Government’s regional strategy for Midlands to benefit from €25m competitive fund – McFadden

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that the imminent roll-out of the Government’s Regional Enterprise Strategy in the Midlands region is to benefit from a €25m competitive fund.

“I understand that the Regional Enterprise Strategy will be rolled out shortly across the country, the first starting very shortly in the Midlands region. This national strategy will include competitive funding initiatives of up to €25m which will undoubtedly help boost business in the regions, not least the Midlands.

“I understand that details of these competitive funding initiatives will also be announced shortly.

“With the creation of more than 80,000 jobs since it was first launched in 2012, the Action Plan for Jobs has been a great success. However, this year the plan is focused on spreading the recovery to all regions of the country

“Specific reforms to be launched this year that will impact on a range of sectors in all areas of the country will also include:

• A national talent drive in which we will work towards increasing by 60% the number of ICT graduates by 2018.
• New measures to be introduced to support start-ups including a new Start-up Refunds for Entrepreneurs Scheme (SURE) tax incentive and a Start-up Gathering to be held in 2015.
• A €39m fund for businesses to make savings in energy.

“When the Action Plan for Jobs was first launched it was against a backdrop of emigration, job losses and a lack of credit for SMEs. Thankfully the economic landscape has changed but this growth has not been evenly spread and many areas have yet to benefit.

“We need to see growth and improvement in all areas of the country. We need to support new business here in places like Longford and Westmeath to prin order ovide opportunities for our young people.”

Revised lending rules a welcome reprieve for first-time buyers – McFadden

Fine Gael Longford/Westmeath TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has welcomed the Central Bank’s recognition of the financial pressures faced by young house hunters by not proceeding with a prohibitive 20% mortgage deposit proposal for first time buyers.

“After much outcry, including my own concerns which I have expressed publicly, I am pleased the Central Bank has had a substantial rethink of the 20% deposit proposal.

“Thankfully, the revised mortgage lending rules, to be approved by the Oireachtas, will mean first time buyers will have to provide a more affordable 10% deposit for a house, valued up to €220,000. A further 20% deposit will be required for any amount above this price.

“It is not the perfect solution, especially for young people looking to buy in Dublin, but I would like to commend Governor Patrick Honohan and his team who have accepted the glaring need to give young people a decent opportunity to buy their own home. The revised rules will offer a welcome reprieve for first time buyers.

“Remarks made last week by Governor Honohan did suggest that the thinking was very much in favour of introducing a 20% deposit rule. Thankfully, the affordability factor is at the heart of the new rules, to the relief of many.

“Under the new rules to be introduced shortly for first time buyers, if we take the example of a person or young couple who want to buy a house for €150,000, they will need to provide a deposit of €15,000, half of what would have been required under the initial 20% proposal.

“Of course, none of us want to go back to the days of the property bubble created under the last Government and I welcome the fact that the Central Bank is retaining the 70% loan to value limit for buy-to-let loans.

“However, if the initial 20% proposal had gone ahead for first time buyers, it would have put buying a house beyond the affordability of many young people. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed to the benefit of first time buyers dreaming of securing their first home.”

2,450 homes in County Westmeath avail of Better Energy Homes grant since 2009 – McFadden

Scheme improves people’s homes and creates local jobs

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has urged people in Westmeath to avail of the SEAI Better Energy Homes grant. The scheme provides financial assistance to homeowners to improve the comfort levels within their home while reducing energy use, costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

“2,452 people in Westmeath have had their homes upgraded since the scheme began in 2009. The scheme, which was particularly popular during the worst years of the recession, has helped keep a significant amount of people in employment.

“144 homes in Westmeath availed of the Better Energy Homes grant home energy grant last year. Grants are provided to homeowners for measures such as roof insulation, wall insulation, boiler and heating control upgrades and solar panels. The scheme has been beneficial for homeowners and has also helped create jobs and keep people in employment.

“This Better Energy Homes scheme has provided a lifeline to those carrying out the work during what has been an extremely difficult times for contractors. The grant works must be completed to SEAI standards by a SEAI registered contractor. The Government is actively encouraging people to improve the energy performance of their homes by incentivising the cost of installing various upgrade measures. The Better Energy Homes scheme provides assistance to homeowners to reduce energy use, costs and greenhouse gas emissions and improve the comfort levels within their home.

“As well as supporting the Better Energy Homes scheme, the Government has introduced the Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) Scheme which enables people to claim back VAT paid on renovations to their home. Both schemes are designed to benefit homeowners and stimulate employment.

“You can learn more about the Better Energy Homes grants at:
http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Better_Energy_Homes/#sthash.QdHG9UIW.dpuf

1,300 homes in County Longford avail of Better Energy Homes grant since 2009 – McFadden

Scheme improves people’s homes and creates local jobs

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has urged people in Longford to avail of the SEAI Better Energy Homes grant. The scheme provides financial assistance to homeowners to improve the comfort levels within their home while reducing energy use, costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

“1,349 people in Longford have had their homes upgraded since the scheme began in 2009. The scheme, which was particularly popular during the worst years of the recession, has helped keep a significant amount of people in employment.

“49 homes in Longford availed of the Better Energy Homes grant home energy grant last year. Grants are provided to homeowners for measures such as roof insulation, wall insulation, boiler and heating control upgrades and solar panels. The scheme has been beneficial for homeowners and has also helped create jobs and keep people in employment.

“This Better Energy Homes scheme has provided a lifeline to those carrying out the work during what has been an extremely difficult times for contractors. The grant works must be completed to SEAI standards by a SEAI registered contractor. The Government is actively encouraging people to improve the energy performance of their homes by incentivising the cost of installing various upgrade measures. The Better Energy Homes scheme provides assistance to homeowners to reduce energy use, costs and greenhouse gas emissions and improve the comfort levels within their home.

“As well as supporting the Better Energy Homes scheme, the Government has introduced the Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) Scheme which enables people to claim back VAT paid on renovations to their home. Both schemes are designed to benefit homeowners and stimulate employment.

“You can learn more about the Better Energy Homes grants at:
http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Better_Energy_Homes/#sthash.QdHG9UIW.dpuf

McFadden calls on Primary Care Minister to fast-track community geriatrician team for Midlands to help deal with hospital overcrowding

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has called on the Minister for State for Primary Care, Kathleen Lynch, to fast-track a community geriatrician team led by a consultant to help deal with hospital overcrowding in the Midlands.

“We have all become well aware of the overcrowding problems which have hit many hospitals in this region and around the country, particularly at this time of year. Of course, we are all deeply concerned about the situation. None of us want to see anyone lying on trolleys. It is unacceptable that people, especially our elderly, are forced to sleep on trolleys.

“We know that the issues are complex, requiring complex solutions – and this perennial problem tragically has been with us for the last ten years. We also know that it’s not just a matter of throwing more beds at the problem and this becomes even clearer when you talk to people working directly at the coalface. It requires a multi-faceted approach but one initiative which I believe would lead to a significant reduction in hospital referrals is the development of a geriatrician team working specifically in the community.

“From speaking to people in the health services, it is very clear to me that there is a pressing need to develop a sustainable joined up model to help prevent needless hospital admissions. Recently, I discovered that 16 admissions to the Midlands Regional hospital in Mullingar were elderly people transferred from nursing homes and presenting with various needs, such as the requirement for intravenous medications. I am convinced that if there was a consultant led community geriatrician team in the Midlands, many of these elderly patients could have been assessed and treated in the community.

“A number of hospitals around the country do operate different types and scales of geriatric services – geriatric assessment units, outreach services etc. – but personally, I would like to see this model where a community geriatrician, teaming up with a specialist nurse, would be based in the community. You would then have a situation where this team would visit local nursing homes and community nursing units to assess and treat elderly patients without the need for hospital admission in many cases.

“This would not only help reduce overcrowding in hospitals such as Mullingar but just as importantly preserve the dignity of older people and their families stressed about the ordeal surrounding a hospital admission.

“In the last week, I raised this issue in the Dáil with Minister Lynch, who said it is the intention of the HSE to develop an integrated care programme for older people in 2015. She said this programme would examine the variety of ways that consultant geriatricians currently work across hospitals and the community and to determine what is the most effective way to do so into the future.

“I fully believe Mullingar hospital would benefit from such an initiative. Preventing the needless transfer of elderly patients to hospitals by caring for them in the community and relieving pressures on hospitals in general could be meaningfully addressed by such a model.”

McFadden welcomes expansion of PPD operations in Athlone

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has welcomed the continued growth of Pharmaceutical Product Development’s (PPD) operations in Athlone with the news it is to add a new, state-of-the-art laboratory to its Athlone facility.

“Four years ago, the North Carolina pharma company opened a new analytical testing laboratory at the IDA’s Garrycastle Business and Technology Park in Athlone.

“Today’s expansion confirms for me once again that the local talent and skills base in the Midlands is a big plus in attracting such companies as PPD and I know, for example, that Athlone Institute of Technology has provided it with a pool of graduates over the last number of years.

“I’m also delighted to hear that PPD will employ almost 150 people at the facility once the expansion programme is complete.

“The Government is committed to making sure the regions benefit from the recovery.

“The first of Minister Bruton’s regional enterprise strategies will be rolled out in the Midlands very shortly and will look at a variety of specific job creation initiatives.

“Undoubtedly, the region’s talent base will be a central plank in these plans.”

McFadden furious over ‘prohibitive’ 20% mortgage deposit proposal

‘Young people renting are paying someone else’s mortgage when they should be paying their own – that should count for something.’

Longford/Westmeath TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that substantial rent being paid over many years by young people hoping to eventually buy a house must be considered as a part of any new mortgage application rules instead of what she described as the prohibitive 20% deposit proposal being mooted.
Deputy McFadden has expressed her grave concerns about a proposal to force young people to come up with a 20% deposit before they can be considered for mortgage approval.
“Young people in their late twenties and thirties currently paying rent of €800 plus a month for many years will never be able get on the property ladder if they are being forced to come up with a 20% deposit under new rules being proposed by the Central Bank. On top of that, how can we expect a young person or a young couple to ever save for a deposit when at the same time, they are paying exorbitant rent.
“Essentially, what these young people are doing is paying someone else’s mortgage when they should be paying their own.
“I believe that if a young person has a good track record of paying significant rent over a 5 to 7 year period for example, that proven ability to pay should have considerable value. In this context, that should mean they only have to pay a ten per cent deposit when applying for a first-time mortgage.
“Rent being paid in some instances by young people is the equivalent of monthly mortgage repayments and a proven history of a young person’s good track record in paying such rent has to stand for something when he or she then wants to apply for a mortgage.
“Of course no-one wants to go back to the days of the property bubble under the last Government but this new 20% rule, if it goes ahead, is punishing young people who had no hand, act or part in the crash. What it will do is stop many young people in urban and rural areas from ever being able to afford to own their own homes.
“The remarks made yesterday by the Central Bank of Ireland Governor Patrick Honohan seem to suggest that the thinking is very much in favour of introducing the 20% rule. However, it’s clear that not all top officials are backing this proposal. Yesterday, Ann Nolan, second secretary general of the department at Department of Finance rightly described this proposal as not “socially acceptable”. As Ms Nolan said herself: “I don‘t think it should be a position where the only people who get on the property ladder are those who have parents who can give them a big lump sum [for a deposit].”

“I would appeal to the Governor and the relevant decision-makers to again think long and hard of the consequences of introducing such a prohibitive rule for young people dreaming of securing their first home.”

Funding approved for works at Moate Community School – McFadden

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has welcomed funding approval for structural works at Moate Community School.

“I’m very pleased that funding has been granted for these works at Moate Community School and work will proceed once the tendering process has been completed.

“This welcome allocation has been sanctioned by the School Building Unit at the Department of Education.”

12 new recruits posted to Custume Barracks part of ongoing investment in barracks’ long-term future – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has welcomed the posting of 12 new recruits to units located within Custume Barracks during 2014.

Deputy McFadden was informed of the development when raising the matter in the Dáil this week with Minister for Defence Simon Coveney. Minister Coveney explained that the new postings were made in order to maintain unit strengths and operational capability at the barracks.

“Minister Coveney also informed me that a recruit platoon of 29 personnel is currently in training at Custume Barracks. These personnel were inducted as part of the recent recruitment campaign and once their initial training is complete, they will be assigned to units across the Defence Forces, which could include Athlone.

“During his visit to Athlone late last year, Minister Coveney said that the future of the barracks is very secure. Certainly, the ongoing investment in people and infrastructure is proof positive of that.

“Apart from the investment in personnel, Minister Coveney, in answer to a separate Dáil question this week, said there had been considerable capital investment at Custume Barracks since 2009, totalling almost €6.5m.

“Significant projects recently undertaken include an investment totalling almost €1m in the construction of garage facilities for armoured vehicles; a €1.8m investment in a new gym and an upgrading of gas and water main facilities, costing almost €600,000.”

HSE confirms that review of St Christopher’s Services will be completed by mid-March – McFadden

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has learned that the HSE review of St Hilda’s and St Christopher’s Services, which has been hit by a funding crisis, is due to be completed by the middle of March.

“Responding to funding issues experienced last year at both St Christopher’s and St. Hilda’s Services in Athlone, the HSE announced a review of current intellectual disability services in both counties.

“In response to recent queries I put to the HSE, Marion Meany, HSE Head of Operations and Service Improvement, Disability Services, Social Care Division, confirmed to me that the review of services commenced in late December 2014 and is due for completion in mid-March.

“The review, involving the preparation of a full report, will look at ways to develop sustainable services while also considering the current availability of resources.

“I am also pleased that the HSE committed to stabilising the current financial position at St Hilda’s and St Christopher’s during the review period in order to protect current levels of service provision.

“However, I will repeat what I said late last year at the time the HSE announced this review and that is: guarantees must be put in place to ensure vital intellectual disability services are protected against any further cuts.”