The exclusion of rural Council tenants from having their homes insulated under a new Government Scheme because they live in rural houses or estates owned by a County Council is to be investigated by the Minister for Finance, Denis Naughten TD has confirmed.
Last week during a Dáil debate local TD Denis Naughten highlighted the fact that the new midland home retrofit scheme, is not insulating Council houses that are in rural areas or in housing estates exclusively owned by the Council.
Denis Naughten pointed out that it was completely unfair that Council residents should be refused access to this insulation scheme just because of where they live or who their neighbours are.
“This condition was never supposed to be part of the scheme, which was to help families reduce their heating bills as well as supporting employment of local small contractors,” said Denis Naughten.
“And specifically discriminating against families living in rural homes is totally unacceptable when they are the ones who will be hit more by the introduction of carbon taxes.
“As a result of my intervention, the Minister for Finance has now committed to investigating the issue and I hope all families in Council owned houses, will get access to this scheme and that it is then extended to all local homes which require insulation,” concluded Denis Naughten.
Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach debate –
Tuesday, 17 Nov 2020
Finance Bill 2020: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Denis Naughten: I wish to return to a number of points made by the Minister. He has made the point that this money is being ring-fenced for the most vulnerable and targeted towards them. I have here in front of me correspondence from Galway County Council. The midlands energy retrofit pilot programme, into which the carbon tax from last year was invested, is intended to target local authority houses across the midlands, most of which are in energy poverty, to try to support them in insulating their homes to bring them up to the highest possible insulation standard. I think we all agree that people in local authority homes across the country do need to see this investment. However, in the case of Galway County Council, its application for funding for local authority houses was only partly approved, because the Department advised it that it would only fund local authority houses that were in an an estate containing a mix of both council and private houses. Where it was exclusively a local authority housing estate with local authority tenants in it, they were automatically excluded from this retrofit programme. Rural local authority houses were also excluded. I have already made the argument to the Minister that people living in rural areas are disproportionately impacted upon by carbon taxes in the structure that exists. Local authority tenants living in rural houses were deliberately excluded from having the retrofit carried out to their particular homes. Therefore on one hand we are saying that we are targeting the most vulnerable, then we are excluding the most vulnerable. That is wrong, and not just in relation to this issue. This is an approach that has been taken by Departments of housing and local government, and local authorities across the country for years, where previous retrofit programmes deliberately excluded anyone that was in arrears. In many cases, they were the people who were struggling to pay their energy bills yet they were put to the back of the queue in terms of having any upgrade carried out on their homes. Again now, we are seeing that those living in rural areas, who are the most rurally isolated deprived families in the country, are being deliberately excluded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, in terms of having the retrofit carried out on their homes, and when we are talking about housing estates that contain exclusively local authority tenants.
Minister for Finance: I will follow up on the point made by Deputy Denis Naughten about Galway County Council. I was not aware of the correspondence to which he has referred and I cannot see why retrofitting and spending by the local authority should be dependent on the housing estate in which the local authority homes are located. I will follow up on that. I am not sure what the argument behind that is.
A local authority home is a local authority home regardless of where it is located. I was involved in the original decisions behind this scheme and it did prioritise local authority housing but I do not recall any discussion regarding where the local authority housing is located. Deputy Naughten might give me a copy of that correspondence when we next meet and I will follow up on it.