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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 151 - 171
 Header Item Budget Measures
 Header Item Referendum Data
 Header Item Garda Station Closures
 Header Item Community Sector High Level Forum
 Header Item Garda Station Closures
 Header Item Flood Prevention Measures
 Header Item Flood Risk Assessments
 Header Item Criminal Assets Bureau
 Header Item State Properties Data
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Expenditure
 Header Item Office of the Ombudsman Data
 Header Item Community Sector High Level Forum
 Header Item Third Level Funding
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 151 - 171

Budget Measures

 151. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the qualifying requirements for employees who will avail of the key employee engagement programme, KEEP; the qualifying requirements for a company availing of KEEP; when he expects state aid approval from the European Commission; if the Commission has provided preliminary approval of the scheme; if he anticipates issues from the European Commission relating to state aid rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [44060/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe As part of an ongoing process to support entrepreneurship and start-up companies generating employment, I announced on Budget day the introduction of the Key Employee Engagement Programme, a new, SME-focused, share-based remuneration incentive scheme.

Under this incentive, gains arising to the employee on the exercise of the share options will be subject to tax when the employee subsequently disposes of the shares and will be subject to Capital Gains Tax, currently at 33%.  In the absence of this incentive, the share-option gain would be liable to income tax, USC and PRSI at the time of the exercise of the option. 

As referred to by the Deputy, State Aid approval is required as the scheme is a targeted incentive limited to companies of a certain size and/or type. Full State Aid approval has been sought, engagement with the Commission is ongoing and is expected to conclude shortly. I am not aware that there are any issues in this regard. 

The 2018 Budget booklet contains information on the scheme (Annex E of the Tax Policy Changes section) and full details will be published in the Finance Bill later this week.

  Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 149.

  Question No. 153 answered with Question No. 145.

Referendum Data

 154. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the costs of all referenda held since 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43579/17]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The approximate costings for all referendums since 2001 are set out in the table with the exception of the referendums held in 2004 and 2011.

Month/​Year ​Referendum ​Approximate Cost
   
​June 2001 ​Prohibition of Death Penalty €11.1m
  International Criminal Court    
  Treaty of Nice  
March 2002​ Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy​ €10.8m​
​October 2002 Treaty of Nice​ €15.0m​
June 2004​ ​Citizenship *​
June 2008​ Treaty of Lisbon​ €22.2m​
October 2009​ Treaty of Lisbon​ €17.5m​
October 2011 Houses of Oireachtas Enquiries - Judges' Remuneration *
May 2012​ Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union  €14.8m 
November 2012​ ​Children  €12.8m​
October 2013 Abolition of Seanad, Court of Appeal €14.4m
​May 2015 Marriage Equality  & Age of Eligibility for Election to Office of the President  €14.8m


  The referendums in those years were not taken on their own but were combined and accounted for with European and Local Elections in 2004 and with a Presidential and by-election in 2011. It is not, therefore, possible to give an accurate cost of those referendums as there would have been an extensive sharing of staff and facilities for the different polls taken. 

  The Deputy may wish to note that when two or more election events are held on the same day, such as the 2015 Marriage Equality Bill & Age of Eligibility for Election to Office of The President, there are significant savings from the sharing of people and facilities.

Garda Station Closures

 155. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the costs incurred in 2016 and to date in 2017, the estimated costs expected to be incurred by the end of 2017 and the estimated expenditure to be incurred in 2018 in respect of the decision to re-open Stepaside Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43674/17]

 165. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the costs incurred by the Office of Public Works to date in 2017, the expected costs to be incurred in the remainder of 2017 and the estimated costs to be incurred in 2018 in respect of the reopening of Stepaside Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43675/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 165 together.

  Stepaside Garda Station is in the full ownership of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland and it was closed on 14th March 2013 as part of the rationalisation programme of An Garda Síochána, as announced in the 2013 Policing Plan.

  I am advised that the Commissioners appointed a company called Camelot to manage and maintain the property at Stepaside. This is a Guardianship arrangement that was put in place in 2014 and is widely used in the commercial property sector. All routine maintenance costs associated with this arrangement are borne by Camelot.

  My officials have confirmed that no expenditure has been incurred in 2016 nor 2017 to date, in relation to the proposed reopening of Stepaside GS, nor have any costings been requested by or supplied to An Garda Síochána as yet, in relation to this proposal.

Community Sector High Level Forum

 156. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe when the community sector high level forum last met; the progress it made regarding the issue of pensions for community employment supervisors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43759/17]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Meetings of the Community Sector High Level Forum took place on 24 February and more recently 7 April 2017.  The minutes of these meetings await formal approval by the parties to the Forum and will on such approval be publicly available on my Department's website.  Previously approved meeting minutes are publicly available on my Department's website.

In considering the particular matter referred to, I must have regard to the costs and precedent of such an arrangement were one to be created. A scoping exercise is currently being progressed by officials in my Department and should be completed later this year.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and that it is not possible for the State to provide funding for such a scheme. The employees in question are, or were, employees of private companies notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, reliant on State funding.

Garda Station Closures

 157. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe further to Parliamentary Question No. 99 of 4 October 2017, the process and method by which a closed Garda station was repurposed and assigned to a body or group; if there was an application process; if the closed stations were publicly advertised as being available for alternative uses; if planning permission was sought for change of use; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [43433/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works (CPW) that the policy with regard to non-operational (vacant) State property, including the former Garda stations is to:

  1. Identify if the property is required/suitable for alternative State use by both Government departments and the wider public sector.

  2. If there is no other State use identified for a property, the Office of Public Works (OPW) will then consider disposing of the property on the open market if and when conditions prevail, in order to generate revenue for the Exchequer.

  3. If no State requirement is identified, or if a decision is taken not to dispose of a particular property, the OPW may consider community involvement (subject to detailed written submission, which would indicate that the community/voluntary group has the means to insure, maintain and manage the property and that there are no ongoing costs for the Exchequer.

  The Office of Public Works, in consultation with other State Agencies, identified alternative State uses for the eight properties listed in the table. There was no advertising process and the various State Bodies communicating with each other identified the alternatives uses. The relevant change of use planning is a matter for the new occupants of the properties.

  Properties Retained or Under Consideration for Alternative State use (8)

No. Name of Property and Location Alternative State Use
1. Former Garda Station, Barrack Street, Cork Cork City Council
2. Former Garda Station, Harcourt Terrace, Dublin Department of Education and Skills for the construction of a new primary School.
3. Former Garda Station, Kill, Co. Kildare South West Kildare Partnership
4. Former Garda Station, Loughlynn, Co. Roscommon HSE for an Ambulance Base
5. Former Garda Station, Mary Street, Limerick Limerick City and County Council
6. Former Garda Station, Shanaglish, Galway National Monuments Depot
7. Former Garda Station, Valentia Island, Co. Kerry Irish Coastguard
8. Former Garda Station, Whitehall, Dublin State Pathologist and Dublin City Coroner.


  Following the closure of the 139 Garda stations as part of An Garda Síochána’s rationalisation programme announced in An Garda Síochána’s 2012 and 2013 Policing Plans, numerous community groups seeking to secure the former Garda station properties for community use approached the Office of Public Works.

  The twelve community groups identified below were licensed to use the properties for community use, on the basis of a detailed application to the Commissioners of Public Works. The application process had to satisfy the Commissioners that each community group had the means to insure, maintain and manage the properties. In each case, there is a clause in the licence that, should there be a future State requirement for the property, the State can regain the use of the property.

The relevant change of use planning is a matter for each of the community groups to secure.   
  Assigned for Community Use (12)
No. Name of Property and Location Community Group
1. Former Garda Station, Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry Coiste Forbartha na Sceilge.
2. Former Garda Station, Ballycastle, Co. Mayo Ballycastle Development Company.
3. Former Garda Station, Beaufort, Co. Kerry Beaufort Community Council.
4. Former Garda Station, Castletownsend. Co. Cork Castlehaven Nursing Association.
5. Former Garda Station, Cootehall, Co. Roscommon Cootehall Community Development Group.
6. Former Garda Station, Donard, Co. Wicklow Cumann Croise Deirge na hÉireann/Glen of Imaal (Red Cross) Mountain Rescue.
7. Former Garda Station, Glenisland, Co. Mayo Glenisland Development Group.
8. Former Garda Station, Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry Kilgarvan Tidy Towns.
9. Former Garda Station, Kilmeedy, Co. Limerick Kilmeedy Community Development Group.
10. Former Garda Station, Mulranny, Co. Mayo Mulranny Community Futures Association.
11. Former Garda Station, Rush, Co. Dublin Rush Musical Society.
12. Former Garda Station, Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo Coiste Cultúr, Teanga agus Forbartha Thuar Mhic Éadaigh Teo.

Flood Prevention Measures

 158. Deputy Tom Neville Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43443/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran The Interdepartmental Flood Policy Co-ordination Group is considering the potential costs and benefits associated with the introduction of any potential individual property protection scheme. The Group is being informed by two different pilot projects, which are currently underway in Thomastown and Graiguenamanagh in County Kilkenny and Crossmolina in County Mayo.

In respect of the Kilkenny pilot, the OPW has funded the costs of a research and feasibility study into the potential provision of individual property protection. The consultants have furnished a report in relation to the options available for the pilot area that is currently under consideration by the OPW.

In Crossmolina, the OPW funded Mayo County Council to run a pilot scheme; consultants undertook surveys of individual properties and flood defences have been installed at 78 properties.

These pilots are now informing the potential costs, benefits and administrative arrangements for consideration. The Co-ordination Group’s work, when completed, will be submitted to Government for consideration in the context of the merits of the introduction by Government of any scheme to support individual property protection measures. The Group has not identified the need for any further pilot schemes to inform their considerations

Flood Risk Assessments

 159. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if his Department has carried out investigations of flooding on a river (details supplied) in County Donegal; if there are plans to carry out works at this location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43454/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran The river referred to by the Deputy does not form part of any Arterial Drainage Scheme, which would fall under the remit of the Office of Public Works (OPW) under the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act. The OPW therefore has no responsibility for the maintenance of this river.

  Local flooding issues are a matter, in the first instance, for each Local Authority to investigate and address, and Donegal County Council may carry out flood mitigation works using its own resources. The Council may also apply to the Office of Public Works for funding of flood mitigation works under this Office's Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme. The purpose of this scheme is to provide funding to Local Authorities to undertake minor flood mitigation works or studies to address localised flooding and coastal protection problems within their administrative areas. Details of this scheme are on the OPW website, www.opw.ie

Criminal Assets Bureau

 160. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the number of lands he has presented for sale in the past ten years that were previously subject to seizure by the Criminal Assets Bureau under the Proceeds of Crime Acts; the number of lands that were eventually sold; the amount of money that was raised from the sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43461/17]

 161. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the number of properties he has presented for sale in the past ten years that were previously subject to seizure by the Criminal Assets Bureau under the Proceeds of Crime Act; the number of properties that eventually sold; the amount of money that was raised from the sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43462/17]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 and 161 together.

  The objectives and functions of the Criminal Assets Bureau are set out in sections 4 and 5 respectively of the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996.  In summary, they require the Bureau to:

(i) identify and investigate the proceeds of criminal conduct;

(ii) take action under the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2016 to deny and deprive people of the benefit of assets that are the proceeds of criminal conduct by freezing, preserving and confiscating them;

(iii) take action under the Revenue Acts to ensure that the proceeds of criminal activity are subject to tax; and

(iv) investigate and determine claims for or in respect of benefits under the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1993.

  The Proceeds of Crime Acts (as amended) also provides the legal framework underpinning the Bureau's powers to take all necessary actions, including the making of applications to the High Court, in relation to the seizing and securing of assets with a view to their disposal in due course in accordance with the provisions of that legislation.

  The Deputy has sought specific information in relation to lands and properties. I would point out that Section 21 of the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996 requires the Bureau, through the Garda Commissioner, to provide an annual report of its activities to the Minister for Justice and Equality who is then required to lay copies of the report before each House of the Oireachtas.  The Annual Reports, including the most recent one for 2016 which was published last July, are available in the Oireachtas library and on the website of An Garda Síochána. They also published on the website of the Department of Justice and Equality. 

  In Part 3 of the 2016 Report for instance, detailed information is provided in relation to the number of cases brought before the High Court under the various provisions of the Act; the number and types of assets broken down by reference to categories such as jewellery, property, vehicles and cash/financial and their respective valuations; and the value of assets transferred to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform following the making of a disposal order by the High Court under Section 4 of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 (as amended).  Comparative data relating to the actions of the Bureau under the Revenue Acts and the Social Welfare Consolidation Act are also provided in these annual reports.

  In order to mitigate any risk of harm, the Deputy will understand that it would not be appropriate to be specific about individual properties or individual lands which could be currently in the process of sale on behalf of the Bureau, or which have been purchased.

State Properties Data

 162. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the properties and land owned by the Office of Public Works, by county. [43520/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran The information sought by the Deputy is currently being collated. A detailed response will issue to the Deputy directly.

Pension Provisions

 163. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if payment of an early retirement sum is available to deferred pensioners within the Civil Service pension scheme who have left employment in the service prior to reaching early retirement age but have a deferred entitlement (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43584/17]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Cost Neutral Early Retirement (CNER) is a facility which allows qualifying officers who wish to retire up to ten years before preserved (or minimum) retirement age to apply to receive immediate payment of lump sum and pension, as an alternative to preserved benefits. The lump sum and pension are reduced to make them the equivalent, in actuarial terms, of preserved benefits. Departments/Offices must consider applications for CNER in light of their business needs.

  Applications for CNER cannot be made once the person has left their employment. In this case, because the individual concerned left the Civil Service in 1998, they are not eligible to avail of CNER. They will, of course, be eligible to claim payment of preserved pension benefits when they reach the minimum pension age of 60. There is no provision in the Civil Service Pension Scheme for early payment of the retirement lump sum.

  More information on Cost Neutral Early Retirement can be found in the relevant Circular on my Department's website: http://circulars.gov.ie/pdf/circular/finance/2005/10.pdf

Flood Relief Schemes Expenditure

 164. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the amount allocated for flood relief measures in each of the past four budgets and in budget 2018; the amount that was spent each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [43653/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran The following table sets out the budget allocation and expenditure in the Flood Risk Management area since 2014. The capital figures relate primarily to expenditure on the OPW’s capital works programme on major and minor flood relief projects. The current figures relate primarily to expenditure on the OPW’s programme of maintenance on completed arterial drainage schemes. The 2018 allocation shows a significant increase over previous years and is reflective of the Government’s commitment to continued investment in this area over the period 2016-2021.

Programme A – Flood Risk Management Allocation

€,000
Expenditure

€,000
2014 - Capital 45,000 44,358
2014 - Current 15,849 17,027
  60,849 61,385
2015 - Capital 61,750 48,767
2015 - Current 16,874 17,065
  78,624 65,832
*2016 - Capital 53,050 52,112
2016 - Current 17,859 18,285
  70,909 70,397
- - Projected Expenditure
2017 - Capital 43,119 44,335
2017 - Current 21,048 19,937
  64,167 64,272
2018 Capital 68,119  
2018 Current 21,299  
  89,418  
*€7m capital was carried over from 2015 to 2016    

  Question No. 165 answered with Question No. 155.

Office of the Ombudsman Data

 166. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the waiting list in the Office of the Ombudsman for cases yet to be dealt with; the different waiting lists for different categories of complaints, that is, in respect of local authorities, health issues, social welfare issues and each Government Department; the length of time it takes in each of these categories for the cases to be assigned to a person and an investigation to commence, where it is deemed necessary to have such an investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [43880/17]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I am advised that in 2016 the Office of the Ombudsman examined 3,110 complaints.  I understand that 79% of these were completed within 3 months and 96% were completed within 12 months.

The Office of the Ombudsman sets itself annual case turnaround targets and progress against targets is closely monitored by senior management. The deployment of staff and case handling structures and procedures are regularly reviewed by the Office’s Operations Review Group to ensure that the Office continues to work with maximum efficiency while at the same time maintaining casework quality standards.

All complaints received by the Office of the Ombudsman, regardless of the sector to which they relate, are initially handled by caseworkers in the Office's Early Resolution Unit.  This is to ensure that complaints are dealt with efficiently and effectively and where possible without the need for a formal examination or investigation.  70% of cases received are dealt with in this manner.

The process following Early Resolution is Examination.  This is where the complaint requires further information from either the Public Body or the Complainant or both and cannot be closed quickly.  Approximately 30% of the complaints received move to this stage.  Only a small minority of complaints go forward for investigation.

Broadly speaking cases are assigned in the order in which they are received regardless of the category.  As the service is demand led, the length of time it takes to assign any particular case within the Examination Unit, depends on the availability of caseworker capacity at any given time.

More complex cases are assigned to the most skilled and experienced caseworkers and inevitably take longer to complete. The assignment of cases is discussed on a weekly basis and is closely monitored by Senior Management within the Office of the Ombudsman.

Community Sector High Level Forum

 167. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the composition of the community sector high-level forum; the members of the forum; the chair of the forum; the remit and schedule for the forum reporting to his Department; if it is examining Labour Court recommendation 19293 regarding pension provision for community employment supervisers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [43939/17]

 168. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the reason the Labour Court recommendation 19293 on pension provision for community employment supervisers has not yet been implemented; the barriers to implementation; the cost of implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [43940/17]

 169. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe when he expects the community sector high-level forum to report on the Labour Court recommendation 19293 on pension provision for community employment supervisers; if the minutes of the forum's meetings are available; the cost of running the forum; when he expects it to complete its work; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [43941/17]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 to 169, inclusive, together.

The Community Sector High Level Forum was reconvened in 2015 to give consideration to a number of issues including the issue to which the Deputy refers. Meetings took place on 24 February and more recently 7 April 2017.  The minutes of these meetings await formal approval by the parties to the Forum and will on such approval be publicly available on my Department's website.  Previously approved meeting minutes are publicly available on my Department's website and contain the names of the participants on the Forum. 

In considering the particular matter referred to, I must have regard to the costs and precedent of such an arrangement were one to be created. A scoping exercise is currently being progressed by officials in my Department and should be completed later this year.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and that it is not possible for the State to provide funding for such a scheme. The employees in question are, or were, employees of private companies notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, reliant on State funding.

Third Level Funding

 170. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the position regarding the programme for Government commitments on third level funding. [43633/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Higher education is a central part of our plan as a Government to support a strong economy and deliver a fair society and I have taken a number of steps towards achieving this important objective.

As committed to in the Programme for Government, I have referred the Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills. The Report sets out a number of proposals to develop a long term sustainable funding mode.  I look forward to receiving the Committee's recommendations. This will assist in facilitating informed decision-making for the future direction of funding for higher education.

While the Committee are undertaking this important work, I have been working in the interim to secure additional funding for higher education. This commitment is reflected in last week's Budget 2018 announcement in which the higher education sector will benefit from a total investment package of €60m in additional funding in 2018. This funding is on top of the €36.5m that I secured for 2017 and which is being provided again in 2018. In total, we will be investing €100m more in higher and further education in 2018 than in 2016.

This additional funding will allow for targeted initiatives in higher education including skills programmes, performance and innovation funding, technological university development and apprenticeship costs in the sector. It will also allow for places to be provided for 2,100 additional students in 2018.

It should also be noted that an independent Expert Panel appointed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) have reviewed the Recurrent Grant Allocation Model (RGAM) with a view to making recommendations on the most appropriate model for the future. A Report on the review has been finalized by the Expert Panel and has been submitted to my Department for consideration. 

As set out in the Programme for Government, this comprehensive approach is being taken in order to achieve a sustainable funding model for the higher education sector going forward. It will be important to build broad political and societal consensus in realising this goal and my Department and I continue to work towards that end.

Schools Building Projects Status

 171. Deputy Brendan Ryan Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the new school building for a school (details supplied); when the work is due to take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43386/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is aware, a building project for the school referred to is included in the 6 Year Capital Programme (2016-2021).

  My Department is currently finalising the project brief and once this process is complete, my Department will be in further contact with the school. The project will be progressed into the architectural planning process without delay when the brief has been finalised.


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