Due to COVID-19, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage has today (24th February 2021) agreed with the Commissioner of Valuation that the Commissioner will defer the revaluation of rateable properties in the following local authority areas until 2022:
Clare County Council, Donegal County Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Galway City Council, Galway County Council, Kerry County Council and Mayo County Council.
New valuations arising from the revaluation of these local authorities will now be finalised in September 2022 and become effective for rates purposes from 2023 onwards.
The revaluations of these local authorities are part of an ongoing national programme to ensure that the rateable valuations of all commercial and industrial properties in Ireland are updated on a regular cycle so as to maintain relativity between individual ratepayers in the same local authority area. The purpose of revaluation is to bring increased transparency and equity to the local authority rating system.
Neither residential property nor agricultural lands are rateable and consequently are not affected by revaluation.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD has today (23rd February 2021) published the policy paper “Irish Water – Towards a national, publicly-owned, regulated, water services utility” following its approval at Cabinet.
The Policy Paper sets out the Government’s views and expectations on the next steps in the transformation of the water sector that will lead to the retention of Irish Water as a national, publicly-owned, regulated, water services utility. Specifically, the Government’s expectations are that:
“Irish Water, backed by record Government investment in water infrastructure, is well placed to develop the systems and services that Ireland needs to serve our citizens in the 21st century. To do that, however, requires the creation of a world class utility. Working together, Irish Water and local authorities, have made real improvements in implementing nationwide systems to improve our water services since 2014. Today’s policy paper is about building on that and taking it further.
“Today I am setting out the Government’s vision of how we want Irish Water to develop. We want Irish Water to become the workplace of choice for those local authority staff right across the country who are currently delivering water services on behalf of Irish Water. We acknowledge workers’ loyalty to their local authority and to their status as public service workers as well as their commitment to local service delivery. I am therefore asking that, through the aegis of the Workplace Relations Commission, management from Irish Water and the Local Government sector sit down with trade unions to develop a solution which allows us to move ahead with that world class public utility while respecting the concerns of local authority staff.
“I am also conscious of the enormous transformation involved for local government in future years. The Paper recognises this and I will work with the County and City Management Association to ensure that local authorities are not left with un-supported financial liabilities as a result of the transformation programme.
“I want to thank the existing workforce of Ervia and Irish Water for their contribution to date in the progress made in modernising our national water infrastructure and services; and acknowledge too the further transformational change involved for them as the Government moves ahead with the establishment of two separate companies – Gas Networks Ireland and Irish Water – to manage our national gas and water networks.
“The Government is determined to ensure that the views and concerns of key stakeholders must be considered and addressed within the transformation process. These stakeholders include the water services workers throughout the country, who through their dedication and commitment have developed the water services on which so many of us rely today, the local government sector, which is an intrinsic part of the public service and of local communities, ICTU, and its relevant affiliate unions, namely Fórsa, SIPTU, Connect and UNITE and, of course, Irish Water, its parent company Ervia and their staff. To all concerned I want to say that we as a Government firmly respect your positions and views and want to give you the strongest possible say in deciding your own future working arrangements.
“We now have the opportunity to move forward with the integration of our public water services within Irish Water’s organisation structure so that we have a single organisation that is tasked with developing, and fully equipped to deliver, a world class public water system of which Ireland and its citizens can be justifiably proud,” he concluded.
Minister O’Brien launches a call for research in relation to defective concrete blocks and pyritic hardcore
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Mr. Darragh O’Brien TD, has today (22nd February 2021) launched an open call for research in relation to legacy issues of defective concrete blocks and pyritic hardcore.
€200,000 will be made available to fund this research, which is aimed at supporting the technical advancement of standards relating to the assessment of dwellings damaged by defective concrete blocks and pyritic hardcore.
Defective housing can have a devastating impact on the lives of homeowners and the issues of pyritic heave and defective concrete blocks have resulted in substantial costs to the taxpayer.
This research will support evidence-based decision making for policy-makers and standardisation bodies. It will lead to a greater understanding of the effects of pyrite and mica in construction products and potentially avoid future adverse effects in buildings.
Minister O’Brien said: “I am delighted to be able to announce this important initiative which will provide an opportunity to harness the expertise of our scientific and academic community as well as the experience of those dealing with dwellings damaged by defective products.”
The call for research will be managed by Geological Survey Ireland, a division of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Mr Koen Verbruggen, Director of Geological Survey Ireland said: “Ensuring sustainable access to high quality raw materials to build our homes, our schools and our hospitals will be vitally important in the delivery of Project Ireland 2040.”
Further information on the call for research is available on the website of Geological Survey Ireland (https://www.gsi.ie/en-ie/events-and-news/news/Pages/GSI-Targeted-Project-for-Pyrite-mica.aspx).
Minister O’Brien announces establishment of Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority and appointment of Board Members
The Minister for Housing, Local Government & Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has today (22 February 2021) announced nine appointments to the board of the newly established Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority, following a process conducted by the Public Appointments Service.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “I am delighted to establish the Regulator and appoint its first members. This is a significant development for the Approved Housing Body sector. This new body - The Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority - will be an important element in support of our ambitious housing agenda – “Housing for All.”
“Approved Housing Bodies play a crucial role across the housing spectrum; delivering much needed social homes, helping families and individuals to exit homelessness and supporting people to live independently in their own homes.
“The Regulator will oversee the effective governance, financial management and performance of all voluntary and co-operative housing bodies, thereby instilling further confidence in the sector,” he said.
The Regulator will have responsibility for, inter alia, establishing and maintaining a register of Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs); preparing standards by which AHBs will be monitored and assessed; encouraging and facilitating the better governance, administration and management, including corporate governance and financial management, of AHBs. The Regulator will also have powers to carry out investigations and cancel the registration of AHBs.
Local Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has met with representatives of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA) to discuss ongoing concerns for the Irish aviation industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister O’Brien reaffirmed his support for the organisation and the wider aviation sector, acknowledging that the pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on the industry.
Commenting he said, “I was very glad to meet with representatives from IALPA recently. As a TD for Dublin-Fingal, a constituency home to Dublin Airport, I have a deep understanding and appreciation for how important the aviation industry is to our area and to our country.
“Since this pandemic began I have been in regular contact with cabin crew and with pilots and other workers who are deeply concerned as to their futures and that of the industry.
“Supporting the aviation industry remains a priority for this Government. Unprecedented levels of funding have been provided through the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme, on commercial rates waivers for our airports, through Ireland's Strategic Investment Fund and on specific sectoral supports. I understand confidential talks are ongoing in relation to State supports for Aer Lingus and when appropriate I will be seeking an update on these talks.
“I am acutely aware that there are other airlines such as Ryanair and City Jet among others who have very strong bases here in Ireland their employees here require ongoing support too.
“The Airport is directly responsible for approximately 20,000 jobs with a further 115,000 indirectly. I have family members working in the Airport, who, like many others, have been impacted by the pandemic. I understand there are thousands of pilots, cabin crew, ground crew and many others who have been on reduced salaries since this pandemic began.
“In terms of wage supports, Minister Donohoe has confirmed that the legislation governing the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) allows him to extend the scheme until the end of June 2021, but that he is fully aware supports will be needed beyond that. Since the EWSS was launched by Government last August, over €1.8 billion has been spent on the scheme and I will certainly be supporting any measure brought to Cabinet to further extend it.
“The advice remains that non-essential overseas travel to and from Ireland must be avoided. The Government are putting in place new measures in terms of quarantine which will also act as a deterrent. I acknowledge these measures are not compatible with a prosperous aviation industry but they are short-term measures which we need to take as a result of the lethal spread of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants.
“These measures are blunt instruments, while it’s of little comfort to the cabin crew, pilots and staff, right now, the steps we are taking as a Government to supress the virus while we rollout the vaccine will ultimately lead to a robust recovery and the full reopening of the sector – something which we all want to see happen quickly.
“Since my election to the Dáil in 2007 I have been a strong and active supporter of Dublin Airport, our aviation sector and our national airline. This support will continue and as a Government we will do all we can to help the industry recover,” he concluded.
€45m investment in Local Authority Homes
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke TD, and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan have today (18 February) announced allocations and targets under the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme for Social Housing.
The Programme for Government 2020 set challenging and ambitious targets over the next ten years aimed at Ireland’s objective of reducing its carbon emissions by more than half. With approximately 40% of Ireland’s energy-related carbon emissions coming from buildings alone, one of the key objectives of the Programme is the target of retrofitting reaching over 500,000 homes by 2030, of which it is expected that approximately 36,500 of those with be local authority owned homes. In response to this commitment the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting programme has been revised and enhanced for 2021, homes retrofitted under this programme will benefit householders in many ways, they will be warmer, easier to heat and more comfortable homes, it will enhance air quality in the home and for those currently using oil or gas they will see savings on energy bills.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “The 2021 Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme is a newly revised programme designed around the Programme for Government commitment with an important increase in funding support of €65m, €20m of which has been allocated under the midlands retrofit programme.
“This revised programme will see a significant upscaling - from a ‘shallow’ to ‘deeper retrofit’ - on what has been completed by local authorities in previous years and will target 2,400 social homes in total for upgrade works in 2021.
“We are being realistic in our initial allocation and taking account of the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the works which can take place. We are taking an equitable approach ensuring that allocations are calculated on the basis of the number of social housing units each local authority has, as a percentage of the overall national stock, as well as the ability of individual local authorities to complete the programme and draw down all funding in 2021. This also ensures that those local authorities who have the capacity to deliver more are facilitated so that the 2021 retrofitting target of 2,400 homes is reached and the budget is spent,” he said.
Minister of State Burke added, “Last year we allocated €20m from Carbon Tax to eight local authorities under the Midlands Retrofit Project. Along with the climate and indeed health benefits, this funding is helping provide an economic stimulus to the regions most affected by Bord na Móna and ESB closures.
“Retrofitting homes is a highly labour-intensive sector and can create high-quality, sustainable jobs in local communities throughout the country, and has the capacity to play an important role in our economic recovery.
“I am especially pleased to announce that in addition to the €65m funding available, funding of €5m is available in the Local Government Fund to help resource local authorities to respond to the new programme and deliver on the ambitious targets,” he said.
Minister of State Noonan said, “Since the original scheme began in 2013 over 73,500 local authority homes have undergone energy efficiency works, but this was, for the most part, wall and attic insulation works.
“This revised programme focuses on a much deeper retrofitting, ensuring that the fabric of the home is upgraded and an energy efficient heating system is provided.
“This will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the residential sector and help Ireland reach its greenhouse gas emissions. Importantly, it will result in warmer, more comfortable homes which will benefit the health of all those living in them,” he concluded.