Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment Barry Cowen TD has congratulated the new Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly on his elevation to cabinet but warned that there are many pressing issues that need to be immediately addressed.
He commented: “Alan Kelly takes over a Department that faces many extremely challenging issues over the next two years. Phil Hogan was more or less an absentee Minister for the last six months before he left and has left much to be done.
“Labour were spinning furiously before the reshuffle that they were demanding the European Commission appointment and the Jobs Department. They got neither. Now they are presenting their capture of Environment as a major success. The first real test will be to allow local authorities to reduce the Local Property Tax by 15% and more importantly, not penalise local authorities that do so by reducing the central Government grant.
“Local Councils were also promised that 80% of the Local Property Tax collected would be redistributed for local services; this was sadly another broken promise that is nowhere near being fulfilled and it needs to be rectified.
“Phil Hogan’s legacy is a runaway train in Irish Water that is swallowing millions of euro and many questions remain over water rates, exemptions, leaking pipes and poor quality water. Water meters will be turned on in October with the first bills due through the door in January. Families could be forced to pay as much as €500 per year in charges and they have no idea of how they are to be charged. Minister Kelly must immediately take responsibility on this.”
Deputy Cowen welcomed the Labour Party’s rhetoric on tackling the housing crisis, but questioned its performance to date. He commented: “There are over 90,000 people on the social housing waiting list nationwide, the current Government has failed miserably to deal with this crisis and remedial action is required. Labour has had special responsibility for housing since 2011. In that time, the crisis has escalated significantly and it is not clear how this reshuffle will change that. The Government’s Construction 2020 project which aims to address homelessness and the lack of housing goes nowhere near dealing with the crisis.
“Fianna Fáil has brought forward a number of initiatives to tackle the crisis and I will be pressing Minister Kelly to consider our proposals.”