Monday, August 3, 2009

Suggestions for Review of programme for Government

1. Changes to Planning legislation
To support the development of a lower carbon economy in addition to a Climate Change Bill being passed by Government changes in the  Planning and Development Regulations, the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, the EPA Act, Waste management Act and Licensing Regulations must be sought to include the following:

When considering the environmental implications of a proposed development a carbon impact assessment must be examined in the context of the overall environmental impact assessment.

Current regulations require developers to examine in addition to the current regulations i.e. the ecological, landscape, archaeological, human environment, noise, amenity, traffic emissions etc associated with a proposed development during construction and post construction.  Regulations must be revised to include a specific criteria for carbon management and emissions. Without such changes to regulations that will allow for calculating the future pollution emissions for development one cannot clearly demonstrate how as a nation we are managing our carbon emissions.

2. Establish a statutory carbon task force, that will manage administer and support the major transition that is required to evolve Ireland into a low carbon economy.

3. To support Government policy both the Renewable Energy Action Group and the proposed Carbon Management Action Group must become stationary consul tees on major planning and development projects.

4. Revise travel allowance arrange for public sector. Remove incentives for use of private transportation. Provide public sector employees with public sector travel passes. We must encourage behavioural change on a massive scale similar to the smoking legislation and plastic bag levy. All public sector employees given subsidised photo ID travel passes for rail and bus available Monday to Friday.

All Irish rail and bus eirann staff have this arrangement presently.

Arrange for family members of rail, bus Eireann and Aer Lingus to avail of free transport to cease.

5. To support Government policy on sustainable use of energy and resources leasing of temporary long term accommodation of prefabs for Department of Education must cease. Long term leasing of energy inefficient and poorly constructed buildings must cease. Moneys spend on leasing could cover costs of repayments for construction of buildings over time. This would also support local jobs and construction industry across country. I.e Gael Schoil Clonakilty department of Education have paid approx 300,000mper annum for the past ten years for leasing of prefabs. The school has almost 300 pupils and is entirely made up of prefabricated buildings. Environment is totally unacceptable for education of children and would not be acceptable for other public sector employees or private sector.

6. A minimum transaction fee for pensioners availing of rail transport should be introduced. The current policy of free transportation must reflect the current financial circumstances in which we now find ourselves. Customers availing of free rail transport should be required to pay a minimum transaction fee for ticket. I would recommend a fee of €5 euro.

7. A minimum transaction fee should apply to medical card holders for availing of prescriptions form GP. This would encourage a more sustainable use of prescribed medication.

8. Music copyright licences such as IMRO should be calculated based on floor area of business or turnover. Small and medium business should not be paying the same rate as large multinationals or supermarkets. To my understanding the fee is standard for businesses based on number of premises therefore small commercial premises pay the same fee per premises as large commercial operators. For small business struggling to survive this fee should be waved as public broadcaster already pays the licensing fee to play the music.

9. Revise Plastic bag levy payment procedures. Small businesses are now being charged a flat fee per annum for having stock of plastic bags for customers. The fee is now not based on amount of bags sold to customers. I am aware of one small business that were invoiced in excess of €3000 per annum for plastic bags. This would equate to 20,000 bags at 0.15cent per bag. The business has records to show that they do not use this volume of bags but it appears that a flat fee is charged to reduce administration costs by exchequer. For small businesses such a upfront fee is excessive. Improve the system to assist small businesses.

10. Social welfare payments should include a provision for active community service. Where recipients are available for work they should be required to undertake a minimum 2 day programme of community service linked to their experience abilities and interests, they could be utilised as tourism stewards, work on environmental clean up programmes, undertake community work such as tidy towns, work with health services, in education or sports. As a society we must develop a greater sense of citizen responsibility and participation in our community. The current social welfare model does not and will not meet the demands of the 21st century. The citizens current behavioural sense of entitlement to services without participation in community must change or our society will collapse under the financial strain.

11. Revise current expenses and allowances for all Oireachtas members. Removal all travel allowance for use of private car and travel expenses to houses of oireachtas. All representatives should be given travel permits to avail of rail and bus services. I know of members that travel by rail to Dublin and claim road mileage allowances. In the private sector this would be deemed a serious breach of conduct and would result in an employee being sanctioned or disciplined. This proposal would be very supported by the public and would show that public representatives are supporting government policy of supporting public transport, supporting sustainable travel and reducing individual carbon emissions.

12. Remove supplementary allowances for Oireachtas members sitting on committees. No additional payments should be given for undertaking this work, this is what they are elected for.

13. Increase tax on alcohol purchased in off licenses. Reduce tax on alcohol purchased in Public houses. The public house  plays an enormous part in the heritage and active community in Ireland supporting tourism, recreation and community enterprise. The public house is an national institution without which tourism and local communities cannot thrive. Financial support should be given to public houses that include a programme of music throughout the year. This could be used to assist the development of singing clubs and traditional music. We must change the recent behavioural  attitude to increased consumption of alcohol in the home and support owners of public houses in rural (outside the cities) ireland before the heart and spirit of the communities across rural Ireland are closed for good.

14. Revise and re-introduce grocery orders bill. As with the energy regulator department store operators working across the border and within the island of ireland must be required to sell goods within the island at comparable prices subject to variation in currencies. The price of basic goods should be set quarterly and revised based on currency evaluation with sterling. Trade licences should be removed where operators are seen to overcharge consumers.

15. Department of trade and enterprise and office of consumer affairs must examine price for fuel at petrol stations where obvious cartels exist on fixing prices. Operators must not be allowed to charge above the odds for fuel. In some rural locations the consumer has no protection and is lacking competition to ensure goods can be purchased at reasonable price. Ie. Price per litre of petrol in bandon co. cork 116c/l over 4c per litre more expensive than towns further away from fuel distributors such as skibbereen. Cartel exists with ownership of fuel stations and they fix the price.

16. All coastal towns and estuarine locations (i.e courtmacsherry bay, clonakilty bay areas) providing tourism services and with environmental designations must have have adequate sewage treatment facilities, recycling services and public transportation facilities.

17. Public services such as Universities, collages, local authorities and hospitals must adapt budgets to ensure that more than 50% of expenditure is paid on provision of services and not payroll costs.

18. End subsidisation of Private healthcare.

19. Increase renewable energy tariffs for producers of renewable energy to support development of green economy.

20. Reduce salaries of Oireachtas members to reflect current and international trends.

21. Cap the level of overtime payment in public sector. Review employment contracts to ensure that essential services are not curtailed. Increase annual payment for certain sectors and remove overtime allowance completely. In private sector senior or middle management are required to work overtime on occasions, this is unpaid and part of job requirement. (the town of dunmanway recently had no public water supply for 24hrs one Sunday because the pump station was down and the local engineer would not attend to the problem as they were not being paid overtime, the consequence was that a town of over 2000 people had no water supply on a weekend. Such incidences are totally unacceptable. The roles and responsibilities for managers must reflect public service requirements above all else.

22. All state bodies, semi state bodies, banking financial institutions and large commercial traders must have a board member with appropriate environmental training or credentials to support sustainable development initiatives.

23.  End National programme for fluoridation of public water supplies. Dental health care should be the responsibility of the individual rather than a solution imposed e masse. Most EU countries do not allow. I believe there is widespread support for this proposal and international evidence to show that fluoridation of public water supplies is no longer acceptable.