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 Header Item Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Bill 2015: First Stage
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2015: Messages from Select Committees
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Rural Transport Services

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 868 No. 1

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Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Bill 2015: First Stage

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 to make provision whereby the current level of local property tax shall not be increased and the valuation date in relation to a relevant residential property shall not be changed unless otherwise determined by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

This Bill is necessary and should be supported to avoid an expected property tax time bomb. Under existing legislation, homeowners will be required to revalue their properties in May 2016. By then, as many Members know, some house prices in Dublin may have risen by up to 50%. This Bill would remove that strict evaluation date. At the time it was introduced Fianna Fáil stated it was extremely unfair and anti-urban. In the meantime, what many predicted has happened, namely, there has been a rise in property prices. The increase in an individual property band is up to €90. If this were applied to a 50% increase in the price of a house, it would mean an increase of €360 on some properties in Dublin and other larger cities.

  In response, the Government will claim that it did not expect the coffers to swell by anything near these figures in three years, despite the fact that much of what it had expected to derive from the water tax will not now materialise owing to the backlash against it. Will it consider the merits of this Bill and respond to its contents? Will it respond, sooner if necessary or if possible, to my contention that the Department's expected revenue accruing to the State from this source will be far in excess of what was initially predicted? With the best of intentions and goodwill, it was certainly not expected by the Government that it would see such increases in property prices. The reasons behind this are for discussion on another day in another debate. Despite the efforts of the Government with its homelessness strategy, spending €3 billion on housing provision and many other schemes which it announced with great fanfare, when one drills down into them, the meat on the bone is far from the reality painted at the time of their launch.

  The Government should take account of what is contained in this short and concise Bill to arrest the concerns people have even at this stage. Having survived the onslaught of the water charges debacle and the funds expected to be expended by households in that regard, many in urban centres, especially Dublin, face increases of up to €360 next year as a result of the property bands in the current legislation. Before responding publicly, will the Government consider the Bill’s contents, respond to it accordingly and agree with them?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is the Bill opposed?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny No.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Question put and agreed to.

Estimates for Public Services 2015: Messages from Select Committees

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Select Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimate for public services for the year ending 31 December 2015: Vote 32 - Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Topical Issue Debate

Rural Transport Services

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, for coming into the Chamber to discuss this issue.

In December 2013 the then Minister of State with responsibility for public transport, Deputy Alan Kelly, a representative of the predominantly rural constituency of Tipperary North, introduced an innovative and far-sighted scheme to allow rural communities with a dearth of public transport services to secure new hackney licences. Individuals in such areas who might be willing to provide a taxi service could be offered a hackney licence at a reasonable cost through a reasonably straightforward licensing process. Following this announcement, the then Minister of State devolved responsibility for the administration of the scheme to the National Transport Authority, NTA.

It has been my experience in the past year that the good and positive intent of the scheme has somehow been lost in the devolution process. The NTA seems to have erected many obstacles in the way of communities and individuals within them in securing the new rural hackney licences. An important element of the decision-making process for the licences was for the NTA and the applicant to seek the expert opinion of the local authority on whether a rural area was adequately serviced by public transport. So far, I have worked with three individuals in east Galway to secure rural hackney licences for three communities which are badly served by public transport. All three have failed and been told by the NTA that not now or at any point in the future will they be allowed to secure a rural hackney licence because, in the opinion of the authority, their areas are already adequately served by public transport or other taxi or hackney services.

If one puts in place a process to seek the expert opinion of a local authority and then ignores it, what is the NTA’s intention? Does it intend to fully support the provision of rural hackney licences? Does it intend to keep to the spirit of the scheme when first introduced by the then Minister of State? My experience to date is that this is not the case and that the NTA is not at all supportive of communities or individuals who wish to seek to establish new rural hackney services.

Will the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, and his colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, make it clear to the NTA that it is not administering the scheme in the way originally intended? Many communities across rural east Galway, as well as in other rural areas, are badly in need of such services, but they are not being allowed to avail of them.

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