Wednesday, 22 January 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
29. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for the Environment whether he intends to make additional finances available to local authorities to enable them to take over group water schemes when service charges are abolished by the Government. [24285/96]
30. Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for the Environment the proposals, if any, he has to offset the costs involved for persons participating in group water schemes and providing water supplies from private wells in view of his recent proposals to abolish water charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1524/97]
43. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for the Environment if his attention has been drawn to the widespread concern of shareholders in water schemes, many of whom pay motor tax, towards providing water free of charge in urban areas while at the same time having to pay for their own water supply; the plans, if any, he has to ensure that no such discrimination takes place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1430/97]
67. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Minister for the Environment if he will make a statement on charges for voluntary group water schemes, cattle troughs and other charges including maintenance and running costs for group water schemes in view of his announcement regarding the abolition of water charges. [1176/97]
71. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for the Environment whether provision will be made in the Government's plans for the abolition of water charges for the taking in charge of group water supply schemes and the payment of an amount to each local authority to cover annual maintenance costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1388/97]
74. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for the Environment the level of finance which will be made available towards the running costs of group water schemes in the event that local authority service charges are abolished in the 1997 budget. [25231/96]
246. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment whether he intends giving any assistance towards maintenance costs to people who provide their own sewerage systems, either through group sewerage schemes or through individual treatment plants or septic tanks, in view of the abolition of the local authority sewerage charges. [1139/97]
247. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment whether he intends giving any assistance to people who have private supplies of water in view of the abolition of water charges for people on local authority schemes. [1140/97]
248. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment the steps, if any, he intends to take to ensure that people whose water supply is provided by group water schemes will not have to pay any water charges in view of his abolition of water rates for people being supplied by local authority water schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1141/97]
“Better Local Government — A Programme for Change”, which I published last December, lays down a comprehensive agenda for change which features increased devolution of responsibility to local authorities and a new funding system under which local authority charges for domestic water and sewerage services are being abolished. In Galway yesterday, I announced a package of specific measures in relation to group and small public water and sewerage schemes which follow from the decisions in the programme.
In line with the abolition of domestic charges, local authorities will no longer charge group water schemes for the supply of domestic water. This will lead to a considerable reduction in the amount of charges made to the members of groups supplied from public schemes. Members of all group schemes will, of course, continue to benefit from income tax relief at the standard rate  in respect of charges paid to groups up to £150 per year.
I am very much aware that there are a large number of rural households served by group schemes which have their own supplies and that a significant number of these supplies are not up to standard. I am now, for the first time, making a special capital provision of £5 million in 1997 to establish a new multi-annual programme of works by local authorities to enable them to take over existing group water and sewerage schemes, thus remedying substandard systems and eliminating domestic charges for the group scheme members concerned.
I have also decided to proceed immediately with arrangements for the devolution from my Department to the local authorities of full responsibility for the administration of group scheme grant applications for new schemes or the extension or upgrading of existing schemes. This is in keeping with the recommendations of the Devolution Commission.
As a final element of the package, full responsibility for small public water and sewerage schemes will also be devolved to local authorities and capital funding in the form of block grants will be made available to them for this purpose in 1997 and future years.
This overall package of measures means that a total of £15 million, plus £3 million from EU Structural Funds to support group scheme development, will be made available to local authorities in 1997 in block grant form to finance group and small public schemes, including the taking over and refurbishment of existing schemes. It will be a matter for local authorities to decide on priorities among these categories of works, subject to meeting commitments on foot of approvals already granted. Detailed arrangements for implementation of the package will be notified to local authorities shortly.
Additional current costs incurred by local authorities in the implementation of the various measures will be among the factors taken into account in determining distributions from the equalisation fund being established this year.
I am confident that the foregoing measures will be welcomed by rural communities who rely on group schemes. They also represent a further practical step towards devolving more responsibility and decision-making to local authorities. There are no proposals to provide public funds to meet the running costs of individual water and sewerage facilities. However, many who currently rely on these will benefit over time from the expanding network of public and group schemes.
|Last Updated: 21/05/2011 07:05:55||Page of 434|