18 vacant council units to become available but there could be more

8th July 2014

Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, is questioning the level of Local Authority Average Unit Cost involved in refurbishing vacant units in County Kildare. Today (Tuesday) the Government announced that over 1,000 vacant units were to be refurbished into high quality family homes in 12 months, at a cost to the State of €15 million, however only 18 in Kildare are to be included in this scheme.

“Whilst I warmly welcome this initiative, I was disappointed to learn that Kildare would only benefit from 18 refurbished units through this scheme, particularly when one considers that over 6,000 people are currently on the housing list. When I looked at the nationwide figures, I noted that the Average Unit Cost in Kildare is one of the highest in the country, at €26,111. A total of €470,000 has been allocated to Kildare County Council but due to the high costs involved, this figure will only cover the refurbishment of 18 houses.

“In comparison, the refurbishment cost for South County Dublin is only €12,571 per unit and with a similar allocation of €440,000, 35 units will become available. In Cork City the unit cost is €17,228, in Galway City it is €16,094 and in similar commuter counties of Meath and Wicklow it is €19,871 and €21,538 respectively. The only Local Authorities with higher costs than Kildare are Wexford, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and Kilkenny.

“I would therefore question why Kildare County Council are costing the refurbishment at such a high level and wonder if they have tendered competitively for this scheme in order that more houses could be released for the same amount of funding. Under the first stage of this scheme, announced last April, €701,000 was allocated to County Kildare and 49 units were to be refurbished at an average unit cost of only €14,306. Kildare County need to explain why the costs involved now are substantially higher, resulting in less houses being refurbished.

“Today’s announcement is part of of a year-long campaign driven by Minister O’Sullivan that will see €30m invested and nearly 2,000 vacant houses returned to beneficial use. The investment will create and sustain hundreds of jobs in the construction sector. In framing proposals local authorities were encouraged to examine the role that community based organisations who recruit, train and engage long-term unemployed people can play in the refurbishment programme.”

ENDS

 

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New Housing Assistance Payment will help low income families to get suitable accommodation

Friday, 13th June 2014

Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, has today (Friday) welcomed the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme which he feels will assist working families on low income to find suitable accommodation.

“The new HAP scheme, which will allow people to work full time, is very welcome. Under this scheme the payment, which will be issued by the local authority instead of the Department of Social Protection, will be paid incrementally depending on how much the applicant earns. This will come as a relief to struggling families who are finding it increasingly difficult to find a home.

“Presently, working families are not entitled to Rent Supplement if they work more than 30 hours per week. This seriously disadvantages hard working people who want to work full time and provide for their families. Instead, they need to join the endless local authority waiting lists and try to find private accommodation which they can feasibility afford.

“In the present economic climate with rents rising, particularly in areas such as North Kildare, this is proving more and more difficult. Consequently many families consider cutting back their hours or giving up work completely to become eligible for Rent Supplement. This practice is counter intuitive and needs to stop.

“The changes proposed in this new legislation should therefore be widely welcomed as a way to tackle the housing crisis whilst also assisting families. Furthermore, it will also allow recipients of the payment to be transferred from their private rented accommodation into a local authority house should accommodation become available.

ENDS

 

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Dáil Speech on Local and Community Development Programmes – Private Members Business 5th June

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this topic. Deputy Ó Fearghaíl is from the same constituency as me, where we have had a chequered history with Leader partnerships. Years back, there were three companies in Kildare, and when three companies are putting out the same pot, there are three sets of administration. Most of the money ended up going on administration. They amalgamated but the sad part about this amalgamation was that the three CEOs of the three individual companies all became part and parcel of the new amalgamation and we had another issue with regard to administration costs. I still have an issue with administration costs because up to 20% of the €250 million being allocated can be spent on administration costs. If we are really speaking about where funding should be going in communities, we should examine this area because it means €50 million is automatically taken out of the initial €250 million to be spent on administrative costs and not allocated to communities. I have reservations about this; the fund has been established to assist communities but one fifth of it will be spent on administration costs, which somewhat defeats the purpose.

I very much welcome the fact that it is being brought under the auspices of the local authorities. This gives an opportunity for the public to have better scrutiny. Who has ever read in the newspapers about any Leader company meetings or reports? Journalists generally report on local authority activities so there is a better opportunity for oversight. I welcome the fact that the oversight body which will look after it has a wide variety of groups involved, not only community groups, but also educational groups, local authority management and elected members.

There is a huge delay between a project being initiated and getting a grant and this puts off groups proposing projects. I welcome the fact they will all be under the one body, so assistance can be given to community groups not only with applying for funding, but also with planning permission and any environmental issues which involves dealing with the local authority. This is a positive. I would welcome a unified system throughout country whereby the processes are similar for community groups applying for projects in various areas. We are still waiting for some projects, which applied and were passed by boards in May or June 2013, to be approved by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. This is unacceptable. If a project is worthy of funding, then whatever assistance can be given by whoever gets the tender should be speeded up as quickly as possible.

There is also a need for checks and balances. We see ridiculous projects being allocated huge amounts of money which have no bearing on why the overall scheme was established. I have seen it in County Kildare. There does not seem to be any logic and we need more checks and balances. I hope the overarching body in the local authorities will have a major say in this.

I welcome this measure because amalgamation within local authorities will assist community groups. Those applying for tenders will more than likely have experience and I agree such experience should be taken on board. It is important the projects are processed as quickly as possible.

ENDS

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Kildare County Council must work with Irish Water to take estates in charge

29th May 2014

Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, is urging Kildare County Council to work with Irish Water in a proactive and speedy manner to ensure that estates can be taken in charge without delay.

“It has been brought to my attention that Kildare County Council are being prevented from taking estates in charge until a Memorandum of Understanding with Irish Water has been agreed upon. This is leaving many residents in limbo as they desperately want the local authority to take charge of the upkeep of their estate but due to Irish Water taking responsibility for water services this can not presently occur.

“I tabled a Dáil Question to the Minister for Housing, Jan O’Sullivan TD, about this issue and she has informed me that

“My Department, in consultation with Irish Water and the local authorities, is currently working on developing a protocol in relation to the taking in charge of estates. It is expected that this protocol will be finalised in the coming weeks, following which further advice will be issued to local authorities in relation to this matter.”

(Dáil Question No. 90 29th May 2014)

“Once this protocol is finalised it is imperative that all local authorities, and I am particularly urging Kildare County Council, to expeditiously work with Irish Water to find a resolution.”

ENDS

 

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Dáil Question on McHugh v Kildare County Council case

Question No. 161

 To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there is a proposal to bring forward legislation to deal with the McHugh v Kildare County Council, 2005 IEHC 356 (2005) Supreme Court Decision; what he believes have been the implications to date of this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Anthony Lawlor.

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 20th February, 2014.

Ref No: 8661/14

REPLY

Section 47 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Section 38 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963 which was the subject of the Supreme Court Judgment referred to in the Question), provides that a planning authority may enter into an agreement with any person for the purposes of restricting or regulating the development and use of land permanently or for a specified period e.g. regulating development in rural areas under urban pressure.

The agreement which was the subject of the Supreme Court Judgment was not an agreement for the purposes of restricting or regulating the development and use of land permanently or for a specified period. Therefore there are no implications arising from the Judgment for the Planning and Development Act 2000, and there is no reason to bring forward legislation in this regard.

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