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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 172-181
 Header Item Housing Assistance Payments Implementation
 Header Item Community Development Initiatives
 Header Item Election Management System
 Header Item Housing Issues
 Header Item Water Services Provision
 Header Item Homeless Accommodation Funding
 Header Item Local Government Reform
 Header Item Housing Grant Payments
 Header Item Local Government Reform

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 77 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 172-181

Housing Assistance Payments Implementation

 172. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan in relation to the forthcoming Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill due to be published during the summer session, if tenancy rights will be extended to those who reside in hostels due to homelessness; the current legal situation for those who reside in temporary hostel accommodation; the residency rights they currently hold; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7342/14]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Government, on 17 December 2013, approved drafting of a Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill that will provide for the Housing Assistance Payments scheme; a new procedure for the repossession of local authority dwellings; a new tenant purchase scheme for existing local authority houses on the incremental purchase model and related matters. Drafting of the Bill is proceeding as a priority in my Department with a view to publication and enactment as soon as possible.  This Bill does not include provision to extend tenancy rights to those who reside in hostels due to homelessness.

  My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level.  Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities.  It is a matter for individual authorities to determine the level and category of accommodation to be included in their funding programmes. Emergency accommodation options may include hostel, bed and breakfast type accommodation and temporary supported arrangements.

  In February 2013, I published the Government’s Homelessness Policy Statement which emphasises a housing-led approach to homelessness.  This is about accessing permanent housing as the primary response to all forms of homelessness and it should reduce the amount of time spent in homeless services, in particular emergency accommodation.

Community Development Initiatives

 173. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will address the concerns of local development (partnership) companies in relation to the local and community development programme being implemented from 2015 and which is now subject to open tender; if the companies will have less influence on the delivery of programmes and the way they will be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7343/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan My Department intends implementing a successor Programme to the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP) in 2015. The Local Government Reform Act 2014 provides a legislative underpinning for the establishment of Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in 31 local authority areas and for the preparation and implementation of Local Economic and Community Plans. These committees will comprise stakeholders from local government, local development, State agencies and the community and voluntary sector, and they will focus on identifying the local and community development needs and priorities for their area. It is the intention that local development companies and other relevant stakeholders will input to the Local Economic and Community Plan and that the establishment of LCDCs in all local authority areas will be progressed in the coming months, with a tendering process for the new LCDP to follow thereafter.

The Programme will be overseen and managed by the LCDCs of the Local Authorities who will request tenders for its delivery in their areas. The competitive process will be open to Local Development Companies, other not-for-profit community groups in general and commercial firms that can provide the services to be tendered for, to deliver the new Programme. The new Programme will reflect the main findings of the LCDP Mid Term Review and ensure that it remains a locally accessible, frontline intervention for the people most difficult to reach in terms of preparation for employment.

Election Management System

 174. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding voting procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7349/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan In order to be able to vote at elections and referendums in this jurisdiction, a person's name must be entered in the register of electors for a constituency in the State in which the person ordinarily resides.

Postal voting is provided for in electoral law in respect of certain categories of person who are entered in the register of electors. The Electoral Act 1992 provides for postal voting by whole-time members of the Defence Forces, members of the Garda Síochána, and Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses or civil partners. Subsequent legislation enacted by the Oireachtas has extended postal voting to other categories: electors living at home who are unable to vote because of a physical illness or a physical disability (the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1996); electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day and full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State - in these cases, the law provides for completion of the necessary voting documentation at a Garda station (the Electoral Act 1997); certain election staff employed at the poll outside the constituency where they reside (the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001); and electors who because of the circumstances of their detention in prison pursuant to an order of a court are likely to be unable to go in person on polling day to vote (the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2006).

While electoral law is subject to ongoing review, I have no proposals at present to extend existing arrangements for postal voting.

Housing Issues

 175. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan when approval will issue to Monaghan County Council in respect of a housing project (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7353/14]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan My Department’s Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) provides funding to approved housing bodies of up to 100% of the approved costs of accommodation for people with specific categories of housing need, including people with a disability. My Department’s involvement with the CAS relates primarily to the provision of funds for individual projects. The detailed administration of the scheme, the certification that projects comply with the terms and conditions of the scheme and the processing of applications for funding are the responsibility of the relevant local authority, in this case Monaghan County Council.

In April 2013, my Department approved CAS funding of €900,000 for the provision of a group home for people with physical and sensory disabilities at Drummond Otra, Convent Lands, Carrickmacross. On 2 December 2013, Monaghan County Council submitted a tender report for the project showing a substantial increase in construction costs compared to the initial cost plan prepared by the Council and requesting approval for an all-in cost of €1.378 million. Considering that the cost has increased by over 50%, my Department requested a value-for-money appraisal of the project. This appraisal is now to hand and my Department’s Inspectorate is liaising with the Council’s technical staff with a view to identifying cost savings.

Water Services Provision

 176. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will provide an update on the east Meath, Drogheda and south Louth water supply scheme which was included in the Water Services Investment Plan 2007-2009; if he will provide an overview of the scheme including its stage of progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7369/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Following on from the completion of the Water Services Investment Programme 2007 – 2009, the 2010 – 2013 Programme provided for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in Counties Louth and Meath.   

  The 2010 – 2013 Programme aimed to prioritise projects that targeted environmental compliance issues and support economic and employment growth as envisaged at that juncture. A key input to the development of the Programme was the assessment of needs prepared by local authorities, including Louth and Meath County Councils, in response to my Department’s request to the authorities in 2009 to review and prioritise their proposals for new capital works in their areas. These were subsequently appraised in the Department in the context of the funds available and key criteria that complemented those used by the authorities. Inevitably, through this process, certain projects that had been proposed had to give way to others that were more strategically important at that time, as the total value of contracts and schemes proposed by local authorities exceeded the level of resources likely to be available in the period.

  The scope and format of the Programme for 2010 to 2013 was designed to better reflect ongoing environmental and economic priorities, to maximise the return on public funds being invested in the sector and to ensure that the Programme was realistic in its level of ambition.

  The contracts and schemes that did not rate sufficiently for inclusion in the Programme on that occasion were those which did not feature highly on public health grounds or other environmental compliance requirements and projects that were proposed simply for capacity expansion and which in the case of water supply could be deferred, in many cases, in favour of accelerated water conservation measures. The proposed East Meath, Drogheda and South Louth Water Supply Scheme fell into this latter category. I understand that, in the interim, the local authorities have not advanced the planning of the scheme.

  Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water is responsible for the delivery of water services capital infrastructure. It is currently preparing a Capital Investment Plan for 2014–2016 that will provide for the transition of projects included in the 2010-2013 Water Services Investment Programme.

Homeless Accommodation Funding

 177. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan further to Parliamentary Question No. 210 of 16 January 2014, if he will provide a breakdown of the total funding to include a full list of the organisations that received funding under section 10 of the Housing Act 1988 for the past five years; the amount of money Dublin City Council used from its own resources to deal with homelessness for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7400/14]

 179. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the way in which funding under section 10 of the Housing Act 1988 may be spent; if audits are carried out on the way this funding is spent; if any weaknesses have been identified in these audits over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7419/14]

 182. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan when is it envisaged that regional homeless forums will be advised of budgets for 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7463/14]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I propose to take Questions Nos. 177, 179 and 182 together.

  My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities. The purposes for which housing authorities may incur expenditure in addressing homelessness are prescribed in Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988.

  My Department does not fund any service directly but provides funding to housing authorities towards the operational costs of homeless accommodation and related services under Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988.

  Payments made by my Department under Section 10 generally equate to 90% of costs incurred by housing authorities and these authorities provide at least 10% of the cost of such services from their own resources.

  Housing authorities may incur additional expenditure on homeless related services which supplements funding by my Department and other agencies including the Health Service Executive.

  The bulk of Section 10 funding from my Department goes towards the costs incurred in the provision of accommodation services by the voluntary sector providers who have built up the services over the years. In addition, Section 10 funding is used to support day services such as drop-in centres and food services, as well as outreach services, settlement and tenancy sustainment services and the cost of local authority and voluntary sector staff.   

  The Section 10 funding provided by my Department to housing authorities on a regional basis for the years 2009 to 2013 is set out in the table.

Funding Provided under Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988

Region20092010201120122013
Dublin€38,967,542€40,521,375€35,732,525€32,398,290€31,322,223
South East€1,945,792€1,742,886€2,110,476€1,848,877€1,787,469
North East€1,197,451€1,037,617€912,250€910,194€879,963
Midlands€872,375€666,344€624,897€672,027€649,707
South West€5,458,211€4,270,143€3,505,749€4,418,967€4,272,197
Mid-West€4,110,166€3,435,607€2,905,457€3,516,119€3,399,336
West €2,175,312€1,699,288€1,227,696€1,581,478€1,528,951
Mid East€885,801€906,842€697,665€839,146€811,275
North West€444,206€423,355€406,335€360,865€348,879
Total€56,056,856€54,703,457€48,123,050€46,545,963€45,000,000


  In addition, details of the funding provided by my Department to organisations tackling the issue of homelessness under the Scheme to Support National Organisations for the years 2009 - 2013 are set out in the table.
-2009 - € 2010 - € 2011 - € 2012 - € 2013 - €
Simon Communities of Ireland 191,040 171,936 112,915 90,000 84,780


  The 2014 budget towards the operational costs of homeless accommodation and related services is €45 million. I will shortly allocate this funding to the 9 regions.

  With regard to auditing of expenditure incurred by local authorities, each local authority is required to prepare and publish a financial statement in respect of each financial year. These financial statements are audited by the Local Government Audit Service which provides an independent and professional public sector audit service to the Local Government sector.

Local Government Reform

 178. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the proposed new role for councillors and management in local authorities in view of his recent local government reforms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7412/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Action Programme for Effective Local Government - Putting People First , set out Government decisions for a range of local government reform measures, including matters covered in Chapter 11 to reinforce the primacy of the elected council within the local government system and to rebalance the role of the council in relation to the present position of county manager. Building on this, the Local Government Reform Act 2014 reinforces the primacy of the elected council within the local government system, and provides a legislative basis for a stronger and more explicit statutory expression of the powers of elected members and the duty of the Manager to comply with policy as set down by the elected members, together with measures to strengthen the capacity generally of the elected council to oversee the business of the authority.

  The Act also provides for the replacement of the traditional County/City Manager position by a new post of "Chief Executive". The change from manager to chief executive is an important aspect of clarifying, in a more modern sense, the appropriate roles of the executive in implementing the policy of the council, with the elected members acting as, in effect, the board of directors of the authority. In that context, elected members will have the power of decision over the appointment of the individual recommended by the Public Appointments Service for the chief executive post in their authority, while retaining the independence of the selection procedures of the Public Appointments Service.

  More importantly, the change to a chief executive post is accompanied by a range of significant provisions to give substance to the rebalancing of roles. For example, there are increased obligations on the chief executive to provide additional advice and assistance to elected members in the discharge of their roles at council and municipal district levels and in various committees. Chief executives will be obliged to have regard to the views of elected members while policy options are still in formation and will have to assist elected members in the development of new policies at an early stage of the policy formation process. Chief executives will also have to prepare monthly management reports for the elected members.

  The powers of the elected members in overseeing the implementation of policy by the chief executive are also being strengthened, including specific provision for oversight and superintendence of action taken pursuant to directions of the elected council. Where members are not satisfied with the chief executive's approach to implementation of their policy, they may request a report in which the chief executive must indicate what new or different actions may be pursued or other possible adjustment to the policy.

  The Local Government Reform Act also creates some important new reserved functions to be discharged by the elected members, including the adoption of integrated local economic and community development plans, and service delivery plans. The role of the elected members is also being strengthened in the context of the new system of municipal districts, including in the context of the draft local authority budgetary plan.

  The timing of the commencement of the various provisions outlined is currently being considered in the context of the timetable for commencement of provisions in the Act generally.

  Question No. 179 answered with Question No. 177.

Housing Grant Payments

 180. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will provide an update on Parliamentary Question No. 220 of 19 December 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7428/14]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I refer to the reply to Question No. 220 of 19 December 2013, which set out details with regard to the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability.

Last month, some changes to the terms and conditions of these schemes were notified to Local Authorities. These changes were made on foot of the report of a review group, established last year by my Department, to examine the terms and conditions governing the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability. Membership of the group included members of both the County and City Managers’ Association (CCMA), the Housing Practitioner Network, Local Authority housing personnel and my Department. Consultations were held with organisations working with older people and people with a disability. The aim of the review was to spread the benefits of the schemes as widely as possible and to ensure fairness and value for money in their operation.

There has been no change to the maximum grant available under the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability which remains at €30,000 or the Mobility Aids Grant which remains at €6,000. In the case of the Housing Aid for Older People, the maximum grant has been reduced from €10,500 to €8,000. The average grant paid under this scheme in 2011, 2012 and 2013 was €4,162, €4,106 and €3,995 respectively, well below the maximum available. The age limit for eligibility has been increased from 60 to 66 years. However, a lower age limit may apply at the discretion of the local authority in certain cases.

Changes have also been made with regard to the assessment of means of applicants. To bring it into line with the means assessment for applicants for social housing, all household member’s income, with certain exceptions, will be included in the assessment of means. The level of income beyond which no grant is payable has been reduced from €65,000 to €60,000. In the case of an applicant where a household member is aged under 65 there is no impact on grant eligibility. However, where appropriate their income will be taken into account in accessing household income.

I have increased the level of funding available for the grant schemes by 12% in 2014 to €38.4 million. Every local authority has increased funding for grants compared to the initial allocation in 2013. The detailed administration of these schemes, including the assessment, approval and payment of grants to applicants under the various grant measures, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

Dublin City Council’s overall allocation under the grant schemes for 2014 is €5,821,222.

Local Government Reform

 181. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his plan to have a directly elected mayor for Dublin; the anticipated role and function; the year in which a directly elected mayor will come into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7435/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Part 11 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 provides for a plebiscite on a directly elected mayor for the four Dublin local authorities within the Dublin Metropolitan Area to be held in conjunction with the local and European elections in May, should a resolution for the plebiscite be adopted by a majority of the total membership in each of the four local authorities concerned no later than 31 March 2014.

The Lord Mayor of the City of Dublin convened a forum representative of the members of Dublin City Council, and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin County Councils to consider the possible options for the future local governance arrangements for the Dublin Metropolitan Area including the establishment of an office of a directly elected mayor and the possible role and functions of such an office. This forum has recently submitted its report and statement, which I am currently examining. My role, should I be of the view that a resolution should be put to the four authorities, is to approve the statement accompanying the resolution setting out the advantages and disadvantages, costs and benefits, etc. of the proposal for the office of directly elected mayor developed by the elected local authority members from the four authorities in the forum to assist in ensuring the electorate has the necessary information when voting in the plebiscite.

If a plebiscite on the matter is held and a majority of the votes cast is in favour of the proposal, section 69 of the Act provides that within two years of the date of the plebiscite the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government shall submit to both Houses of the Oireachtas a report containing proposals for legislation to provide for the establishment of an office of directly elected mayor of an authority for the Dublin Metropolitan Area or containing a statement of the reasons for not making proposals to legislate on the matter.


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