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Martina Cleary of Clare Pyrite Action says the concrete levy is no substitute for "a full-scale public inquiry".

Campaigner: Defective block culprits being let off hook with levy

A NEW levy on concrete products, designed to fund grants for homeowners with defective blocks, has been criticised by a leading Clare campaigner. 

As part of Budget 2023, a levy of 10% on concrete blocks and other products is to come into effect from next April. Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said the charge will help to support the new defective blocks grants scheme, which was extended earlier this year to include Clare and Limerick. 

Dr Martina Cleary, Founder of the Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG), said the move ultimately ends up hitting consumers, including those who will need to buy materials to remediate their homes.

“Of course, there has to be a penalty on those responsible for defective blocks, but this levy is not targeting the real culprits,” she said. “The culprits are highly profitable companies who should be facing significant fines. The levy is just putting the cost back on individuals and families, as well as those who need to buy concrete products to repair their defective homes.”

Outlining the Budget, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the levy is expected to raise €80 million annually and will be applied from April 3, 2023 at a rate of 10%. Dr Cleary described that figure as “a drop in the ocean” when compared to the cost of the grant scheme, which is expected, ultimately, to be extended to a large number of counties. In June, when Clare and Limerick made eligible for the grant, the estimated cost of the scheme stood at €2.7 billion. It is widely anticipated that the true cost will be far higher.

Reaction to the levy, from industry sources, has not been positive. In a statement the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) expressed concern that the move would increase the cost of all future construction projects, including all public infrastructure, commercial, office developments, and housing projects.

For example, excluding supporting infrastructure, a typical three bed social or private house will cost an additional €1,100 on concrete products alone for the house, due to this measure,”Tom Parlon, Director General of CIF said. “Including enabling infrastructure, this could amount to €2,000 – €2,500 all in for a typical house. This is further contributing to inflationary costs in the sector and will increase the costs borne by home buyers.”

Deputy Joe Carey told Clare FM that the levy is one of the aspects of the Budget on which he would like to see clarity. He said that while the construction industry could not be allowed to “get off scot free”, the cost of the scheme should not be passed on to consumers. “More clarity is needed from Minister O’Brien and I would expect to get it coming up to Finance Bill,” he said. 

Dr Cleary also confirmed to The Champion that the Housing Authority visited Clare in July to examine pyrite-affected homes. She said it appears likely that applications to the new scheme will not be taken until next year. She repeated her call for a local information hub for applicants in this region and noted that an advisory board for the grant appeals process is now being created.

“It would be very important that this panel is geographically representative,” she said. “I would urge solicitors, engineers and surveyors from Clare to apply and the closing date is coming soon.”

The deadline for applications to the ten-person panel is October 7. Full details are available on Stateboards.ie.

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