The lack of capital funding available for old technical schools which became colleges of further education was raised in the Dáil by Limerick Fine Gael Deputy Patrick O’Donovan.
“The Minister (Jan O’Sullivan) is aware of those at Abbeyfeale and Shanagolden, which are located near where she resides and which are doing excellent work,” he said.
“However, these institutions do not have access to capital funding. It is only with the goodwill of the local education and training board that they are able to carry out minor works. If we value these colleges in the same way that we value primary and second level schools, and the Higher Education Authority is well capable of looking after the university sector, then we need to recognise the fact that they are falling between two stools when it comes to capital works and physical infrastructure.”
Deputy O’Donovan said he recently met representatives from the local education and training board in respect of a school in Croom.
“I know the Minister has a particular interest in this matter,” he said. “It is extremely important that the school project in Croom proceeds. The proposed new school will probably be one of the largest, if not the largest, in the Mid-West because it will cater for more than 1,000 pupils.
“The conditions in which the pupils are currently obliged to learn are appalling. The Minister has committed funding in respect of this project and her Department is fully behind it. The sooner the planning process is completed and the work commences, the better it will be for everyone involved.”
Regardless of whether one is attending university, primary school or preschool or whether one is four or 40 years of age, physical infrastructure is hugely important because it forms part of the environment in which teaching and learning takes place, he said.
“I recently tabled a parliamentary question on whole-school evaluations and the number of schools about which inspectors had written reports detailing inadequacies,” he said.
“I was dumbfounded by the reply I received which indicated that there are only three such schools. I can think of three such schools within a five-mile radius of my home.
“The physical environment in which teaching and learning take place is extremely important, particularly for children or young people with learning difficulties who require stimuli, of one which can be the colour the walls are painted, who need space and who have requirements when it comes to their proximity to other children.”
€328m works done under Home Renovation Incentive scheme
The Home Renovation Incentive scheme, HRI, has been very successful to date, with works on just over 15,900 homes notified to Revenue’s online system as of 9 February 2015, Finance Minister Michael Noonan told the Dáil.
This, he said, represents more than €328 million worth of works involving some 4,224 contractors. The incentive is generating significant employment in the tax compliant construction sector and increasing sales in building supplies, hardware and related businesses.
The incentive provides tax relief for homeowners by way of a tax credit at 13.5% of qualifying expenditure incurred on repair, renovation or improvement work carried out on a principal private residence. The aim of the measure is to increase and improve housing supply at a time when there is strong demand for housing and insufficient supply in certain areas.
Qualifying expenditure is that which is subject to the 13.5% VAT rate, he said. The work must cost a minimum of €4,405 exclusive of VAT, at which level it would attract a credit of €595. Where the cost of the work exceeds €30,000 exclusive of VAT, a maximum credit of €4,050 will apply. The credit is payable over the two years following the year in which the work is paid for. The tax credit is only available to the homeowner and not to children or other individuals who may fund the works. However, there are other measures available to individuals or family members who may fund works in their parents’ homes.
A housing adaptation grant for people with a disability is also available from local authorities and provides grant aid to applicants to assist in the carrying out of works that are reasonably necessary for the purposes of rendering a house more suitable for the accommodation needs of a person with a disability. This grant can assist with changes and adaptations to a home and can cover up to 95% of the cost of works carried out