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KILDARE COUNTY COUNCIL

Minutes of Adjourned Monthly Meeting
held at 2.00 p.m. on Monday, 1 March 2010 at
Áras Chill Dara, Devoy Park, Naas, Co Kildare

Members Present: Councillor C Purcell (Mayor); Councillors K Byrne, R Daly, S Doyle,
S Griffin, M Heydon, P Kennedy, P Kelly, S Langan, A Lawlor,
P McEvoy, J McGinley, P MacNamara, M Miley, C Murphy, M Nolan,
F O’Loughlin, D. Scully and M Wall.

Apologies: Councillors F Browne, W Callaghan, L Doyle, S Moore, T O’Donnell and B Weld.

Also Present: Mr M Malone, County Manager, Messrs J Boland, J Lahart, E O’Sullivan (Director of Services), Mr M O’Leary (Acting Director of Services),
 Ms B Sweeney (Acting Head of Finance), C Talbot (Meetings Administrator) and other officials.

_________________________


The Mayor informed the members that item 7 on the agenda, relating to the receipt of a presentation on new draft regional planning guidelines, had been deferred to the Planning meeting on 15 March 2010.


1/0310
Mayor’s Business

The Mayor referred to the ongoing dispute at Green Isle Foods Ltd and noted that it had received a lot of media attention recently.  He urged all involved to do whatever was necessary to ensure an early resolution of the dispute.  This was supported by the members.


2/0310
Votes of Sympathy

The Mayor and members expressed sympathy with the following on their recent bereavements:
 

Maura Noone, Facilities Manager, Newbridge Sports Centre, on the death of her father.
Rose Sargent, Finance Section, on the death of her sister.
The family of the late Frank English, retired Athy Town Councillor.
The family of the late Willie Cullen, former employee of Kildare County Council, Kildare Area.
Pat Sherry, Architects Section on the death of his son Padraig.
The family of the late Sean Cribbin, retired Rate Collector and Burial Ground Caretaker.
Helen Walsh, Canteen, on the death of her son Conor.
Olive Howe, Naas Town Council, on the death of her brother Derek.
Gary O’Toole, Transportation Construction on the death of his mother.
Carmel Hester, Naas Library, on the death of her mother.


3/0310
Manager’s Business

The Manager referred to a document prepared by Breda Gleeson, County Librarian, titled Changing Minds Changing Practices – A Training Manual for Trainers.  He stated that the publication was about universal access for people with disabilities to services and buildings.  He added that the Council had accepted the challenge a number of years ago of considering how people with disabilities would access our services and a considerable amount of work had been done in this area.  As part of her thesis Breda had recapped the experience of what the Council was endeavouring to do and had subsequently produced this document.  He congratulated Breda, adding that she was creative and innovative in the work that she does.

The Mayor congratulated Breda on the publication adding that Changing Minds, Changing Practices is a learning intervention programme focusing on the provision and delivery of services by organisations and institutions in Irish society to people with impairment.  He suggested that this publication be publicised in the media as he considered it would be of assistance to a lot of trainers.

Ms Gleeson informed the members that she had undertaken a Masters Programme at NUI Maynooth in Adult and Community Education and, as part of her studies, had chosen to do a thesis on how to make change in a sustainable way in ensuring access to services and buildings for people with disabilities.  She thanked the members and staff for their support while she was undertaking her studies. 

The members congratulated Breda on the publication and on the proposal of Councillor Griffin, seconded by Councillor Nolan it was agreed that the document be circulated to schools and community organisations throughout the county.

4/0310
Correspondence

The council noted receipt of the following correspondence:

• Letter from the Road Safety Authority in response to our correspondence relating to the implementation of the penalty points scheme.  Noted
Councillor Murphy referred to the statistical information that had been circulated relating to the penalty points scheme stating that, having analysed the figures, it appeared that the number of penalty points issued by location did not reflect activity at accident locations.  While supporting the implementation of the scheme to assist in accident prevention, she was concerned that over-enforcement at some locations was resulting in under-enforcement at other locations that warranted attention.
• Letter from Limerick County Council calling on the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government to nominate one agency to take control of rivers nationally and that this agency would identify a time of the year for local authorities, landowners, communities and other agencies to clean and dredge the river banks, beds and bridges.  Noted.
• Letter from Galway County Council calling on the Minister for Transport to provide additional funding to properly address the condition of our roads.  Noted.
• Letter from the Pádraig Pearse Foundation inviting nominations for an award.  The nominees should show attributes identifiable to those of Pádraig Pearse.  Noted.
• Letter from the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Emer Costello, addressed to Mayor Purcell, advising that, at a recent meeting of Dublin City Council, the members recorded a vote of sympathy with the people of Kildare affected by recent flooding events and expressed solidarity with the Council.  The Mayor thanked Lord Mayor Costello for her kind and thoughtful letter.  It was agreed that a copy would be circulated to the members.


5/0310
Conferences

The meetings administrator stated that a list of conferences had been circulated to the Group Leaders for consideration and the following conferences had been approved:

3 March 2010
Training Course on the Food Waste Regulations
Venue: Heritage Golf and Spa, Killenard, Portlaoise, Co Laois
Cost per delegate: €260
Nominations:  No Nomination received
 

11 March 2010
Flood Management and Water Services Conference
Venue: Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
Cost per delegate: €565
Nominations: No nomination received.

18-20 March 2010
The Local Government Housing Service
Venue: Killarney Plaza Hotel, Killarney, Co Kerry
Cost per delegate: €895
Nominations:  All attended the conference.

9-11 September 2010
9th AMAI Annual Conference
Venue: Inishowen Gateway Hotel, Buncrana, Co Donegal
Cost per delegate: €900
Nominations: 


06/0310
Register of Delinquent Developers

The council considered the following motion in the name of Councillor Murphy:
Kildare County Council agrees to open a register of delinquent developers.  That we do so in order that planning permission can be refused on the basis of non-compliance with previous planning permissions based on the terms included in the Strategic Infrastructure Bill.

The meetings administrator read a report from the Planning Department stating that Section 35 of the Planning & Development Act 2000, as amended, has provision for the refusal of planning permission where a person/company is not in compliance with previous permissions.  This required authorisation from the High Court.  Section 35 of the principal Act has been amended by Section 9 of the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 whereby, the applicant may, within 8 weeks from the receipt of that notification, notwithstanding sections 50 and 50A, apply, by motion on notice to the planning authority, to the High Court for an order annulling the planning authority’s decision and, on the hearing of such application, the High Court may, as it considers appropriate, confirm the decision of the authority, annul the decision and direct the authority to consider the applicant’s application for planning permission without reference to the provisions of this section or make such other order as it thinks fit.  For clarity, legal advice is being sought in relation to this motion and the members will be advised of the outcome on receipt of same.

Councillor Murphy stated that the Strategic Infrastructure Act is a good piece of legislation, but it needs to be used correctly.  She considered that local authorities would be facing a difficult time for enforcement and it did not make sense to grant planning permission to a developer who leavers a previous development unfinished.  She added that the council should open a register to record significant non-compliance and unfinished estates and would encourage other local authorities to do likewise.  A number of members supported Councillor Murphy’s suggestion.

Resolved that the matter be revisited once the requested legal advice has been received.


07/0310
Sewerage Blockages and Leaks

The council considered the following motion in the name of Councillor MacNamara:
Where sewerage blockages and leaks occur, flooding back gardens of houses in estates not taken in charge by Kildare Co. Council, that in the interest of public health and safety that the council investigate such matters as a priority, clear the problem and bill the developer of the estate for the works required to clear the blockage.
The meetings administrator read a report from the Water Services Department advising that foul and storm drains and water service pipes laid in gardens of individual private houses are not taken in charge by the council, including instances where the council has taken an estate in charge.  Responsibility for maintenance of private drains and services laid through the individual household site transfers to the householders who purchase the house/site.  If a blockage/leak occurs in a drain/service pipe, it may be difficult for residents to establish who is responsible for the blockage/leak, particularly when this happens after a number of years. It may well be that the drain/service pipe was, in the first instance, laid in a defective manner by the builder.  Where an estate is taken in charge, the Council does not take over private drains and services, only the public drains and services located in the public road space, and is responsible for the maintenance of these services only.  In cases where there is an extreme threat to the health and safety of the general public as a result of a problem originating from a private drain, the council may decide to intervene to remedy the problem. However, there may be difficulties for the council in recouping the cost of such intervention.

Councillor MacNamara requested clarification as to situations where the council would intervene to remedy a problem, referring, in particular, to scenarios where there was a public health issue. 

Resolved that the report be circulated for the information of the members.

08/0310
Metered Water Charges for Schools

The council considered the following motion in the name of Councillor MacNamara:
That Kildare County Council:
• Note that due to recent budget cutbacks, all schools across Ireland are now increasingly under funded and unable to make ends meet;
• Notes the Fianna Fail - Green Party Government decision to introduce metered water charges for all schools from January 1, 2010;
• Asks the County Manager to write to all school principals in the county informing them of the new metered water charges;
• Asks the County Manager to advise all schools on how they can conserve water consumption and so reduce their water bills to save money.

The meetings administrator read a report from the Water Services Department advising that a letter had issued to all school Principals in November 2008 in relation to this issue.  On receipt of readings for the period October – December 2009 final bills will issue under the transitional arrangements that have been in place.  The Finance Department will again be advising Principals that, as these arrangements no longer apply, they will be charged the full metered cost from January 2010.  The council, in association with An Taisce, actively supports the Green Schools Programme, which includes a module on water conservation.  The Environmental Awareness Officer works closely with schools, providing advice on waste management, water conservation, energy conservation, transport and biodiversity. 

Councillor MacNamara, while welcoming the fact that the council was proactive in providing assistance, was critical of the timing of the introduction of this policy, stating that many schools are already having difficulty providing funding.  He questioned if it was correct to introduce such a policy at this time, whether one agreed with the principle or not. 

Councillor Daly stated that, while there is merit in water conservation, this was putting an additional cost on schools and older schools were particularly badly affected, as they did not have water conservation measures installed.  Councillor McGinley supported the motion.  He referred to a motion he had listed on the council agenda in January 2009 requesting the introduction of grants for schools to assist with the cost of this policy.  He added that it must now be a policy for all new schools to install a rainwater harvesting scheme and that this should be a condition of planning permission. 

 
Councillor Kelly stated that he was in agreement with points 2, 3 and 4 of the motion.  He asked for clarification as to whether schools with high water consumption in the county had been identified.  He also requested clarification as to how many schools would suffer a significant increase in cost per head as a result of the introduction of the policy and also how many have not availed of the Summer Project Schemes.  Councillor Griffin stated that the student numbers for next year would be increased and that there would be a decrease in funding. 

Resolved that the report be noted. 


09/0310
Protected Structures

The council considered the following motion in the name of Councillor S Doyle:
As a means of addressing the need to encourage the re-development of protected      structures through the levies scheme that Kildare County Council amend the current    scheme to acknowledge the relatively high costs of developing these sites with a reduced levies scheme for planning applications on such sites and in so doing incentivise the re-generation of our valuable built environment.

The meetings administrator read a report from the Planning Department stating that this issue is being addressed as part of the review of the County Development Plan and there will be an objective in line with the above proposal.  A complete review of the Development Contribution Scheme, adopted in 2004, will be carried out this year, as it must be in place by the end of February 2011.  With this in mind Council members, the public and other interested parties may submit observations for consideration once the draft contribution scheme goes on public display.  Any observations raised during the term of the current scheme, such as protected structures etc, will also be addressed. 

While noting the report Councillor Doyle stated that the current development contributions scheme was adopted in a different economic climate and she proposed that the current levies scheme be suspended with regard to protected structures until such time as the scheme has been reviewed.  The County Manager advised the members that work will commence on reviewing the development contributions scheme mid-year and this work has been included in the Business Plan for 2010.  He stated that, given the legalities of the scheme, it was not possible to suspend any part of the scheme, however, Councillor Doyle’s proposal will be considered as part of the review.  In response to a question from Councillor Griffin the Manager confirmed that protected structures will be reviewed as part of the County Development Plan process.

Resolved that this motion be considered as part of the review of the development contributions scheme.

10/0310
Water Charges

The council considered the following motion in the name of Councillor Murphy:
In view of the announced intention by Government to impose charges for water,  we seek a report on the estimated number of households which have a water meter installed and the number of vacant houses currently in the County.   

The meetings administrator read a report from the Water Services Department advising that there are approximately 70,000 domestic units availing of the public water supply in the county at present.  It has been a condition of planning that all houses/units fix a meter box in the public footpath since 2004.  To date, in the region of 4,000-6,000 such units have been fitted.  Approximately 65,000 housing units do not currently have a metering device on the public water supply.

In referring to the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in relation to the intention to meter household water supply, Councillor Murphy stated that she had interpreted that each household would pay for water over and above what they might reasonably use.  Given the number of households in the county yet to have a metering device installed she now suspected that the Government would introduce a flat charge for household water.  If this were the case it would result in a water tax not a water charge being introduced. 

Councillor Kelly outlined Government policy in relation to the metering of domestic water supplies stating that the policy would be fair, reduce waste and be easily applied.  He added that the programme of installing meters was due to commence in 2011 and was likely to take a number of years.  He stated that there was nothing to indicate that a flat charge would be introduced and that the charge would be for the service provided and was not solely to encourage conservation but to recoup the cost of provision of the supply.  Councillor Griffin stated that each household should be recouped the cost of installing the water meter.

Resolved that the report be noted.


11/0310
Management Company Charges

The council considered the following motion in the name of Councillor Murphy:
Kildare County Council provides details of the number of housing units where management company charges are paid by the Council, the locations of these and the extent of the charge paid, also if they relate to houses or apartments.  This council considers developing a policy response relating to membership by staff or tenants on the board of such management companies, we also consider how to minimise the cost of the management company fee for both council and owners

The meetings administrator read a report from the Housing Department stating that the council pays management charges for 108 units, the vast majority of which are in the north of the county.  They are paid for both houses and apartments and most of these units were purchased under Part V.  The breakdown of houses to apartments is approximately 3 apartments to 1 house.  A figure of €90,000 has been provided in the 2010 budget and payments are made on receipt of invoices from the management companies, some of which are more efficient than others.  The council would be in favour of being represented on management companies where we have multi units, but in estates where we have only a small number of units this might not be possible.

Councillor Murphy welcomed that the council would favour being represented on management companies and suggested that this matter be considered further by the Housing Strategic Policy Committee.  She stated that it was important that the local authority took as much of the estate in charge as possible, thereby reducing the management fee cost to the householders.   She encouraged the council to have a representative on the Board of Directors of management companies.

Councillor Kelly stated that there was merit in encouraging residents to get involved with management companies and that tenants should be assisted in getting involved.  He referred to a Bill currently under consideration which, when passed, will introduce major changes to this area.  He referred also to the involvement of management agents and suggested that the council make it known that they will be pursued through the courts, if necessary, to ensure that they carry out their functions. 

Resolved that the report be noted.


12/0310
Restrictions on use of Hose Pipes

The council considered the following motion in the name of Councillor Lawlor:
That whenever restrictions on the use of hose pipes are considered necessary, they be applied on a regional rather than a county basis.

The meetings administrator read a report from Mr Boland, Director of Services, stating that Kildare County Council obtains over 90% of its public water supply from the Greater Dublin Region.  Generally, a hose pipe ban is used to restrict usage in times of water shortage in accordance with Section 56 of 2007 Water Services Act.  This statutory power, which is available to local authorities is, therefore, relatively new.  It is generally intended that such would be applied in periods of drought or in cases where there is serious deficiency of water available for distribution, the aim being to prevent watering of gardens, washing (including commercial) of vehicles, replenishment of swimming pools etc.  The recent hose pipe ban imposed by the council, therefore, applied mainly to car washing as other drought related activities did not really pertain. The members will be aware that this was, in turn, against the background of very severe curtailment of supplies in the Greater Dublin Region, which persisted in the aftermath of the recent emergency conditions.  In this regard, there was approximately an 18% deficit in terms of water supply versus demand and it was a matter for each constituent local authority to determine the manner by which this was to be achieved.  In the case of Kildare County Council, priority was given to the needs of industry as well as vulnerable users such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools etc.  Every effort was made to minimise disruption to the domestic sector.  The decision to introduce the hose pipe ban was made in this context although it is agreed that such may be more effective if made in a regional context.  This can be considered in the future and will be discussed at relevant regional steering meetings.  The ban was subsequently lifted after a number of days and at the earliest possible opportunity.  In passing, it should also be noted that there are other options available to commercial car washes including recycling of grey/rain water, bored wells etc.  In the longer term the use of expensive chlorinated water for such activities is not really tenable.

Councillor Lawlor stated that, during the recent hose pipe ban, he had received a number of representations from people operating car washes querying why there was no ban in the Dublin area and highlighting the fact that they were disproportionately effected.  He welcomed the fact that this issue would be considered on a regional basis in the future. 

Resolved that the report be noted.


13/0310
Leasing of Houses for Social Housing Needs

The council considered the following motion in the name of Councillor McGinley:
That this Council calls on the Government to abandon the policy of leasing houses for social housing rather than buying them and that where the Council is buying a number of homes in a development that they be scattered randomly throughout the development rather than clustered together.

Councillor McGinley stated that the announcement made by the Minister for Housing in January in relation to the leasing of houses to meet social needs was completely the wrong approach.  He added that this scheme amounted to a bailout for developers.  He proposed that a letter be written to all other local authorities seeking support for this motion.  He also stated that developers were providing houses in clusters as opposed to scattered throughout the development, which was not good for the tenants or the developer and did not reflect integration. 

The meetings administrator read a report from the Housing Department advising that the council has been informed by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government that there will be only minimal construction projects for specific purposes approved in the near future.  Capital funding is decreasing at a rapid rate.  Purchases will be decreasing also as Social Leasing and RAS will be the only options available to provide houses for our social applicants.  In purchasing units for social housing stock pepper-potting will be utilised where possible, but this has not always been possible.

Councillor Scully stated that the introduction of this policy would result in local authorities not being able to use lands in their ownership for house construction.  Councillor Murphy stated that it was not a sustainable approach to provision of social houses and raised concerns about hidden costs, such as provision of necessary infrastructure, which would not be included in the lease costs.  Councillor Griffin supported the motion and stated that it would be better to use the money set aside for this scheme to purchase houses rather than lease. 

Councillor S Doyle stated that, while she had initial reservations about the introduction of this scheme, she was now aware that the Government was not in a position financially to provide funding to purchase properties and this was an innovative approach to provision of social housing.  She added that it was important for the local authority to retain a certain amount of its housing stock to ensure that there was flexibility in the future for people to transfer to a different type of unit.  Councillor Kelly stated that this was one aspect of how a local authority can meet a housing need.  He added that value for money would be a key factor.  He stated that the approach was not to allow clustering or to take over large portions of developments as this would repeat past mistakes.

Resolved on the proposal of Councillor McGinley, seconded by Councillor MacNamara, and agreed by a show of hands, that this Council calls on the Government to abandon the policy of leasing houses for social housing rather than buying them and that where the Council is buying a number of homes in a development that they be scattered randomly throughout the development rather than clustered together and that a letter be sent to all other local authorities seeking support for this motion.


14/0310
Special Needs Assistants

The council considered the following motion in the names of Councillors McEvoy and Kennedy:
That the Council debate the consequences of the current and future planned reductions of special needs assistants from classrooms across Kildare.

 
Councillor McEvoy stated that, while this was a national issue, he had received representations locally in relation to the overall strategy of reducing the number of special needs assistants in classrooms.  He made reference to statistics released by SIPTU which suggest that, of the 6,000 special needs assistants in mainstream schools, 1,200 will be made redundant by the end of March.  It is estimated that 100 SNA’s will be lost in this county.  He added that the loss of SNA’s from schools will increase difficulties in delivering an education service to students and will curtail the capacity of teachers to cater for the broad range of intellectual needs in large classes.  He stated that the long-term need for SNA’s had not been properly assessed.  Councillor Kennedy referred to the importance of SNA’s to schools and outlined the assistance that they can provide to students.  He stated that by reducing the number of SNA’s the Government was hitting at the most vulnerable in society. 

In supporting the motion Councillor Murphy noted the significant contribution made by SNA’s and highlighted that a number have done courses to improve their skills.  She feared that the lack of SNA’s could result in some schools being reluctant to take children with a special need. 

Councillor Kelly outlined the current funding available for SNA’s and stated that there was no change in the criteria for a student availing of an SNA.  He added that an SNA is attributable to a student not a specific school.  The primary focus of the current review was to ensure that this resource was being deployed correctly and he added that the review group was due to report by the end of March. 

Councillor Griffin stated that the withdrawal of SNA’s from the system was robbing some students, who were in need of support, of an education and a loss of lifelong learning.  He added that, while an SNA is attributable to a student, they are not necessarily transferable from primary to secondary level.  Councillor Nolan stated that the effects of the reduction in the number of SNA’s was already having an impact on schools adding that the lack of an SNA could have a negative effect on a whole classroom.  Councillor Wall supported the motion stating that it was important to protect the most vulnerable in society. 

In supporting the motion Councillor McGinley proposed an amendment “That the council condemn the current and future planned reductions of special needs assistants from classrooms across Kildare”.  The proposed amendment was seconded by Councillor McEvoy. 

Councillor O’Loughlin stated that mainstream school was not always the answer for every student.  She referred to the availability of services in Kildare such as KARE and Moore Abbey and the great service they provide.  She said that SNA posts were not being removed where students meet the criteria. 

Resolved on the proposal of Councillor McGinley, seconded by Councillor MacNamara, and agreed by a show of hands, that the council condemn the current and future planned reductions of special needs assistants from classrooms across Kildare.

____

The meeting concluded.