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 Header Item Cabinet Committee Meetings (Continued)
 Header Item Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil
 Header Item Teachtaireacht ón Seanad - Message from Seanad
 Header Item Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 4

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] ------is that if we do not increase tax credits every year either in line with inflation or wages-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We never did.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----if we do not widen tax bands every year, whether it is indexed to inflation or wages, we end up having more people paying more tax. That is why it is the right thing to do to increase tax credits every year. That is why it is the right thing to do to widen the index bands.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton For the 25% who are on the higher rate.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar People are being quite contradictory in what they are saying-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin What they are saying is what the ESRI says.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----in that if we want to avoid a situation whereby people end up worse off on this index we must increase tax credits every year and we must widen the tax bands.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton For the top 25%.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Parties that oppose that policy, which is my party's policy, are actually the ones that want to make people worse off.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It is the pensioners who will be worse off.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith The Taoiseach did not answer my question on the height restrictions and NAMA.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Nor mine.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I have run out of time. I am happy to add more time.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We have one minute left and I think we will have to move on.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith Can we take that minute to answer the question on the height restrictions and NAMA?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Yes, that is fair enough.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am answering the questions one by one.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Keep going, then.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Answer that one. There is one minute left.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Yes, the height restrictions.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Taoiseach has one minute to conclude. We are not going on to question No. 11.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar If there had been fewer interruptions while I was answering I would have been able to answer more questions. I do not interrupt the questions.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher There should be no inviting of interruptions either.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald The Taoiseach is never one to interrupt.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary This is not the "Late Late Show".

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I do not interrupt the questions ever but my answers are constantly interrupted. I do want to-----

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Ryan Tubridy was a lot easier.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher There are 50 seconds left. We will move on. Question No. 11 in the name of Deputy Michael Moynihan will be dealt with first the next time Taoiseach's Questions are being answered.

Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputies Declan Breathnach and Pat Casey - to discuss the IceCast road weather system used by local authorities for warnings to treat the road network; (2) Deputy John Lahart - to ensure the implementation of Operation Open City all year round to tackle the year-round traffic congestion in Dublin city; (3) Deputy Mick Wallace - to discuss suicide prevention resources for children and adolescents in County Wexford; (4) Deputy John Brassil - to provide funding for the development of disability services in counties Cork and Kerry; (5) Deputy Brendan Smith - the urgent need to provide additional services and to improve without further delay the provision of respite services in Cavan-Monaghan for persons with disabilities; (6) Deputy John Curran - the need to address funding issues for drug and alcohol task forces; (7) Deputy Clare Daly - to discuss overcrowding and the use of mattresses on floors as sleeping accommodation in the State’s prisons; (8) Deputy Mattie McGrath - to address the challenges facing community employment scheme operators in light of increased eligibility restrictions; (9) Deputy Brian Stanley - to outline the current issues with designating data controllers in regard to CCTV systems; (10) Deputy James Browne - to address the need to upgrade Rosslare Europort to make it ready for a no-deal Brexit; (11) Deputies Catherine Connolly and Éamon Ó Cuív - to address the imminent closure of Galway Autism Partnership due to a lack of financial support from the HSE; (12) Deputy Martin Ferris - to discuss the proposed closure of the draft salmon fishery on the River Feale in Kerry; (13) Deputy Louise O'Reilly - to discuss the provision of home support in Fingal; (14) Deputy Gino Kenny - to address the statistics of the Simon Communities on persons seeking help from their services; (15) Deputy Jackie Cahill - to address the recent tax ceiling of €70,000 imposed on the transfer of agricultural land to qualified young farmers; and (16) Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett - to address new planning guidelines with regard to building heights.

Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I wish to announce for the information of the House that the Business Committee has consulted on the change agreed earlier on the Order of Business relating to tomorrow's Taoiseach's oral questions, and has agreed to the change. Accordingly, Taoiseach's oral questions will not now be taken tomorrow.

Teachtaireacht ón Seanad - Message from Seanad

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Seanad Éireann has passed the Finance Bill 2018, without recommendation.

Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed)

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Departmental Expenditure

 33. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the amount of funding allocated by his Department for current and capital expenditure in 2018 including the capital carry-over from 2017; the amount spent under each category to date in 2018; his plans to ensure full expenditure of funds available by the end of 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52192/18]

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary Let battle commence. I am trying to get my head around the funding model of the Minister's Department and the constant underspend in capital. I know it is drawdown but the fact is there is still 30% of the budget unspent after 11 months of the year. What are the Minister's plans to deal with that and to ease the system whereby money is drawn down from his Department?

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Deputy Calleary on his recent appointment. I am delighted to see him opposite me. It is well deserved and it is a great honour that I have the deputy leader of Fianna Fáil as my spokesperson. I am very pleased to have him and welcome him.

The revised Estimates for 2018 in respect of the Department of Rural and Community Development set out gross capital expenditure of €87.5 million and current expenditure of €144 million for the Department. The capital expenditure is supplemented by €7.7 million capital which was carried forward from 2017.

As of 7 December 2018, €73.7 million of my Department's capital allocation and €135.4 million of the current allocation has been spent. There remains €21.5 million in capital expenditure and €8.6 million in current expenditure to be spent before the end of the year.

Close monitoring of expenditure is a matter of significant priority for my Department so as to ensure full use of our allocated resources and that value for money is delivered in respect of all our funding. I have already identified areas where some capital programmes are unlikely to spend their full allocation this year. For example, while LEADER activity is ramping up and a healthy pipeline of projects has been approved, the programme will not require its full allocation this year.

I have been proactive in reallocating resources where possible. For example, I have already expanded the community enhancement programme this year, increased investment in libraries, and provided additional support to fund the local improvement schemes, LIS. I have also supported the development of Coillte trails, Tidy Towns, agricultural shows and men's shed organisations.

The progress being made with regard to payments is clear. Almost €35 million in capital expenditure was paid out in October and November. I will continue to closely monitor expenditure over the final weeks of this year to ensure our resources are fully used, delivering for all communities and for rural Ireland.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary I thank the Minister for his good wishes. Both of us share an interest in and a passion for this area and I look forward to working with him. There is €21 million in capital to be spent between now and the end of the year in three weeks' time, and €8.6 million in current expenditure. Is the Minister confident that he will spend that €21 million, particularly in capital? I suspect he will spend the allocation in current expenditure. Can he give a guarantee that if it is not spent, it will go into his Department's budget next year as opposed to going back into the central Exchequer? Are there programmes into which the Minister intends to divert extra cash over the next two weeks or maybe when the House is in recess? Can he give us an indication of what those programmes are?

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring All available allocations will be spent on my capital. I will guarantee the Deputy that. As I said in my reply, almost €35 million in capital was allocated in October and November. The Deputy is quite correct that I have reallocated resources required to the senior alert scheme, libraries and the LIS scheme. I have reallocated money to that already and am confident that my capital budget will be spent at the end of this year. I can assure the Deputy in that regard. I know he spoke about last year. We have to remember that this Department is 16 months in existence. I want to take the opportunity to put on record that the Department had two moves. The Department was set up in July of last year and I am very proud of the hard work done by my officials, my new Secretary General, my assistant secretaries and all my staff, both in Ballina and in Dublin. I want to compliment the staff on the work they have put into setting up this Department - I am very proud of them. I would go so far as to say it is a Department that should be kept for the future. There is a fantastic team there now. I have no doubt and can assure the Deputy that I will have my capital allocation spent by the end of this year. A colleague of the Deputy's used to have a lot of sleepless nights about underspend. The Deputy should go back over his record; it is no wonder he had sleepless nights.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary I am very proud of the Department as well. I am very proud of the fact that my party proposed that it be established. I am delighted we gave the Minister a job. I am proud, too, of the fact that it is in Ballina. That is an example of how decentralisation works. The people who are on the ground, top class civil servants, who are living these programmes are delivering them. Long may it continue and let us encourage more of it. The Minister has made commitments on expenditure but will the groups be in a position to draw them down? Allocations are certainly made but the drawdown across many of the Department's programmes for whatever reason seems to be complicated and difficult. Is the Minster 100% confident that the money will not be just allocated but completely drawn down before the end of the year?

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring What I will guarantee the Deputy is that my capital allocation will be spent for this year. He asked a question. There is funding outstanding to different groups that they will not be able to spend but we have taken that into consideration. My capital budget will be spent this year. Anything that is not spent I have already reallocated in respect of LIS. The Deputy knows how important that is to our own constituents and to every other constituency in the country. I am proud also that we put in place the senior alert scheme; thousands upon thousands of people now feel safe in their homes because I have reallocated money for that. I am confident that my available allocation for 2018 will be spent and I assure the Deputy that when he puts down this question again in the new year, I will have my capital allocation spent.


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