To ask the Minister for Health his plans to ensure that the budget for disability services in CHO 9 is allocated without delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.
As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.
To ask the Minister for Finance the number of applications which have been received to date in 2019 in respect of the VAT compensation scheme for charities which he announced in Budget 2018; the steps he is taking to promote the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The VAT Compensation Scheme for Charities was introduced in Budget 2018 to reduce the tax burden on Charities and partially compensate them for the VAT incurred in delivering on their charitable purpose. Under the Scheme, Charities are entitled to claim a refund of a proportion of their VAT costs based on their level of non-public funding. The Scheme applies to VAT incurred on or after 1 January 2018 and will be paid one year in arrears. For example, in 2019, Charities can reclaim some element of the VAT paid in 2018, but VAT paid in prior years cannot be claimed.
A total annual capped fund of €5m is available for payment under the Scheme, which will be subject to review after three years. Where the total amount of eligible claims from all Charities in a year exceeds the capped amount, claims will be paid on a pro-rata basis. Detailed information regarding the VAT Compensation Scheme for Charities is available on the Revenue Commissioners website at the following link:
Since 1 January 2019, 101 claims have been received by Revenue from Charities amounting to €1.5m. The closing date for submissions in respect of 2018 is 30 June 2019. Once the closing date has passed, Revenue will review the claims received and issue refunds later in the year in accordance with the rules of the Scheme. Charities wishing to submit a claim in respect of 2018 can do so through the Revenue Online Service (ROS) at any stage between 1 January 2019 and 30 June 2019. The minimum claim amount that can be submitted is €500. A ‘linked’ agent may also make the claim on ROS on behalf of the Charity.
Regarding the overall communications strategy for the Scheme, I am aware that Revenue has, in addition to publishing the detailed information on its website, engaged directly with Charities to explain the operational administration and issued reminder notifications in January 2019 advising of its commencement. Revenue also issued an e-Brief to tax practitioners in December 2018 setting out the details of the Scheme and how it will operate and has worked with the Charities representative bodies to prepare a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Furthermore, Revenue plans to publish a further notification in early May reminding Charities of the 30 June 2019 closing date.
To ask the Minister for Finance if commercial rates are deductible for tax purposes; the tax rules in relation to commercial rates; if rates are deductible, the annual cost of the deduction; if not, the cost of allowing commercial rates to be deductible; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I am advised by Revenue that, as a general rule, commercial rates are deductible for tax purposes.
When rates are levied on a person carrying on a trade or profession, the rates are deductible as they represent a cost of business and are therefore incurred wholly and exclusively for the trade or profession. This is in accordance with section 81 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, which sets out the general rules for deductions for the computation of profits or gains arising in respect of trades and professions.
Section 97 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 sets out the computation rules and allowable deductions for the computation of profits or gains arising in respect of rental income. Subsection (2) of that section includes a specific deduction for rates levied by local authorities.
In relation to the annual cost of deductions taken for commercial rates or the cost for the tax forgone, Revenue do not request this information from taxpayers when they are completing their tax returns and therefore such information is not available.
To ask the Minister for Finance the amount loaned out by Home Building Finance Ireland to date; the estimated number of homes to be built; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Home Building Finance Ireland (HBFI) was established in December 2018 to lend money to small and medium sized builders and developers for commercially viable residential developments, particularly those situated outside the State's major urban centres. HBFI has been provided with access to €750 million of funding from the Irish Strategic Investment fund, with which it is expected to facilitate the delivery of 7,500 units over the next five years.
Since its formal launch at the end of January, HBFI has engaged actively with small and medium sized builders and developers throughout the country through a range of market awareness raising initiatives. As part of this, HBFI attended a series of workshops organised by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and its constituent association, the Irish Home Builders’ Association (IHBA) that were strongly attended by small and medium sized builders and developers and generated significant interest in the work of HBFI.
Collectively, HBFI’s various engagement activities have resulted in a strong pipeline of interest from prospective borrowers. While no funding has been drawn down by borrowers to date, HBFI has approved its first lending facilities and is progressing a number of other applications through its credit process.
HBFI will be in a position to publish information on its lending activities on a half-yearly basis with the first such report to be published in July 2019.
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if all necessary financial assistance will be provided to Fingal County Council to tackle the alarming rate of coastal erosion that is occurring at The Burrow, Portrane, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I am advised that Fingal County Council is leading on this issue, as it is a matter for local authorities in the first instance to assess and address problems of coastal erosion in their areas. Where necessary, Local Authorities may put forward proposals to relevant central Government Departments, including the OPW, for funding of appropriate measures depending on the infrastructure or assets under threat.
In 2018, in response to serious coastal erosion problems at The Burrow, Portrane, Fingal County Council implemented temporary interim emergency measures to protect properties at risk. Funding of €456,464 was approved under the OPW Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme for these works.
Consultants appointed by Fingal County Council are currently assessing options for a longer term permanent solution for the Portrane Peninsula. If a viable option is identified, Fingal County Council may submit a further application for funding to the OPW.
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress in the preparation of a national coastal erosion strategy and plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Strategic policy responsibility for the coast, including coastal erosion, is a matter for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Local Authorities are responsible for the management of the coastline, including response to coastal erosion risk within their administrative areas.
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the timeframe for the review of the public spending code; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Public Spending Code is reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that it continues to reflect best practice in project appraisal and evaluation and to ensure value for money in the use of public funds.
In particular, there has been extensive and ongoing review in relation to capital projects over recent months. I anticipate that this major phase of review of the Public Spending Code will be completed before the summer.
To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the towns selected and the number of units in each town for the pilot scheme to encourage persons to return to living in town centres launched in October 2018.
Early last year, I established a Steering Group to examine the introduction of a pilot scheme to encourage people to return to living in town centres.
A lot of consideration was given by the Group to the best approach to developing a model which would deliver on the objective of increasing town centre living.
The Steering Group noted that some schemes which have specifically attempted to focus on the renovation of vacant properties have had a disappointing take-up. It is clear that if we are to successfully encourage people to return to living in town centres, an integrated solution involving all aspects of town living and supporting infrastructure needs to be considered.
The Steering Group therefore agreed that a pilot scheme, which takes a holistic approach to town centre living, should be developed in a small number of towns initially, with a view to a wider roll-out over time. This approach goes beyond simply identifying specific property units, and will allow a number of Local Authorities to develop and test different models which they feel are appropriate to a number of selected towns of different sizes and in different locations.
The learnings from this approach will help to provide an indication as to what might work well for similar types of town on a wider scale.
Six rural towns were invited to participate in the initial pilot scheme which was launched in October 2018. These are:
My Department has made funding of up to €100,000 available to each participating Local Authority of which €75,000 has been paid to date. The funding will assist the Local Authorities to engage with their communities and local businesses, and arrive at practical solutions that can be delivered to achieve the objective of increasing the number of people living in our rural towns.
Representatives from each of the six Local Authorities involved in the pilot have had a number of meetings with my Department with a view to developing the detailed schemes. It is envisaged that the solutions identified through the six pilot towns could lead to the development of more substantive proposals for funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund in due course.
To ask the Minister for Finance his plans to task Home Building Finance Ireland with an expanded remit to issues loans to owner management companies to cover remedial building costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
In the first instance I would like to acknowledge the stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes.
HBFI was established late last year as a supply based measure to help address as shortage of new housing in the State. I have always been clear that HBFI was to be established on a commercial basis and that its activities would comply with State aid rules. Any funding provided by HBFI will be backed by appropriate security and normal banking terms and conditions will apply. Any deviation from this structure could give rise to State aid issues and may impact the expected balance sheet treatment of HBFI's activities.
While there is nothing contained in the Home Building Finance Ireland Act 2018 that excludes loans to owner management companies to cover remedial building costs, the Act requires that HBFI lend on commercial terms. The commerciality of funding such remediation is risky from two perspectives:
Based on the high level of risk that would pertain to such lending, it may not be considered commercial in many cases and could put HBFI in breach of its commercial remit.
HBFI will examine each application received on its own merits and particular circumstances. It is a matter for HBFI to assess and, if thought appropriate, issue a term sheet having regard to State aid rules and its commercial responsibilities.
I am advised by HBFI that only a very small number of calls and emails have been received in relation to this type of funding to date and that none of these enquiries have progressed to a full application at this time
To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the options under consideration for volunteer centres that are underfunded; the timeframe in which a decision may be reached regarding these centres, if he expects the necessary funding will be granted for these volunteer centres to continue to operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
My Department's Community and Voluntary Supports and programmes unit provide a cohesive framework of support for the community and voluntary sector. €3.5 million is being provided in 2019 under this programme to support 21 Volunteer Centres, eight Volunteering Information Services and a number of volunteer-supporting organisations, such as Volunteer Ireland.
Following the publication in 2017 of a report by Dermot McLaughlin entitled "Developing Funding Criteria for Volunteer Centres in Ireland", my Department secured additional funding of €300,000 which was allocated to all Volunteer Centres in 2017 on a proportionate basis. This increased funding level has been maintained in 2018 and 2019.
The Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2018 included the provision of €1.2 million to upgrade the eight Volunteering Information Services to full Volunteer Centres in order to provide a consistent level of volunteering service nationwide. My Department is currently engaging with stakeholders in the roll-out of this initiative. As part of this exercise, my Department is also examining options with regard to a number of existing Volunteer Centres which are currently receiving less funding than the minimum amount recommended in the McLaughlin report.
My Department is also currently collating information received from a recent call for input exercise that was designed as a first step towards developing a draft national volunteering strategy. Among the topics under consideration in this context is the issue of volunteering support infrastructure and how best this can be structured to support volunteering.
All Parlamientary Questions I make and their answers can be viewed in this section