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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 39-57
 Header Item Civil Service
 Header Item Transport Policy
 Header Item Flood Prevention Measures
 Header Item Internet Pornography
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Tourism Promotion
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Transport Policy
 Header Item Water Charges
 Header Item Public Sector Staff
 Header Item Commercial Rates
 Header Item Environmental Protection Agency
 Header Item Wildlife Control
 Header Item Rental Accommodation Standards
 Header Item Local Authority Staff

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1006 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 82 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 39-57

Civil Service

 39. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if he will respond to matters raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20984/21]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath As Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, I have responsibility under the Public Service Management Acts for recruitment to the Civil Service and this includes the fixing of eligibility criteria for competitions for recruitment to the civil service.

As the Deputy will be aware, appointments to the civil service are by way of open competition and the Public Appointments Service (PAS), that operates under licence from the Commission for Public Service Appointments, is the principal recruiter for the civil service.

The eligibility criteria for the grade of Executive Officer is not restricted to a requirement to have attained an appropriate standard in the Leaving Certificate.  Rather the current educational criteria for an Executive Office at the time of application is to:

(i) have obtained a minimum Level 7 NFQ qualification; or

(ii) have obtained in the Established Leaving Certificate Examination a minimum of Grade D (or post 2017 Leaving Certificate O6 grade) at Ordinary level in Mathematics and Irish or English, having obtained a minimum of Grade C (or post 2017 Leaving Certificate H4 grade) in at least five subjects at Higher level; or hold a qualification, that in the opinion of the Public Appointments Service, is of a standard in terms of both level and volume of learning that is of at least an equivalent or higher standard; or

(iii) have completed and passed all examinations in Year 1 of a three or four-year programme leading to a minimum Level 7 NFQ  qualification; or

(iv) be serving as a Civil Servant with at least two years’ service and have obtained at least five subjects in the Established Leaving Certificate Examination (including Mathematics and Irish or English), three of which should be minimum Grade C (or post 2017 Leaving Certificate H4 grade) at Higher level, the others should be at a minimum Grade D (or post 2017 Leaving Certificate O6 grade) at Ordinary level; or have passed an examination(s) which would be acceptable to the Public Appointments Service as being of at least an equivalent standard to the Established Leaving Certificate.

The grade of Clerical Officer or Temporary Clerical Officer is the traditional entry grade for those interested in a career in the civil service for which there is no Leaving Certificate requirement.  Rather, the present criteria is that candidates should have a “good general level of education” being equivalent to Intermediate/Junior Certificate standard as well as the demonstrable capability, requisite knowledge, skills and competencies to carry out the role of Clerical Officer.

The eligibility criteria and competencies for all civil service grades are kept under review.   There is a balance to be struck between civil service grades in terms of respective educational qualifications and role-specific competencies.  I am not considering any changes at this time in relation to the eligibility criteria for the grade of Executive Officer.

It is the responsibility of each candidate, at the time of making an application to PAS, to satisfy themselves that they meet the eligibility criteria for a specific post and to make appropriate enquiries should they be unsure.  Applications are accepted by the Public Appointments Service and civil service employers in good faith based on the eligibility self-declaration made by candidates when applying for a competition. 

Should a candidate successfully progress to a later phase of a competition process, additional clearance checks are completed at that time, which include a review of a candidate’s declared service, qualifications, etc. to ensure the eligibility criteria are met.  Should it be identified that the candidate does not meet the eligibility criteria, they will be removed from participating any further in a competition.

Transport Policy

 40. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath the way in which his Department and agencies under his remit encourage and facilitate employees to use active travel to commute to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21057/21]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is the principal Government Department with responsibility for active travel.  Among a broad set of responsibilities across the transport area, the National Transport Authority (NTA) has certain statutory objectives and functions in relation to the promotion of active travel.

  Project Ireland 2040, which was launched in February 2018, sets out the Government’s policy on spatial planning and infrastructure development over the period to 2040.  Active travel is a feature of the two overarching policy documents – the National Planning Framework and the ten-year National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2027.

  My Department recognises the environmental, health and well-being, economic and social benefits of active travel.  In this context, staff in my Department have access to the Cycle to Work Scheme operated by the Revenue Commissioners.  In operation since 2009, the Cycle to Work Scheme is a tax incentive scheme that allows employers to purchase new bikes and related safety equipment for employees who repay the costs through an agreed schedule of deductions from their gross salary.  The amount of salary sacrificed is exempt from tax, employee’s PRSI and income levies.  

  My Department also provides secure bike sheds, shower facilities and dry-rooms where feasible for staff who travel to and from work by bicycle or by other modes of active travel.  In addition, a bicycle repair station for staff use has recently been installed at the rear of the Government Buildings campus.  This repair station will contain basic tools and consumables to assist cyclists should they encounter routine maintenance issues.

  More generally, my Department is committed to a culture of staff wellbeing and this is reinforced by the Department's Health and Wellbeing Strategy – “Your PERsonal Wellbeing”, which was launched in November 2020.  It has been well documented that the health and wellbeing of staff directly affects employee engagement and performance.  Many of the initiatives under the strategy are focused on encouraging staff to be more active, including, for example, a recent 'step challenge'.  

  I am advised that the position in relation to the bodies under the aegis of my Department is as set out below.

  Office of Public Works (OPW)

  Due to the current Covid 19 health pandemic, the OPW, in line with Government policy encourages staff to work from home where possible and does not currently encourage employees to attend the workplace.  The OPW will continue to encourage staff to use active travel when it is safe to return to the workplace by approving employee applications on the cycle to work scheme, where 79 applications were approved in 2020.  The OPW provide secure bike sheds / storage facilities, shower and changing facilities and lockers for staff in the main offices who choose active forms of travel.  The OPW will continue to encourage the use of the Travel Pass for all TaxSaver Travel Pass Tickets which will contribute to active travel.  There was a 6 month extension of the 2020 Travel Pass for all TaxSaver Travel Pass Ticket Holders due to Covid 19 and this brings current Travel Pass Tickets up to the end of June 2021.

  Public Appointments Service (PAS)

  With society’s increasing concern for the sustainability of our natural resources, the Public Appointments Service is committed to meeting their responsibilities to ensure that their services are delivered through the efficient use of resources with minimal environmental impact.  In collaboration with their Corporate Social Responsibility committee, PAS encourage staff to travel to work using their own energy where possible.  In the last 5 years, 10% of the PAS workforce have availed of the cycle to work scheme and the Public Appointments Service has a bike shed on-site where staff can store their bicycles safely.  Staff are not encouraged to drive to work due to a limited number of parking spaces on-site which are reserved for staff who need them on an exceptional basis, including those who require them as a reasonable accommodation.  30% of the workforce avail of the annual travel pass scheme which encourages staff to travel to work using public transport.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Public Appointments Service has prioritised the health, safety and wellbeing of PAS people and, as a result, all staff have been working remotely since March 2020.  As part of the Staying Well and Connected programme, PAS have run three step challenges and a 40 day fitness challenge over the past 12 months which have all encouraged PAS staff to increase their daily step count and also to build a walking commute into their daily routine.    

  National Shared Services Office (NSSO)

  The NSSO supports and encourages active travel by providing secure parking for bicycles, promoting walking options, and providing changing and shower facilities on-site for staff.  Staff do not have guaranteed access to car parking in any of the NSSO sites.  In addition, the NSSO encourages staff to avail of the Cycle to Work Scheme.  Currently during the pandemic, 95% of NSSO staff are working from home and public transport is reduced to 25% capacity so active travel is promoted for health and wellbeing reasons and reduction of risk during the pandemic. The NSSO also has an Employee Engagement programme in place that promotes and organises staff activities, including active travel, for example over 100 NSSO staff completed 7,000 miles as part of a 56-mile challenge in the month of February.

  Office of the Ombudsman

  The Office of the Ombudsman encourages staff at every available opportunity to walk or cycle to work, most recently in the Office’s April 2021 ‘Green Team’ bulletin which issued to all staff.  Walking and cycling to work are also included as one of the aims of the Office in its ‘Resource Efficiency Action Plan 2020’.  The Office facilitates employees to use active travel through reminding staff of the existence of the cycle to work scheme and also by providing showers and lockers for staff who choose to walk or cycle.  The cycle to work scheme is advertised to all new staff members as part of the Office’s induction programme.  Staff are made fully aware of the details of the scheme, the terms and conditions and the application process. It is also regularly promoted to existing staff through HR updates and health and wellbeing initiatives organised by the by the Office’s Wellness Committee.  The level of uptake in the scheme since its introduction has been consistently high.  In addition, other methods of promoting an active workforce include the setting up of running and walking clubs in the Office.

  State Laboratory

  The Cycle to Work Scheme is available to all State Laboratory staff and over 25% of staff have availed of it. The State Laboratory provides showering facilities, wet gear drying facilities and secure, sheltered bicycle parking on its premises to facilitate staff who require it.

  National Lottery Regulator (ORNL)

  The ORNL facilitates employees to use active travel to commute to work by enabling them to avail of the Cycle to Work scheme.  In addition, shower facilities can be used by staff who may wish to run/cycle to work and shower before reporting to work.  As part of the ORNL’s Covid 19 response, all ORNL staff have been facilitated to work from home and typically do so.

Flood Prevention Measures

 41. Deputy Noel Grealish Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if there are plans to develop a flood defence scheme in Claddagh, Galway city from the Claddagh to Grattan Park; if so, the details of this flood defence plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21065/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Patrick O'Donovan): Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan The Flood Risk Management Plan (FRMP) for the Corrib River Basin, launched in 2018, included a recommendation for a flood relief scheme for Galway City, including the Claddagh area, which was one of 118 projects identified nationwide from the National Flood Risk Management Plans. The Plan proposed to protect approximately 940 properties from flooding with a preliminary cost estimate in the region of €10m. Details of the outline proposal are available on floodinfo.ie, or in the Flood Risk Management Plan at https://www.floodinfo.ie/publications/?t=22&a=658. Following discussions between the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Galway City Council, agreement was reached that the City Council would lead the development of the scheme with technical advice and funding being provided by OPW.

  Following a tender process undertaken by the City Council, consultants were appointed in November, 2020, to review and build on the initial proposals in the FRMP. Public consultation will be to the forefront during the development of options that will eventually lead to a preferred scheme to be brought though the Planning process. It is intended to hold the first Public Consultation Day in the next six weeks. This event will be widely advertised and is likely to be held online due to current Covid-19 restrictions.

  A project website will also go live in advance of this Public Consultation Day, which will continue to provide up-to-date information on the project as it moves forward through its development. There will, of course, be several such public engagement events throughout the course of the project, both with the statutory and non-statutory stakeholders and the general public before the final design is chosen in order to keep those living, working and visiting the City fully informed of developments.

Internet Pornography

 42. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin her plans to introduce measures to restrict access by children to pornography on smartphones; if internet service providers have a role to play in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20943/21]

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Deputy Catherine Martin): Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will, among other things, empower an Online Safety Commissioner, as part of a new multi-person Media Commission, to issue online safety guidance materials regarding measures to reduce the risk of exposure of minors to age-inappropriate online content. In line with the overall approach of the Bill, guidance materials will focus on systemic measures which an online service can take in order to reduce the exposure of children to that content.

  Content which falls under the definition of age-inappropriate online content as set out in the General Scheme of the Bill, includes:

  - material containing or comprising gross or gratuitous violence;

  - material containing or comprising cruelty towards humans or animals; and,

  - material containing or comprising pornography.

  The Bill will also provide that online services must have regard to online safety guidance materials in the context of their operations. These provisions of the Bill are device neutral and would apply to online services regardless of how they are accessed. 

  The General Scheme of the OSMR Bill is currently under-going pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.  Meanwhile, the Office of the Attorney General is continuing detailed drafting of the Bill.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 43. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin if a company (details supplied) and similar rental services are permitted to operate under level 5 restrictions given hotels, camping sites and self-catering cottages are not permitted to operate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20877/21]

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Deputy Catherine Martin): Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin The company to which the Deputy refers is an online sales platform for a variety of accommodation.  I can confirm that the provision of any type of non-essential/holiday accommodation services is prohibited under the current Level 5 restrictions. Accommodation may only be provided to those travelling for permitted essential reasons, as specified in the relevant regulations.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 44. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin if it will be ensured that any guidelines for the hospitality industry make specific reference to self-catering cottages and houses alongside hotels, bed and breakfasts and guest houses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20878/21]

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Deputy Catherine Martin): Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin A wide range of sector-specific guidelines are available on the Fáilte Ireland website to assist tourism and hospitality businesses reopen and operate safely in line with Government advice.  These include specific guidelines for self-catering properties (which include cottages and houses), in addition to separate guidelines for other types of tourist accommodation (e.g. Hotels & Guesthouses; B&Bs & Historic Houses; Caravan & Camping Parks; Self-Catering properties; and Hostels) and for several other tourism business sectors.

Tourism Promotion

 45. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin if she will address the matters raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20881/21]

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Deputy Catherine Martin): Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin I note that the correspondence in question relates to the recent announcement of activity facility centres in selected waterside locations where water-based activities are a key visitor attraction, which are to be funded through a Fáilte Ireland investment scheme in partnership with certain local authorities.  As the development and administration of this scheme is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland, I have referred the Deputy's question to the agency for direct reply to the Deputy.  Please contact my private office if you have not received a reply within ten working days.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 46. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin if she is working on a roadmap for either the return or phased return of the various of strands of the light entertainment industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20960/21]

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Deputy Catherine Martin): Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin The Government’s COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 - The Path Ahead plan sets out the Government’s objectives for the full recovery of social life, public services and the economy.  The plan committed to the development of sectoral guidance for very large purpose built event facilities, for example: stadia, auditoriums, conference or event centres. I established the Live Entertainment Working Group to facilitate stakeholder consultation and develop COVID-19 Guidelines for the Live Entertainment sector.  The Group includes stakeholders from across the live entertainment sector as well and those with appropriate technical knowledge in the planning, management and delivery of events.  The Group will produce a set of overarching guiding principles that all venue promotors can adopt for their specific purposes. It is chaired by my Department and had its first meeting on 21 April 2021. 

The Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland have already entered into a strategic partnership to develop guidance for the safe presentation of festivals and live events. This document is currently at the consultation stage and is due to be published shortly.

While the timeframe for the resumption of entertainment events remains uncertain and, is dependent on public health considerations, it is critical that a set of COVID-19 guidelines is developed and ready in advance of the re-opening of the sector.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 47. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin when she plans to announce the details of the music entertainment business assistance scheme for the live music industry. [20997/21]

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Deputy Catherine Martin): Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin I was pleased to announce recently a new €50 million suite of additional measures to further support the Live Entertainment Sector this year. As part of this suite, an allocation of €14m will be made available for the Music and Entertainment Business Assistance Scheme (MEBAS) to make a contribution to the overheads of businesses, specifically musicians and related crew, that have been significantly negatively affected by COVID-19 and that do not qualify for other business supports.  The main features of this new scheme will see support offered by way of  two levels of flat payments:

- €2,500 for businesses with a VAT-exclusive turnover of €20,000 - €100,000;

- €5,000 for businesses with a VAT-exclusive turnover in excess of €100,000.

Under the scheme, businesses including musicians, singers, lighting and sound crew and audio  equipment suppliers - whether sole traders, partnerships or incorporated entities - operating exclusively within the commercial live entertainment sector will be eligible to apply. This scheme has been developed following wide consultation with the sector and will be managed directly by my Department. Department officials are finalising the administrative arrangements for this scheme and it is hoped that the scheme will open for applications in the coming weeks when the necessary IT systems are in place.

Transport Policy

 48. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin the way in which her Department and agencies under her remit encourage and facilitate employees to use active travel to commute to work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21061/21]

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Deputy Catherine Martin): Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin In the context of COVID-19, the current recommendation is for Civil and Public Servants to continue working from home.

  However, my Department continues to support and facilitate the operation of the Cycle to Work Scheme which encourages cycling to work by the provision of tax exemptions and the facilitation of salary deduction for the purchase of bicycles.     

  In addition, my Department actively promotes and encourages employees to engage with Health and Well-being initiatives including those that support physical activity.

  State Agencies, under the remit of my Department, are also in a position to facilitate the Cycle to Work Scheme.  However, with regard to individual initiatives, that would be an operational matter for the Agencies in question.

Water Charges

 49. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if grants will be provided for households facing costly connection fees to public water and wastewater infrastructure especially in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20869/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning and delivery. Irish Water's charging policies, including in relation to connection charges, are subject to approval by the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU), in its statutory role as the independent economic regulator of Irish Water.

Part V of the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013, in particular sets out the CRU's responsibility for the determination of the charges, including connection charges, and charging arrangements, that apply to customers of Irish Water. The CRU  determination on the appropriate  charges and charging arrangements that apply to new network connections are set out in its detailed decision paper on Connection Charging available on its website at www.cru.ie.  My Department has no role in the matter.

It may be helpful to note that Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 57 578.

Public Sector Staff

 50. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if his attention has been drawn to persons who are over 60 years of age working in the Ordnance Survey repeatedly being asked their retirement date; and his views on whether this is appropriate behaviour. [21074/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I am informed by Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) that as part of its workforce planning, a succession planning initiative commenced in 2019 due to the senior age profile of the organisation, that is, 47 per cent of OSi's staff had reached minimum retirement age and had 40 years’ service.  To manage this challenge, staff in this cadre have been contacted to ascertain what retirement plans they may have, if any, in order to assist OSi with managing the increased number of expected retirements and to research and respond to the potential skills/knowledge loss, so as to aid succession management and also for budgetary reasons in terms of lump sum pension payments.  Engagement with this process is voluntary, and OSi has had a good response with this initiative, which has been agreed with the represented trade unions.  The initiative has continued annually in 2020 and 2021.

In view of the foregoing, I consider the initiative to be both reasonable and proportionate. 

Commercial Rates

 51. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his views on providing rates waivers for funeral homes until 31 December 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20871/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Peter Burke): Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke In order to continue supporting ratepayers, and in recognition of the ongoing impacts of COVID 19 and the associated public health restrictions, the Government has put in place a new, more targeted commercial rates waiver for the first half of 2021.  It applies to businesses most seriously affected by the restrictions.  Automatic eligibility is extended to hospitality including hotels, pubs and restaurants, leisure and entertainment, personal services such as hairdressers and barbers, and various other sectors.  Categories of commercial property, such as offices, industrial premises, and banks are not automatically eligible, but may qualify if they can provide proof of serious impact to their local authority.  As provision has been made for businesses that do not automatically qualify to apply, there are no current plans to broaden the scope of automatic eligibility. 

Environmental Protection Agency

 52. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he will request that the EPA provides this Deputy with a copy of the EPA report entitled Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies 2020 when it is available. [20879/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The EPA is an independent public body established under the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992. 

  I understand that the 2020 report is not yet available, when published it will be made available on the EPA website at www.epa.ie and will also be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

  The latest EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies report is for 2019 and this is available in the Oireachtas library and on the EPA’s website at www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/water/drinking.

Wildlife Control

 53. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if the derogation for control of wild birds species will be extended given that it is due to expire on 30 April 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20902/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Malcolm Noonan): Information on Malcolm Noonan Zoom on Malcolm Noonan I refer to the reply to Questions Nos 751, 762, 763, 764 and 807 of 21 April 2021 which sets out the position in this matter.

Rental Accommodation Standards

 54. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his plans to introduce a NCT type system for rental properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20907/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, natural light and the safety of gas, oil and electrical supply. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these regulations and responsibility for the enforcement of the regulations rests with the relevant local authority.

  While Regulations and associated systems are kept under continuous review, I have no plans at this time to introduce NCT-type certification for rental properties.

  The Strategy for the Rental Sector set out a series of measures to be introduced to ensure the quality of private rental accommodation by strengthening the applicable standards and improving the inspection and enforcement systems. The Rental Strategy recognises the need for additional resources to be provided to local authorities to aid increased inspections of properties and ensure greater compliance with the Regulations. Provision was made for €2.5 million to be made available to local authorities in 2018, increasing to €4.5 million in 2019 with corresponding inspection rate targets of 10% and 15% respectively. This has enabled local authorities to build inspection capacity incrementally. Significant progress was made across the sector. The number of inspections more than doubled from 19,645 in 2017 to 40,998 in 2019.

  The 2020 inspection rate target was 20% and €6 million of Exchequer funding was made available to local authorities. An increased budget of €10 million has been approved to facilitate inspections in 2021. However pandemic restrictions have severely impacted on both inspections and enforcement activity since March 2020.

  In response to the pandemic some local authorities have been piloting virtual inspections. Dublin City Council have led this initiative, which entails landlords receiving a checklist for self-assessment and being required to submit photographic/video evidence by email, tenants being invited to raise any non-compliance issues they are aware of and the Council reserving the right to conduct a physical on-site inspection when it is safe to do so.

  While virtual inspection systems present certain challenges and limitations, they do offer a way of improving the standard of rental accommodation despite the pandemic. My Department is encouraging local authorities not involved in the pilots to consider adopting them and providing Exchequer funding to those that do.

Annual data in respect of the level of inspections carried out by each local authority is available on my Department's website at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/da3fe-private-housing-market-statistics/.

Local Authority Staff

 55. Deputy Pat Buckley Information on Pat Buckley Zoom on Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of outdoor staff currently employed in each of the municipal district councils in east County Cork in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20952/21]

 56. Deputy Pat Buckley Information on Pat Buckley Zoom on Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of outdoor staff who were employed in each municipal district council in east County Cork in each of the years 2015 to 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20953/21]

 57. Deputy Pat Buckley Information on Pat Buckley Zoom on Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the reason recruitment of outdoor council staff in east County Cork has possibly regressed in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20954/21]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 to 57, inclusive, together.

My Department oversees workforce planning for the local government sector, including the monitoring of local government sector employment levels. To this end, my Department gathers aggregate quarterly data on staff numbers in each local authority on a whole time equivalent basis.

However, granular data, in terms of the detailed breakdown of the number of outdoor staff currently employed and the number of staff who were employed in each year from 2015-2019, in each Municipal District in east County Cork, is not collected and consequently is not available in my Department. The relevant information would be available from Cork County Council.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible.


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