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 Header Item Water Meters Installation (Continued)
 Header Item Dormant Accounts Fund Administration

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor] Otherwise, they may incur costs as a result of a leakage on council property, for example.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley I wish to be positive, as the Minister wants us all to be in a positive frame of mind today. If the Minister wants to stop water leaks and reduce costs, why has he not looked at district or block metering? I checked the price of this since I last discussed it with the Minister here. A district meter catering for 1,000 households costs between €3,000 and €4,000 to install. There is a computerised system going back to headquarters. Leaks are spotted within one minute and can be found within one hour with a detector. I have checked this with engineers who work in areas where such meters are installed. District metering works out at a cost of between €3 and €4 per household. Has the Minister looked at that?

On the question of the cost to the householder of Irish Water, the Minister says he does not know because that will be the responsibility of the regulator, which I accept. However, the Minister is being somewhat evasive on the issue. The figure can be obtained by adding the €330 million in capital to the €0.9 billion in current expenditure, which comes to €1.2 billion, and dividing that by the number of households, which is slightly below 1.3 million. I ask the Minister not to reply with lectures about charges in Northern Ireland. That is what the figure will be - I know what the total is, as does the Minister, without even having to take a calculator out of his pocket.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I am delighted to see that Deputy Stanley has done his sums.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley I always do.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I will certainly convey the Deputy's suggestion on block metering to those involved in the implementation of this programme. I am sure they have thought of it already but in case they have not, I will pass it on. The Deputy might be able to give them the benefit of his wisdom-----

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley The Minister did not know anything about it the last time I asked him.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I do not know everything.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley I have been asking the Minister about it for some time now.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I know Deputy Stanley has a lot of experience of these matters in Northern Ireland-----

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley And down here too.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I am learning from him all the time with regard to the charges and what they provide in terms of public services in Northern Ireland. I am also learning that he is against all of that in the Republic of Ireland. However, I will convey the positive suggestion he has made.

  I will not be in a position to micro-manage the metering programme.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Block metering costs €4 per household.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Please allow the Minister to speak.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I say to Deputy Stanley that if he has queries or suggestions about implementation, he should write to the managing director of Irish Water, Mr. John Tierney, who will be in a position to take them on board if appropriate. I say the same to Deputy Lawlor with regard to the surveying that is being carried out at the moment in each local authority area. Approximately 350,000 households are being surveyed, in co-operation with local authority staff, whom I thank. They are doing that work on behalf of Irish Water, which demonstrates the partnership approach being taken by Irish Water and local government. That partnership will continue for many years to come - perhaps for even longer than we think.

With regard to the turnover threshold of €400,000, I am not in a position to reduce that. It will be a matter for those who are under the threshold to liaise with others in the same business to see if they can reach it by combining their turnovers.

Dormant Accounts Fund Administration

 8. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the amount of money sanctioned from the Dormant Accounts Fund for projects in the past three years 2011, 2012 and 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28056/13]

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Under the dormant accounts legislation, balances in dormant accounts with banks, building societies and An Post and the net encashment value of certain life assurance policies are paid into the Dormant Accounts Fund, which is managed by the National Treasury Management Agency.

I know that Deputy Ó Cuív is familiar with this reply from a previous occasion, so I will cut to the chase. From its establishment in April 2003 to the end of April 2013, transfers to the Dormant Accounts Fund have totalled some €716 million, which includes interest earned of approximately €39 million. Funds reclaimed in that period by account holders amounted to around €257 million. Disbursements to a total value of €278 million have been approved, with €251 million already spent on projects designed to benefit the community over the same period. The amount of funding disbursed from the Dormant Accounts Fund by the National Treasury Management Agency for existing projects was €8.4 million in 2011, €4.16 million in 2012, and to date in 2013, just €37,556. However, I have allocated €6.385 million for dormant accounts measures this year, which includes €2.835 million to be used to support labour activation measures in local authorities in 2013.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I was wondering for a while there if the Minister was answering the question asked, because I did not ask for the history of the Dormant Accounts Fund.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I did not give the Deputy the history. I cut all of that out. I spared us all.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Minister could have cut all of it out.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I did cut it out.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív He did not.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Can we have a question for the Minister, please?

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Can the Minister tell me how much he approved for projects in 2011, 2012 and 2013? He gave me the 2013 figure of €6.385 million, but-----

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I gave the Deputy the figures.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Minister only gave me the disbursement figures for 2011 and 2012. I am asking how much was approved for projects in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The question was very specific and simple.

Further to that, would the Minister accept that he is sitting on a fund of almost €100 million, excluding the reserve, that was specifically taken from financial institutions to assist programmes tackling social and economic disadvantage, educational disadvantage and disabilities? By not allocating that money, the Minister effectively has his hand in the pockets of dormant account holders, because he is taking their money from the financial institutions but not giving it to the groups involved. He is actually robbing them of this money.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Due to decisions Deputy Ó Cuív made when he was a member of Government, it is part of the general Government debt, which has a ceiling set by the EU, the IMF and ECB. It is counted as part of our national debt and we cannot breach the ceiling because of the activities of Deputy Ó Cuív's party when in government. Unfortunately, for accounting purposes, as the Deputy well knows, it is deemed to be a liability on the State.

I have actually disbursed the moneys that I spoke about in my reply. I have approved and disbursed those funds. All of the money was spent - a total of €8.4 million in 2011 and €4.16 million in 2012 - including in five areas to which Deputy Ó Cuív promised to extend dormant accounts funding when he was in power, although he did not allocate any money to them. I allocated the money, unlike Deputy Ó Cuív. I have allocated an even higher figure for this year, of €6.385 million.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The allocations, of approximately €8 million, €4 million and €6 million, total €18 million over three years. I am glad the Minister raised the issue of the general Government balance because when the Bill was going through the House and in parliamentary questions since its passage, I asked him whether he intended to change the law so that there would not be a liability on the State for all of this money. This year, again, the money coming in exceeds the disbursements. I ask again, therefore, if it is the Minister's intention to free up this money by making a simple change to the law. Such a change would provide that only the reserves and the money coming in are a liability for the State and that all of the other moneys, back to the point at which the dormant accounts process started, would not continue to be a liability for the Exchequer. If the Minister made that simple change, he would be able to free up €100 million.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis The Dormant Accounts Fund has been very good to many areas of the country, including my own. The Minister made reference to the fact that the Dormant Accounts Fund comprises a number of different accounts. Are prize bonds included at all? I know there are countless bonds sitting in drawers and elsewhere for many years. Nobody seems to know what is happening in this regard and there is no paper trail, as such, for many of the bonds. Has that ever been examined in terms of a potential source of funding or is there some legal impediment involved?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I am not sure about prize bonds, but I will check that out for the Deputy. If there is a pot of gold there, I would be glad to avail of it. However, on the Dormant Accounts Fund, it is not a simple matter of €100 million being available, as Deputy Ó Cuív is trying to imply. I can assure all Deputies that if €100 million were available to me, I would be spending it.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Minister can make it available.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I cannot make it available and the Deputy knows that.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív He can make it available.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Deputy knows that better than most, given the time he spent in government. He knows it must have the approval of the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, but he chooses to ignore that now that he is in opposition. This is not unusual for Deputy Ó Cuív. He has changed his mind on many issues in opposition.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I know exactly what I would do.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan It cannot be done without the approval of the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It is counted as part of the general Government debt and I am not in a position to amend that.


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