Wednesday, 27 March, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that Revenue change their local property tax registration form to include the option for full payment in cash in order to avoid confusion amongst members of the public who wish to avail of this option rather than a weekly or monthly payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister Michael Noonan: I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a wide range of payment options have been made available to liable persons, which will allow them to pay their Local Property Tax (LPT) liability in full or by way of phased payments. One payment option allows persons to pay the LPT by cash through one of the three approved payment service providers, which are An Post TaxPay, Payzone and Omnivend.
I am further advised by the Commissioners that, although the LPT Return only provides the option to pay LPT by cash in weekly or monthly instalments through the payment service providers, customers are free to choose whether to make their cash payments in one lump sum or spread their payments in equal instalments between July and December 2013. Accordingly, liable persons wishing to pay their LPT liability in cash, should choose the weekly or monthly option on the LPT Return, even where they intend to make one lump sum payment in cash.
I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in cases where a liable person wishes to pay their LPT in full using cash, all payment service providers have been informed to accept the lump sum payment. I am also advised that the LPT booklet accompanying the letters and LPT Returns that are currently being sent to liable persons by the Revenue Commissioners explains at page 7 that cash payments can be made in full. Indeed I understand that some property owners have already paid in full using cash.
As the general issue of LPT Returns has already commenced, it is not possible to amend the return form at this stage but I am satisfied that this should not impede a property owner who wishes to pay their LPT charge in full using cash.
::: Minister Hogan: harmonisation plans
Tuesday, 26 March, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the process involved in resetting the different commercial rate levels once town councils are abolished and local authorities are amalgamated.
Reply from Minister Phil Hogan: The Government’s Action Programme for Effective Local Government, Putting People First, indicates that in the context of reorganisation of local governance structures, the proposed new municipal districts will provide an opportunity to achieve a more coherent approach to rates and charges on a county-wide basis, having regard to funding requirements and the need to support employment and business competitiveness.
The Action Programme proposes rates harmonisation to cater for differences between Annual Rates on Valuation (ARVs) of towns and counties. My approach to rates harmonisation will seek to ensure, on the one hand, that harmonisation does not lead to significant net loss of revenue in individual counties with consequential implications for services, and on the other hand, that increases in rates do not impact negatively on businesses and employment. Definitive details, arrangements and procedures in relation to the funding of district level functions, and financial relations between district and county levels, will be developed in the context of the new local government funding arrangements generally, implementation of the new sub-county system and preparation of the legislation in relation to the reform programme.
Tuesday, 5 March, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in issuing files from the invalidity pension section to the appeals office; if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who requested an appeal on 27 March 2012 and whose file has not yet reached the appeals office; if she will ensure that information between the sections in her Department are passed on within a reasonable amount of time; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton (above): Invalidity pension section has been involved in a business process improvement review and backlog elimination programme. This programme has led to a significant reduction in the number of invalidity pension claims awaiting decision, down from 7007 claims at end May 2012 to 2593 claims at end Feb 2013. In addition, new claims are now processed on receipt with a decision being made based on information provided or, if this is not possible, further medical evidence or additional information is requested and a decision is made on receipt.
As a consequence of the very high number of decisions made in the last 9 months, there has been a corresponding substantial increase in the number of appeals being received. Delays in the preparation of claims for appeal are arising as a consequence and this is regretted. Invalidity pension section is now focussed on reducing the backlog in the appeals area.
Tuesday, 5 March, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide funding for urgent improvements to the harbour slipway at Dunmore East, County Waterford, in view of the importance of this work being carried out before the summer.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney: The harbour at Dunmore East is one of the six designated Fishery Harbour Centres which are owned, managed and maintained by my Department. Funding is made available on an annual basis by my Department to the Fishery Harbour Centres, including Dunmore East, via the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Capital Development Programme. The allocation of funding for projects within the 2013 Programme is currently under consideration for each of the Fishery Harbour Centres.
Tuesday, 5 March, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the proposed Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 in view of the EU Commission's concerns about Irish legal costs and the need for system reforms and independent regulation.
Reply from Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter: The Programme for Government 2011-2016 undertakes to “establish independent regulation of the legal profession to improve access and competition, make legal costs more transparent and ensure adequate procedures for addressing consumer complaints”. These undertakings complement those structural reforms in the EU/IMF/ECB Troika Programme of Financial Support for Ireland aimed at removing restrictions to trade and competition in the provision of legal services and at the reform of the legal costs regime.
Effect is being given to these structural reform commitments in the form of the extensive provisions of the Legal Services Bill 2011 which remains a priority under the Government Legislation Programme, has completed Second Stage in the Dáil and is currently awaiting Committee Stage - the Deputy will recall that priority also had to be given to the enactment of the Personal Insolvency Bill by the end of last year as a competing Troika programme objective. In meeting the concerns raised by the Deputy, the Legal Services Regulation Bill has four main levers of modernisation and reform, namely:
Tuesday, 5 March, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the limbo endured by aspirant providers due to the setting up the new Quality and Qualifications Ireland; when new applications for FETAC level accreditation will be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn: "As the Deputy will be aware, FETAC, HETAC and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) were formally dissolved on 6 November and their functions are now undertaken by the new amalgamated qualifications and quality assurance body, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). Significant work was undertaken by those bodies on the necessary core administrative preparations for the establishment of the new Authority, such as the establishment of a new organisational structure, change of accommodation and integration of ICT infrastructure.
In addition, the establishment of QQI has also involved the amalgamation of processes, including ones that have operated differently in the different agencies due to the history and nature of the different sectors. This requires the reconfiguration of current services such as the registration process for new providers, the validation and accreditation of programmes, the monitoring and review of providers and the development, review and certification of awards. It also includes the development of formal guidelines, criteria and procedures pursuant to the new Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012.
QQI is currently developing those guidelines, criteria and procedures and it is expected that new applications will be accepted by QQI in the near future. However, it should be noted that QQI continues to provide services to more than 1,000 providers which were registered with FETAC and HETAC and continues to make awards to learners."
Dáil Éireann allocates a certain amount of time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during which Deputies may ask questions of Members of the Government relating to Public Affairs connected with their Departments, or on matters of administration for whch they are officially responsible. The Taoiseach answers questions on his own Department on Tuesdays/Wednesdays.