I am writing to update you on some matters of local and national importance that may be of interest to you and your family.
Budget 2017 was announced in the Dáil last month. It will be debated and voted through the Dáil & Seanad between now and Christmas in the form of the Finance, Social Welfare, Appropriations and some other bills. The budget is a prudent one that reduces the budget deficit (the gap between what we spend and what we take in taxes) and reduces the national debt (as a percentage of GDP) so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. It also prepares for the risks of Brexit by retaining the 9% VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sector, providing extra staff for IDA and Enterprise Ireland and extra supports for farmers and exporters who are badly exposed to fluctuations in the value of sterling. There are some modest measures to improve people’s income such as reduction in the USC, an increase in the minimum wage and a €5 per week increase in basic social welfare payments from March 10th 2017. There are also special measures to help the self-employed, assist lone parents and young unemployed, in work and education, and reduce the cost of childcare for working parents. For details on all of these measures you can download my Know Where You Stand 2017 leaflet by clicking on this link http://leovaradkar.ie/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/LVaradkar-KWYS-2017_print.pdf
25% reduction in burglaries and theft in Dublin West
There are really welcome figures showing a 25% drop in burglaries and related offences in Dublin in the 12 months to June, and theft down by 10%. It shows that Garda Operation Thor has been a real success in helping to protect people and their homes. Nationally, burglary is down 26% and theft is down 12%. Extra resources have been provided to Garda operations this year, allowing Operation Thor to continue. This extra €55 million has allowed overtime to be doubled for intensive policing and crime prevention. Aside from Operation Thor, there have been other positive developments. Funding for the Community Alert Programme has been doubled to €350,000 and now incorporates a new €100,000 rebate scheme for local groups registered under the Garda Text Alert Scheme. This funding will go directly to groups, working with the Gardaí to help protect our local communities. Garda recruitment continues and we have committed to increase the overall strength to 15,000. Fine Gael is committed to tackling crime and protecting our communities. This Government is using the resources from our economic recovery to invest in crime prevention ensuring that criminals know that burglary and crime will not go unpunished.
The Council recently commenced on the agreed five year development plan for Porterstown Park in association with the sports clubs utilising the Park. The first element of the plan is the construction of an extension to the carpark, which will provide an extra 90 spaces. This work is now almost complete, and consists of a grass reinforced green area that is capable of taking vehicular traffic. The contractor concerned will also install a knee-rail fence along the boundary of the carpark extension to prevent cars accessing the Park, along with a vehicular barrier which will allow the extension to be closed during off-peak times. To facilitate the construction of the carpark extension, the soccer pitch which occupied this area has been moved to another location within the Park. The Long Jump facility has been installed for Metro St. Brigids AC, and will be available for use shortly. It has been agreed with the Contractor to provide a full detailed topographical survey of the Park to facilitate the design and construction of the future elements of the plan including extending the existing juvenile GAA pitch and the construction of the new Cricket Pitch. The other elements of the plan include the installation of toilets in 2017, and the construction of all-weather athletic and soccer facilities for 2018 – 2020 which will be dependent on the availability of funding.
The regional playground in Tyrrelstown Park is complete and has been open to the public for the past few weeks and is proving very popular. Fingal Council is planning an official opening to take place shortly. They have also issued an order for the construction of two MUGAs (basketball/soccer courts). Work has commenced on these and it is anticipated that they will be use by mid-December. These courts will be important to provide for the older kids/teenagers, and to take some of the pressure off the playground.
The grass pitches are also under construction at the moment. Seeding of the first two GAA pitches and the soccer pitch has been completed. However, it was only possible to carry out preliminary works on the cricket pitch due to weather / ground conditions. Fingal has advised that these works will be completed in spring 2017. The Le Chéile secondary school is now open and the All Weather pitch adjacent is almost completed and should be open for use before year end.
Badly needed resurfacing commenced on 9th Nov at 8pm. Expected duration of works is 2-3 weeks. Two way traffic flow to be maintained for majority of the works. Stop/Go will be in place where the road is insufficient for two way traffic.
On the 28th of September, Fingal County Council granted planning permission to Lidl for their Castleknock Village Development, despite the myriad objections/submissions by the residents. On behalf of the Fine Gael party in Castleknock, Cllr. Eithne Loftus, Deputy Mayor is appealing the decision to An Bord Pleanála. We are sharing the cost. She is also requesting an Oral Hearing on the case. The close off date for the appeal was 25th October, however anyone, even those who have not already submitted an objection/submission to Fingal County Council may still send an observation to support the appeal. An observation on the appeal should be sent in writing to The Secretary, An Bord Pleanála, 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1, and enclose the €50 fee. The deadline for observations is Monday 21st November. If you have already made an observation/objection to the Council, An Bord Pleanála’s inspector will receive it from the Council and will consider it as part of the appeal so you do not have to make a new submission; but you can if you wish or if you want to add new reasons or new information. Deputy Mayor Loftus’ appeal may be viewed on the Fingal website at this link http://documents.fingalcoco.ie/NorthgatePublicDocs/00538847.pdf
Castleknock Hurling & Football
Congratulations to Castleknock Hurling & Football for the fabulous achievement of making it to the Dublin Senior Football Final where they were beaten narrowly. It’s a phenomenal achievement for a young club to get so far so quickly and is testament to the vision of the founders and stellar work of the officers and volunteers. The club has been in receipt of substantial Government grants in recent years which have enabled the development of the pitches with work to commence on the clubhouse in the coming months.
St. Mochtas National School approved to go to tender
St. Mochtas National School in Clonsilla Village has been given the go-ahead to proceed to tender for their new school. I am confident construction will commence during this school year. The works involve construction of a new 4,791 sq. metres of new accommodation and a 32 classroom school. I am delighted that the Government has been able to allocate funding to allow St. Mochtas to go to tender. This has been a long journey for those involved and I wish them every success with their build. Fine Gael in Government is determined to ensure that our recovering economy can benefit everyone in society. Our children should be number one on this priority list and it is really important that they can learn in a safe and modern environment. Children attending this school will be able to go on to study in another newly built state-of-art school, Luttrellstown Community College. Nearly twenty new schools and school extensions have been built in Dublin 15 since Fine Gael came to office in 2011.
Over €13 million for extra housing units
€11M is being allocated to provide 53 new housing units across five projects for homeless people, older people and people with a disability. The details of the five projects are:
· Dublin Simon Community, €2.7M, 12 units for homeless people in Ongar, Waterville, Castlecurragh and Blanchardstown;
· Housing Association for Integrated Living, €0.4M, 3 units in Ongar to relocate people with disabilities from an institution;
· Tuath Housing Association, €1.4M, 4 units in Mulhuddart & Clonsilla for people with a disability;
· Clanmill Housing Association, €0.7M, 3 units in Clonee & Tyrrelstown for homeless people;
· Circle Voluntary Housing Association, €2.1M, 11 units in Clonee, Clonsilla, Castleknock & Tyrrelstown for homeless people, people with a disability and older people.
· Fingal County Council recently allocated €3.7M for 20 new units at Wellview, Mulhuddart as part of the Rapid Delivery Project.
Separately, €2m is also being provided for 143 vacant properties to be refurbished and brought back into use as vital social housing across Fingal. Much of this funding has been allocated under a new programme to restore social housing that started this year, as one of the key planks of the Government’s housing strategy.
€600,000 in Government funding for IT- Blanchardstown
€595,000 has been allocated to Blanchardstown IT which can be spent on improvement works, new equipment and ICT facilities, and any necessary health & safety maintenance.
€10,000 for repairs to the all-weather pitch at Huntstown Youth Project
The Huntstown Youth Project has received funding from the Department of Children & Youth Affairs. Huntstown Youth Project is a great service, operating out of Huntstown Community Centre. The Project is dedicated to young people living in the Huntstown Area and runs activities like Senior Boys Futsal and Girls Fun Football. So the all-weather pitch is a really important facility and gets a lot of use.
Appointment of Edmund Rice School Trust as patron will enhance parental choice in D15
The decision to appoint the Edmund Rice School Trust (ERST) as the patron for a new 1,000-student secondary school for the Carpenterstown & Castleknock area will enhance parental choice in the area. The new school will begin enrolment with a view to opening to first-year students in September 2017. The exact location of the new school has yet to be determined. Currently, all of the secondary schools in Castleknock, including Carpenterstown, are either fee-paying or Community Colleges under the patronage of the Dublin & Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board. There is no non-fee paying school under the patronage of a Catholic body in the area. There is a new Educate Together Secondary School not too far away in Hansfield. The decision to appoint ERST as patron will give parents in the area more choice about the ethos in which they want their son or daughter to be educated. The fact that it will not be a Community College means it should have no impact on the admission policy that currently applies to Castleknock Community College and Luttrellstown Community College. It will, most likely, accept children from the general area. It is my view that the new school should be located in Castleknock east of the M50 on part of the undeveloped lands of the former Phoenix Park Racecourse. It does not make sense to locate it too close to the existing secondary schools which are both west of the M50. The Department would have to buy the site as the lands are privately owned. I am concerned, however, at the possibility that this new school might also provide for a home for a new Irish language medium Aonad. It is my strong view, supported by campaigners for an Aonad in Dublin 15, that the Irish language school should start its life and be located adjacent to Luttrellstown Community College. This would mean that the Aonad would have the assistance of an established school in its initial years, be close to the centre of the Dublin 15 and thus accessible, would not have a religious patron, and would be multi-denominational in line with the wishes of the community. I am seeking a meeting with my colleague Minister Bruton and his officials to discuss my concerns.
It Makes Sense Loan – low cost loans for pensioners and people in receipt of social welfare
There are times when something unexpected happens and people need to borrow money in a hurry. If you are in receipt of social welfare you now have an option with your local credit union to access amounts up to €2,0000 (minimum €100). The application process is very swift and you can be signed up as a member of the credit union immediately. You must meet payback criteria and it is up to the Credit Union whether it can grant you the loan. The following local Credit Unions, are participating in the service, and are planning to provide these loans from December 2016.
· The Blanchardstown and District Credit Union
· Blanchardstown Centre
· Laurel Lodge Castleknock
· Navan Road 15.
Abhaile – a new service to help people in mortgage arrears on their home
An innovative mortgage arrears resolution service Abhaile has been established. The new nationwide service marks a new departure in State assistance by providing free, independent expert advice and support on financial and legal issues. The number one objective is to help people to stay in their home wherever possible. The scheme started in late July and is already proving very effective. It will help keep families in their homes by identifying sustainable solutions in mortgage arrears cases. Eligible clients are given vouchers to obtain expert advice from financial and legal advisers in order to resolve their debt issues. They can get assistance in court where needed, have access to solicitors, and get help obtaining legal aid. They can also get financial advice from a Dedicated Mortgage Arrears advisor, a Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP), or an accountant. If you think that this new service might be of benefit to you, you can contact the MABS Helpline 0761 07 2000, Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm.
The National Broadband Plan is a top priority for Government and we intend to deliver on the programme to bring high speed broadband to every home, school and business in Ireland. Members of the public, with limited or no coverage, should contact the Department with any queries in relation to their premises. There is a dedicated mail box – firstname.lastname@example.org and all you need to include is your eircode with any queries in relation to services in your area. We need to know what areas aren’t being served, especially in rural areas close to built up areas.
Leo Varadkar TD
Minister for Social Protection