually was not, here we are again today being informed of more expenditure-----

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan It is not more expenditure.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen -----in a similar fashion to that which caused the debacle in January. Have we learned nothing during this sorry process over the past three years? We have learned doubly nothing since January. I am very disappointed and perturbed to hear today, four months after the debacle in January, that more funds are being expended on consultants in an effort to establish how they might set a charge on those properties which cannot be metered. It is truly amazing.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan If the Deputy wants to tell lies about what I said, he can do so.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I asked direct questions so the Minister might respond to them in writing.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan There is no need for further consultants to do this work. It is an in-house job involving Irish Water and the Department. This is what we will do. For the Deputy's information, we spent €12 million on consultants and not €85 million. One needs hardware and software to establish a new business.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen It most definitely was €85 million.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Outsourcing.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan If the Deputy wants to believe his own rhetoric, that is fine. We have already made savings of €120 million with regard to setting up the new entity compared to the traditional model of delivering water. We will have one entity rather than 34 local authorities. In time, people will see that the savings we make will be put into the provision of essential water supplies in a better capital programme. The Deputy can tell this to the people of Greystones in north Wicklow who are suffering today because of another inferior system failing in the Roundwood plant, which is in urgent need of investment. We will get on with borrowing money from the markets to double the level of investment and spend an enormous amount of money in the coming years on building up and sorting out a system in which Fianna Fáil under-invested. The Deputy is on record as being in favour of the proposal to establish a semi-State company-----

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen Not the quango that is Irish Water.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan -----and he is on record as being in favour of water charges, which I welcome.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I have no problem with the concept but the pipes have not been fixed yet.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley In Esker Hills and Oakleaf Place in Portlaoise and in parts of Portarlington, meters that were fitted in recent years are being ripped out. This includes the meter boxes, which turned out to be the wrong size to take the new meters being fitted now by Uisce Éireann. Is Minister aware of this?

Who will check the meter afterwards to see whether there are leaks and who will pay the cost of the leaks? In the Dublin area and other counties this cost will be picked up by the local authority.

Building control officers have done a good job to ensure the infrastructure in local authority estates being taken in charge is up to scratch. In the case of a new estate being taken in charge, will Uisce Éireann sign off on it? Will it be done through the local authority under the service level agreement or must it go through big bureaucracy in Dublin again? Will the Minister explain this?

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly The Minister made the point that in his opinion a charge on the basis of usage is the fairest way. Does he not think the fairest way is to treat water as a public service which should be funded by our central taxation system on a progressive basis, with people consuming it based on their needs? Is he aware of international studies which reveal that the impact of the installation of water meters on consumption is a reduction of approximately 10% and that an equivalent reduction could be achieved through an education programme? The only purpose of installing a meter is to isolate the individual household supply to tee it up for privatisation in future.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace The Minister keeps talking about the inferior system and blames the previous Government for doing nothing about it. Would it not have been better business for the Government to fix the leaks in the pipes before it put in meters? Surely it would have been a better business plan. When I put this to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, in 2012 he stated that the pipes would be fixed before meters were installed, but this is not what has happened.

A company is installing Irish Water meters. Does the Minister have any concerns that the subcontractors working for the main company pay their workers below the rate? Is it a concern for the State if it is employing a company which is in turn employing subcontractors whose workers are paid below the rate? Does the Minister have direct input to this?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan To answer the last question first, if Deputy Wallace can bring to my attention any specific examples in which subcontractors are not paying the proper rate I will be glad to investigate them.

It will require €10 billion over the next 12 years to repair the leaking system we have. There has been under-investment over the years. A total of €120 million will be spent between last year, this year and next year as part of the pipe rehabilitation network in places such as Roundwood and Ballymore Eustace, and we need to spend more to deal with the Victorian pipe network which has not been touched in the past 110 years.

To answer Deputy Daly, the minute meters have been installed in the group water sector and businesses there has been a 15% reduction in consumption. There is a demand-led solution and a supply-side solution. We have evidence of this. We do not have the evidence the Deputy mentioned.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly You do, actually.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan If Deputy Clare Daly wants to propose cutting budgets for housing, health, education or social protection to provide more capital funding for water, let her make this proposal. We have finite resources.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Tax a few multinationals.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Otherwise we will have to increase income tax on workers. Is this what the Deputy advocates?

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Maybe a few multinationals might pay a few bob.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Perhaps she advocates more taxes on the so-called working person whose side she is on, as she has clearly indicated over the years.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Those on six-figure salaries, yes.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The matters raised by Deputy Stanley are operational matters.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley That is a poor answer. Do not give me that.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan How does the Deputy expect me to know what is going on in Esker Hills? Ask Deputy Cowen - he lives nearer.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley They are ripping out new meters. I asked three questions.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I will not get involved in answering questions on operational matters in the House-----

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Who checks the meters?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan -----and the Deputy should not insult the intelligence of people by expecting me to know the answer. A first fix policy will be implemented by the Government-----

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Who checks the meters for leaks?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Deputy asked a question about this. Let me answer it. Under the capital programme we will examine introducing a first fix free policy with regard to the area between the boundary of the property and the house, because people should not have to pay for legacy issues such as leaks for which they had no direct responsibility. Protocols have been worked out between Irish Water and local authorities with regard to unfinished estates to ensure matters are not held up. There are a number of issues with unfinished estates, as my colleague will point out, with regard to receiverships, liquidations and legal issues, but with regard to water-----

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Who signs off on the water network in an estate? Is it Uisce Éireann or the local authority?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Irish Water and local authorities are working out a protocol, which will be resolved in the near future.

National Spatial Strategy

 10. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if a review of the national spatial strategy will be undertaken to reflect the different circumstances and challenges facing different regions; the timescale of such a review if one is planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19568/14]

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne Is it intended to review the national spatial strategy and, if so, what is the timescale?

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The 2002 national spatial strategy, NSS, was Ireland’s first national strategic spatial planning framework. It aimed to provide the spatial vision and principles to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development and population growth between regions through the co-ordinated development of nine gateway cities and towns and nine hub towns, together with complementary policies to activate the potential for lasting economic development in their hinterlands and wider regions.

  While the existing NSS remains in place, I and my colleague the Minister, Deputy Hogan, established in August 2013 a successor national spatial strategy scoping group, comprising three experts with extensive experience of spatial planning and economic and social development, to prepare a short scoping report on the development of a new national planning framework to replace the current NSS.

  I received the experts’ scoping report earlier this year and I intend to bring proposals to Government shortly on the road map to develop a new national planning framework that will take account, inter alia, of the significantly changed economic circumstances the country now faces with a view to contributing to sustainable national recovery. The new national planning framework is expected to be finalised by the end of 2015.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I thank the Minister of State for her reply. Did the old national spatial strategy work? Did it deliver what was planned? Galway is a gateway city and we have seen the importance of major cities as economic drivers for regions. The Galway hinterland includes Connemara and people who have traditionally worked in Galway city but live in a rural area. The importance of the gateway as an economic driver needs to be further developed. Foreign direct investors see Galway city as important with regard to a critical mass of population for employment of trained individuals.


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