Sunday 25 February 2018

Focus now on crucial first 100 days as water charges and the housing crisis top the to-do list

Irish Water will be one of the first issues to be tackled by the second Kenny administration (stock photo)
Irish Water will be one of the first issues to be tackled by the second Kenny administration (stock photo)
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The notion that the first 100 days of any government are crucial for setting an agenda and getting things done was born in the United States.

The phrase was coined during President Franklin D Roosevelt's first term in the White House when he pushed through reams of legislation aimed at dealing with the Great Depression of the early 1930s.

But the 100 days concept is highly relevant to the second Kenny administration now. Put simply, when you have a minority government reliant on Independents - not to mention the good will of the main opposition party - those first three months are thrown into even sharper focus.

Much of the content of the documents that outline the Government's plans don't set short-term deadlines in areas such as health, education and policing. There are two exceptions: water charges and the housing crisis.

The highly divisive issue of Irish Water is scheduled to be among the first to be dealt with under the agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - the so-called 'Confidence and Supply' arrangement that will see Micheál Martin's party facilitate the Government.

Its terms state that water charges must be suspended within the next six weeks. Meanwhile, an Expert Commission to make recommendations for the long-term model on funding water services is to be established within two months. A separate Oireachtas committee is also to examine the future of Irish Water and is to report within three months.

The plan to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis sets several goals for the first 100 days in the Partnership Government Draft Programme provided to Independents.

According to the document, the new dedicated Housing Minister Simon Coveney's "first major initiative" will be to draw up and publish an Action Plan for Housing. He is to consult with State agencies, builders and housing charities and is to take into account the recommendations of the Committee on Housing and Homelessness for the plan, which is to be subject to targets. The speeding -up of an existing plan to build 35,000 social housing units and an effort to come up with some kind of 'Help-to-Buy' scheme for first-time buyers will be among the areas looked at.

The examination of tax relief proposals that encourage a greater supply of private rented accommodation is to happen in the first 100 days.

The Government also wants to introduce 'a new model of affordable rental' options by working with housing associations and local authorities to develop a 'cost rental' option for low income families, with the minister to set out a plan - again in the next three months - for how to 'scale up' the number of cost rental units in future.

The deadline is also set for the Department of Finance to liaise with credit unions to develop proposals on how it could provide lending for housing, something that's currently restricted.

With a Government finally formed, work to draw up Budget 2017 is likely to ramp up over the next three months. Under the Partnership Programme, TDs outside Government are to get a greater say in how a Budget is developed and a new committee is to be established to allow this to happen. Pessimists would give Taoiseach Enda Kenny's new Government just months before it falls and, whatever happens, it won't have an easy time. The first 100 days will be more important than ever and will have to be more productive than the last 69 days if the Government is to achieve things that would make FDR proud.

Irish Independent

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