Consumer expectations improving in Dublin, but declining outside the capital

The latest Dublin Consumer Sentiment Index has just been published.  Conducted by the ESRI and KBC Bank Ireland, the purpose of the index is to measure and track consumer sentiment in the capital. It is based on consumers’ views of current conditions plus their future expectations.   The index tracks Dublin and Outside Dublin.

The overall trend (Fig. 1) was of a peak in consumer sentiment around 2005-2006, followed by a collapse to a low point during 2009-2011 and gradual recovery since.

Fig. 1: Consumer Sentiment Index, Dublin and Outside Dublin, 2003-2016. Source: KBC/ESRI, Dublin Consumer Sentiment Index, Quarter 1 2016 http://www.esri.ie/news/dublin-consumer-sentiment-improves-in-early-2016-as-consumers-outside-the-capital-become-more-cautious/ [Note: there is an error in the final label on the horizontal axis, it should read 2016q1]

Fig. 1: Consumer Sentiment Index, Dublin and Outside Dublin, 2003-2016. Source: KBC/ESRI, Dublin Consumer Sentiment Index, Quarter 1 2016 [Note: there is an error in the final label on the horizontal axis, it should read 2016q1]

The latest publication for Quarter 1 2016 finds that consumer sentiment in the Dublin area improved significantly since the previous quarter, but that confidence among consumers in the rest of Ireland was largely unchanged.

The overall sentiment index is composed of both views on Current Conditions and Consumer Expectations.  One of the main reasons for improved consumer sentiment in Dublin was positive expectations of future prospects in the jobs market (Fig. 2).  During Quarter 1 2016 over 58% of Dublin consumers felt that labour market conditions would improve over the next year, with under 14% expecting a deterioration.  A positive buying climate for major household durables was the other main cause of rising consumer sentiment in Dublin.

Fig. 3: Expectations Index, Dublin and Outside Dublin, 2003-2016. Source: KBC/ESRI, Dublin Consumer Sentiment Index, Quarter 1 2016 http://www.esri.ie/news/dublin-consumer-sentiment-improves-in-early-2016-as-consumers-outside-the-capital-become-more-cautious/

Fig. 3: Expectations Index, Dublin and Outside Dublin, 2003-2016. Source: KBC/ESRI, Dublin Consumer Sentiment Index, Quarter 1 2016

In contrast, future expectations among consumers outside of Dublin dis-improved (Fig. 2).  They had greater concerns about the labour market outlook and the economy in general over the next 12 months.  The WDC’s recent WDC Insights publication Jobs Recovery and the Western Region highlighted the fact that jobs growth in the Western Region is slower than in the rest of the state.  This seems to be borne out by consumer expectations among people living outside of Dublin. Their view of prospects in the labour market seems to be one of the main differentiators among people living in and outside of Dublin.

While the region’s slower jobs recovery impacts directly on employment, unemployment and income, it also has wider implications in terms of consumer sentiment and their decisions on purchasing, investment and savings.  Consumer behaviour has a major impact on locally traded services which rely on consumer spending, such as retail and hospitality.  Any decline in consumer sentiment reduces the prospects for jobs growth in these sectors further reinforcing the region’s slower jobs recovery.  The sectoral pattern of recent jobs growth in the region will be examined in an upcoming WDC Insights publication.

Pauline White

The recovery continues – regional GDP in 2013 and 2014.

How are Irish regions doing in this recovery phase after the economic crisis?  Dublin led the recovery, with growth picking up after 2010 and while the West showed early signs of growth, more recently there has been some stagnation.  Recently published CSO figures on regional GDP allow us to consider how the recovery has occurred among the regions since the economic collapse of 2008. It is particularly useful that estimates for 2014 have been provided along with the published 2013 figures.

Gross Value Added (GVA) [1] provides a measure of the output and the value creating performance and economic activity of each region and is an important statistic for comparison among regions within Ireland and internationally.

In 2013, GVA per person[2] in the West Region was €26,839.  This is a fall of 6.5% on 2012 (€28,698) and 2011 (€28,840).  The preliminary figure for 2014 shows some recovery on 2012 to €28,113 which is still lower than 2011.  Interestingly, the West had shown a rapid recovery from the economic crisis, while GVA declined in 2008 and 2009 it grew in 2010 and 2011, and declined again (slightly) in 2012 before a more significant fall to 2013.  There was some recovery in 2014.

Figure 1: GVA per person (basic prices)  in NUTS 3 Regions  2012-2014 Source: CSO, 2016, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 9 † Preliminary

Figure 1: GVA per person (basic prices) in NUTS 3 Regions 2012-2014
Source: CSO, 2016, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 9
† Preliminary

 

The Border Region has shown a somewhat steadier pattern of recovery.  GVA per person in 2010 was at its lowest (€21,846) in the last decade, a fall from €27,301 in 2007.  Since 2009 there has been a reasonably steady growth (though 2012 was less than 2011) with GVA in 2013 (€23,260) 11.1% higher than 2012 and preliminary figures for 2014 showed an 4.7% increase to €24,381.

Clare, one of the Western Region counties, is in the Mid West region.  That region had a GVA per person of €29,305 in 2013 (a 4.7% increase on 2012) and a preliminary figure of €30,695 for 2014.  This is still below the 2007 peak of €34,835.

In fact, the Dublin region (when considered alone and not with the Mid East) is the only region where the preliminary 2014 figure is higher than the peak GVA per person in 2007 (€58,211 vs €56,126).  None of the other regions have recovered to the 2007 level, though the difference in the West region is slight (and in 2012 GVA in the West was higher than that in 2007).

The changes in GVA in the regions since 2005 are shown in Figure 2, with the clear peak in all regions in 2007 and the varied pattern of growth in the different regions since then.

Figure 2: GVA per person (basic prices) in NUTS 3 Regions 2005-2014 Source: CSO, 2016, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 9, 2014 figures preliminary

Figure 2: GVA per person (basic prices) in NUTS 3 Regions 2005-2014
Source: CSO, 2016, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 9, 2014 figures preliminary

Differing growth patterns in the regions also gave rise to a widening of the disparities among the regions immediately after the crash.  This is most easily seen looking at the Indices of GVA per person from 2005 to 2014 with the State=100 shown in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3: Indices of GVA per person (basic prices)  in NUTS 3 Regions  2005-2014 (State =100) Source: CSO, 2016, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 10, 2014 figures preliminary

Figure 3: Indices of GVA per person (basic prices) in NUTS 3 Regions 2005-2014 (State =100)
Source: CSO, 2016, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 10, 2014 figures preliminary

In terms of the differences between the highest and lowest GVA per region there has been a widening of the disparity.  In 2005 there were 60.6 index points between the lowest GVA per person in a region (Midland, 65.4) and the highest (Dublin and the Mid East, 126.0).  In 2007, at the peak of the boom (for most regions) the difference was 59.2 (65.5 and 142.7 for the same regions), while in 2014 the difference between Midland (59.2) and Dublin and the Mid East, (130.6) was 71.4 index points (71.3 in 2013)[3].  This represents a narrowing of the gap since 2012 when the difference peaked at 72.3 index points.  The pattern is similar when differences between the NUTS2 regions (BMW and S&E) are examined.

But the difference between the regions with the highest and lowest GVA is a crude measure of widening of disparities and the Coefficients of Variation which indicate the level of variation in regional GVA among all the regions between 2005 and 2014 is more useful for comparison.

Figure 4 Coefficient of variation for GVA per person in NUTS 3 Regions 2005-2014 Source: CSO, 2016, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 9, WDC calculations, † Preliminary

Figure 4 Coefficient of variation for GVA per person in NUTS 3 Regions 2005-2014
Source: CSO, 2016, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 9, WDC calculations,
† Preliminary

 

Figure 4, which graphss the Coefficients of Variation also shows that although disparities widened from 2008 onward, and continued to do so to 2012, the newly published figures for 2013 and 2014 show a decrease, although the Coefficients of Variation for 2013 and 2014 remain higher than those during the period 2005-2009.

Conclusion

While there has been welcome growth in most regions in 2013 and all regions showing growth in the preliminary figures for 2014 the widening of disparities in GVA since 2008 are of concern, even though the improvement in 2013 and 2014 may indicate that some of this is related to a delay in recovery.  The differences in GVA growth among regions are partially the result of increased productivity and concentration in high value sectors in the wealthier regions. This underlines the importance of ensuring that there is a focus on regional development and a policy of investment in these sectors in all regions, so that the benefits of the recovery are felt by all and the disparities in regional GVA continue to narrow.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] GDP is Gross Domestic Product, GDP and GVA are the same concept i.e. they measure the value of the goods and services (or part thereof) which are produced within a region or country. GDP is valued at market prices and hence includes taxes charged and excludes the value of subsidies provided. GVA at basic prices on the other hand excludes product taxes and includes product subsidies. See background notes here.

[2] GVA at Basic Prices are used throughout this discussion.

[3] It should be remembered that although the Midland Region has consistently the lowest GVA per person, and Dublin and the Mid East the highest, the fact that GVA is measured where it is produced and the population is counted where people reside, means that those commuting from the Midland region of Dublin and the Mid East are contributing to the GVA of that region, while they form part of the denominator in the Midland region, so increasing the GVA of one and reducing that in the other.

County incomes – components of change

A few weeks ago, when the CSO released County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013,  I blogged about the changes in county incomes over the last few years, with a particular focus on 2012 to 2014 (2014 are provisional results).  Disposable Incomes per person had declined between 2012 and 2013 and then risen to 2014 but the components of income which rose and fell during that period are of interest showing how the recovery was occurring and the differences in income sources among counties.

In this post changes in primary income, social transfers, and taxes and charges are all considered to see how they contributed to the changes in Disposable Income per person in the counties of the Western Region.

Disposable Income per person (hereafter referred to as income) fell between 2012 and 2013.  Table 1 below shows the percentage change in each to the components in the seven Western Region counties and the state between 2012 and 2014.

 

Table 1 Percentage change in of the components of Income between  2012 and 2014

table 2012-2014

1 Includes imputed rent of owner occupied dwellings

2 Total Household Income does not equal the sum of Primary Income & Social Transfers due to the effect of the Statistical  Discrepancy (-€496m in 2013 at State level).

Source: CSO County Incomes and regional GDP 2013, CSO, 2016 and own calculations.

Primary Income

The different components of Primary Income in 2013[1] are considered here.  As can be seen from Figure 1 the main component of Primary Income is income for compensation of employees followed by income for self-employment, but there is some variation among counties in the importance of each of these.

Figure 1: Components of Primary Income 2013

label com of income 21.03.16

Source: CSO County Incomes and regional GDP 2013, CSO, 2016 and own calculations.

 

Compensation of Employees

Compensation of Employees accounts for 78.02% of Primary Income in the state as a whole and is more important in the state figure than in any of the Western Region counties.  Sligo has the highest percentage of Primary Income from Compensation of Employees (77.8%) but in Donegal it only accounts for 73.2% while it is also a lesser proportion in Leitrim, (74.4%), Mayo (74.8%) and Roscommon (74.9%).

The amount of Compensation of Employees grew in all Western Region counties between 2012 and 2014, but growth was small between 2012 and 2013 (in fact it declined in Donegal (-1.4%) and Leitrim (-0.3%) in that period).  Income from Compensation of Employees grew more strongly between 2013 and 2014, by over 3% (but less than 3.5% in all counties and in the state as a whole).

 

Income from Self Employment

Income from Self Employment accounts for a larger proportion of Primary Income in all Western Region counties than in the state as a whole (12.3% of primary income).  It is most significant in Donegal (16.5%) and Leitrim (16.7%).  This reflects the Western Region’s higher share of self employment (without employees) than the rest of the state – 16.3% of all employment in the Region compared with 11.4% in the rest of the state.   Income from Self Employment is least important in Sligo (12.9%) and Galway (13%).

This component of income grew by more than compensation of employees in both 2013 and 2014 (by 5.5% in Leitrim in the period, and by 9.9% in Mayo in the period,(the highest rate of growth in the Western Region).  However it grew by 12.5% in the state during that time.

 

Rent and Income from Interest and Dividends,

These account for a relatively small proportion of primary income.  Income from Interest and Dividends is around 2.4% in most of Western Region counties, as it is for the state as a whole, and income from Rent of Dwellings varies as a proportion of primary income from 6.3% in Leitrim to 7.9% in Donegal (7.2% in the state).

Income from Rent of Dwellings[2] grew by almost a third in all counties between 2012 and 2014, but Income from Interest and Dividends (which are a very small component of income) fell slightly during that period- by more than 4% in Donegal and 1.5% in Sligo.  It fell by 2% in the state.

While Primary Income grew over the period Disposable Income fell, mainly as a result of changes in the other components that of Social Transfers and Taxes.

 

Social Transfers and Taxes

This includes unemployment benefit and assistance, disability benefits, state pensions and children’s allowances.  It makes up a relatively high proportion of Total Income in some counties (Total Income is Primary Income plus Social Transfers[3]).  In the state as a whole, Social Transfers are 22.5% of Total Income which is a lesser proportion than in any of the Western Region counties where it varies from 23.4%in Galway to a very significant 34.4% in Donegal.

The amount of Social Transfers fell in all western counties in both 2013 and 2014.  The reduction in Social Transfers was greatest between 2012 and 2013 during which period Total Household Income fell in most Western Region counties (the exceptions were Mayo and Sligo).

Between 2012 and 2013 Disposable Household Income fell in all counties, while taxes decreased slightly in Leitrim Galway and Clare in that period.  Social transfers continued to decline between 2013 and 2014, (due, at least in part, to employment growth in that period), while the amount of taxation collected grew more significantly. It increased by over 10% in Roscommon between 2013 and 2014, and for the period 2012 to 2014 taxes in Western Region counties grew by between 8.5% in Clare and 14.6% in Mayo.

 

Figure 2: Changes in the Components of Disposable income 2012-2014

changes in components

Source: CSO County Incomes and regional GDP 2013, CSO, 2016 and own calculations.

 

Conclusion

As Disposable Income is made up of different sources of income and transfers and is also affected by taxation it is important to understand the changes in each of these components when considering changes to income.  The fall in Disposable Income in all Western Region counties between 2012 and 2013 was mainly as a result of the decrease in Social Transfers in that period, as Primary Incomes grew everywhere except Donegal and Leitrim.

In contrast, between 2013 and 2014, despite continued falls in Social Transfers the increase in Primary Income in all counties of the Region was sufficient to ensure that Disposable Incomes increased in all of the Western Region counties except Donegal[4].

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] It should be remembered that the figures for 2014 are provisional and may be revised next year when they are officially reports.  Therefore when first looking at the different components of Income, 2013 is examined.

[2] This Includes imputed rent of owner occupied dwellings.

[3] 2 Total Household Income does not equal the sum of Primary Income & Social Transfers due to the effect of the Statistical  Discrepancy (-€496m in 2013 at State level).

[4] Household Incomes increased in Donegal but the increase in taxes meant that disposable household income fell between 2012 and 2014.

 

County Incomes- feeling the recovery?

County incomes and regional GDP statistics for 2013 have recently been released.  The map below provides a good picture of the situation in each county in Ireland, and the variation in income in the Western Region: Galway Sligo and Leitrim have the highest disposable incomes per person, Mayo and Clare are in the next category and Roscommon and Donegal are least well off.

CIRGDP2013FIG2 map cso

Interestingly this year, preliminary estimates for 2014 were included which is very welcome, providing an insight into more recent income trends. Last year the WDC carried out detailed analysis (PDF 1.5MB) of both county income and regional GDP trends over time.  This year shorter reviews will be provided in Insights inocme picblog posts and through WDC insights (short analysis of key issues for the Western region) as were published last year.

In this post trends in county income will be considered, with analysis of GDP changes and examination of trends in the composition of both incomes and GDP in following posts. Here income[1] at county level is considered, with a focus on disposable income per head. Disposable income includes both primary income and social benefits and other transfers less taxes and social contributions. As such it indicates the level of material wealth of households residing in different regions and is a better indicator of material well-being of citizens than GDP per person.

It should be noted that although county figures are available they involve uncertainty and the CSO suggests that the county estimates should be interpreted with caution because the underlying data are not always sufficiently robust and should be regarded as indicative of relative levels rather than as accurate absolute figures, nonetheless they provide a useful indication of the variation at county level. In order to estimate disposable Income per person for the Western Region (the seven counties under the WDC remit), an inferred population estimate was calculated, based on those used for each county by the CSO in this release.

A summary table of the key county income statistics is provided below.

Table 1: Key County Income Statistics for the Western Region, 2013 and 2014

table 1 incomes 2013 postSource: CSO County Incomes and regional GDP, 2013. † 2014 figures are preliminary.

Looking first at the 2013 figures and comparing them to the 2012 figures there are some very striking statistics (it should also be noted that the statistics for 2012 have been revised in this release so previous measurements of income in 2012 in these counties were overestimated). While economic recovery was beginning in parts of the region in 2012 disposable incomes were falling and they fell in most counties in the state between 2012 and 2013[2]. In the Western Region the largest fall (3.5%) was in Donegal and the smallest was in Clare (see Table 1 above).

The reasons for these decreases in disposable income will be discussed in more detail in another post as the variation in the trends in the income components in each county are important, but in the Western Region in most counties (except Leitrim) primary income grew while social transfers fell. There was an increase in taxes in all counties in the Western Region (except Leitrim where there was no change) and this, along with small estimated population increases, meant that disposable Income per person fell.

Clearly, therefore, this fall in disposable incomes between 2012 and 2013 explains why people were ‘not feeling the recovery’. Even as the economy was beginning to grow again, people had less money to spend.

The household disposable income per person in the Western Region[3] was €17,260 in 2013, a decrease on the level in 2012 (€17,512) and is still significantly below its peak of €21,167 in 2008. In 2013 the highest level of disposable income in the seven Western Region counties was in Galway at €18,390 (Figure 1). This is 98.3% of the state average. The lowest was in Donegal at €15,178 (81.1% of the state average). Disposable Income per person for the state was €18,707 per person. (See Figure 1 below).

Preliminary estimates for 2014 were provided in this release. These should be treated with caution as they are likely to be subject to revision before full release next year. Nonetheless they do show an increase in disposable income per person in all of the Western Region counties and that, despite the fall in income between 2012 and 2013 in all Western Region counties and in the state, and the recovery in incomes estimated for 2014 was in most case enough to bring incomes above those in 2012. Donegal was the only Western Region county where disposable income per person in 2014 remained lower than that in 2012.

Figure 1: Disposable income per person in the Western Region 2012, 2013 and 2014 (€)County income bar 12-14

Source: County Incomes and Regional GDP, 2013, Table 3 † Preliminary

Galway showed the largest increase in income (2.42%) between 2012 and2014 but incomes in Sligo and Mayo also increased by more than 2% which was a higher increase than that in the state as a whole (1.8%).

Figure 2: Disposable income per person in the Western Region 2005 to 2014co inc 05-14 line

Source: County Incomes and Regional GDP, 2013, Table 3

It should also be noted that, as found elsewhere incomes in 2014 are still below pre crisis levels (in 2008). In Roscommon incomes are 19% below 2008 levels and 17% lower in Leitrim and Clare. Only Mayo and Sligo (both 9% lower) did better than in the state (which disposable income per person was 14% less in 2014 than 2008. This is illustrated clearly in Figure 2 above, where the 2008 peak in disposable income is very evident.

Changes over a longer period are shown below, looking at the pre 2008 growth period, the 2008-2011 period of recession and finally at the beginnings for growth between 2011 and 2014. The huge variation in disposable income per head over this period is very evident. Figure 3 below shows the changes pre crisis, during the crisis and in the early recovery period.

Figure 3: Changes in Disposable income per person in the Western Region 2005 to 2014changes pre and post 08

Source: County Incomes and Regional GDP, 2013, Table 3

Disposable income in all Western Region counties grew considerably between 2005 and 2008, and then fell significantly in all Western Region counties to 2011. Between 2011 and 2014 there was again some growth in disposable incomes in some counties of the Western Region (in particular Sligo and Mayo) but in that period incomes in Donegal fell and in Leitrim and Roscommon were static.

The gap between the average household disposable income in the Western Region and the state in 2013 remained the same as for 2012 at 92.3% and in 2014 it was slightly less at an estimated 92.02% of that in the state. Over the long term there has been a narrowing of the gap in disposable income with the Western Region 89.1% of the state in 2000 and 84.3% in 1995.

Looking at the variation in income relative to that in the state over time, Figure 4 shows this in index form (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Index of Disposable Income per person 2003-2012 (State = 100)index inc 05-14

Source: CSO County Incomes and Regional GDP 2012, Table 4

Disposable income in most of the Western Region counties has been rising relative to that in the state, with some variation over time (Figure 4 shows how each county has done relative to the state between 2005 and 2012, State=100 which is shown as the pink line). In general the gap between the Western Region counties and the state was narrowest in 2010 the result of a sharper drop in incomes in the more wealthy counties than in most of the Western Region. Since then however, counties have had mixed fortunes. Roscommon had a significantly lower income relative to the state in 2014 (87.2) compared to 2005 (95.8). Clare has also fallen relative to the state starting at 95.5 in 2005 and at 93.3 in 2014 but Sligo, Galway, Mayo and Donegal have improved their position relative to the state since 2005, albeit with some variation.

Galway has been the best performer in the region moving from an index of 93.3 in 2005 to a peak in 2010 when its index was above 100.0, though there has been some decline and recovery since (98.3 in 2014) it is still the closest county in the region to the state average. Sligo has also performed well with its index improving almost every year since 2005 (90.8 to 96.3 in 2012). This is its highest index level in this last ten years.

The index for Mayo was at a low in 2007 of 85.1 relative to the disposable income in the state. Since then, however, has increased to 92.6. Leitrim also improved steadily in the early part of this period (from 95.2 in 2005 in 2003 to 98.2 in 2010 with a decline to 94.6 in 2014). During this period it has moved closer to the state disposable income than Clare or Roscommon which are poorer relative to the state figure.

While further detail on the components of disposable income in the Western region will be discussed in the next blog post, the declines in incomes in all counties, while the national and regional economies (except the South West ) grew) highlights the reason that people ‘did not feel the recovery’.

The estimates for 2014 show some improvement in incomes and it will be useful to examine the relative roles of primary income (and its components), social transfers and taxes in affecting people’s disposable incomes.

Growth in the economy is very welcome but unless it is experienced as an increase in disposable income by the people living in the Western Region and elsewhere its benefits are not very apparent.

 

Helen McHenry

[1] Total income is defined as: Primary income plus Social benefits plus Other current transfers. Disposable income is defined as follows: Total income minus Current taxes on income (i.e. Income taxes, other current taxes) minus Social insurance contributions (i.e. Employers’, employees’, self-employed, etc.)

[2] The exceptions were Monaghan, Laois, Offaly and South Tipperary which all had small increases.

[3] The average was calculated using inferred population figures for the counties of the Western Region from the CSO County incomes and Regional GDP Table 1

Regional and local roads – maintaining connectivity in rural Ireland

Regional and local roads are the core of regional and rural transport. They are crucial to rural economic activity, and the importance of commuting to work across counties and to towns and cities is well recognised see here  (1MB) and here (2MB) .

While motorways and national primary route have received considerable investment and have a very important impact on regional transport, good quality regional and local roads are essential for balanced regional development and for social inclusion providing vital linkages among communities, and between communities, their towns and larger urban centres.

There are almost 91,000kms of regional and local roads in Ireland, which accounts for 94% of the country’s roads network and they carry around 54% of all road traffic[1].   It is important that these local and regional roads are maintained to a reasonable standard according to their traffic load for local importance, and that there is a planned cycle of maintenance implemented by the local authorities who manage these roads.

Primary responsibility for improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads rests with local authorities.  State grants are provided to supplement realistic contributions by local authorities from their own resources. The recent announcement of the general grant allocation for regional and local roads budget allocation for 2016  is therefore of interest. It also provides a timely opportunity to highlight to decline in this budget over the last 8 years.

The regional and local roads grant allocation for 2016 is €298m which less than half that for 2009. The graph below shows the very significant decline in spending in this area since then.

 Figure 1: Annual Budget allocation for Regional and Local roads 2009-2016

 

road allocation graph 09-16

Source: Department of Environment, Community and Local Government announcements, Dáil Statements www.oireachtas.ie

When considering the very significant decrease in the annual budget allocation, it should be recognised that there have been important changes to local authority funding, most particularly the Local Property Tax. Resources from the Local Property Tax can, in more wealthy counties, ensure that there is a sufficient budget to maintain regional and local roads to appropriate standards. In fact none of the Dublin local authorities received any in 2015[2]. Poorer counties with less expensive property and fewer residences, which are usually the counties which also have relatively fewer commercial rate payers, have less money in their own budgets to spend and are more reliant on this roads funding. Roads in these counties are likely to be feeling the greatest impacts[3]. The changes in individual local authority allocations in the Western Region will be considered in a future blog post.

It should also be noted that while this post looks at annual regional and local road allocations as announced early each year, there are often additions to this allocation during the year, either for specific projects or as a supplemental allocation to each county[4] but while these supplements to the budget as very welcome, they cannot be relied on and of course this also make the planning of road maintenance more difficult.

While the reduction in the government grant allocation for regional and local roads budget is very stark, its impact needs more detailed consideration as do the levels of allocation to the different local authorities and their own resources available for local and regional roads.

Nonetheless for many local authorities it is increasingly difficult to maintain the regional and local road network and the impact of reduced budgets, since 2009, has a cumulative effect on the quality of the local and regional road network.

Users of these roads are well aware of this as they, in turn pay the higher costs of wear and tear on their vehicles, when, in most cases there are few alternative transport options.

 

Helen McHenry

 

 

[1] http://www.dttas.ie/roads/english/regional-and-local-roads

[2] Arising from the introduction of the local property tax, the four Dublin local authorities were in a position to self-fund for regional and local roads in 2015 and the funding allocation for county Cork was reduced. Similar details were not provided in the 2016 announcement

[3] Leitrim, for example, received €14m from this budget in 2010 and €7.4m this year. Reported in Leitrim Observer 10.02.2016 http://epaper.leitrimobserver.ie/iconic/books/160210leitrimobserver/index.html#/1/

[4] . For example an additional €50m was allocated for regional and local roads in July 2013

Understanding rural transport statistics: Why are there so many new cars in county Roscommon?

What happens when you see a data trend that defies easy explanation? This blog post focuses on an unusual statistic and asks the question, for which I don’t yet have an answer, why are there so many new cars in county Roscommon? More investigation is required and suggested explanations are welcome. When I have found the answer I will let you know. Read on if you are intrigued….

The Western Region (seven counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Clare) does not align with NUTS 2 or 3 regions (or indeed with any other regional boundaries) so we are particularly interested in any data that is available at county level, and we like to keep track of what is available even if it is not of immediate use. We might glance at it and then, sometimes something jumps out that doesn’t fit in with our expectations. The number of new cars licensed for the first time in Roscommon is a good example of this.

While the data itself is of limited interest to us, it can act as an indicator of consumption trends, of rural transport issues (new cars per head), and climate change influences (newer vehicles tend to be more energy efficient and have lower CO2 equivalent emissions) in each county. Looking at the data over time can draw attention to trends and show changes and highlight areas that need further investigation. To use the data we need to understand it, where it comes from, how it is collected and how these might influence what it shows, so the Roscommon anomaly is also of statistical interest.

Data is published regularly by the CSO on vehicles licensed for the first time[1], and this is available at county level. Last week (14.01.16) the data on vehicles licensed in 2015 were released  along with a map of new private cars licensed for the first time by county. Ten counties had more than 4,000 new cars licensed in 2015.

 

Fig 1:New Private cars licensed for the first time in 2015

cso map new vehicles licensed 2015

Source: CSO, for an interactive version of the map visit here.

 

It would be expected that counties with larger populations and wealthier counties will have higher more new private cars licensed, and for the most part they do[2].

Just looking at the counties with the highest number of new private cars licensed for the first time in 2015 it is not surprising that Dublin (43,310), Cork (14,394), Kildare (5,253) and Galway (4,797) are at the top of the list. What is unexpected is that the next highest level of vehicle licensing is in county Roscommon (4,498).

From the size of the population and the level of disposable income in the county, this would not have been expected. In the Western Region Roscommon has the second highest level of new vehicle registrations (after Galway) and although in population terms it is 6th of the seven Western Region counties. The table below shows the population of each of the Western Region counties (in 2011), average disposable income (2012) and the numbers of new private cars licensed in each county in 2015.

Table 1: Population, disposable income and new private cars licensed for the first time.

 

table of county info new cars 2015

Source: CSO, various statistics * Census of Population 2011; **County incomes and regional GDP, 2012 (Western Region own calculations here) *** Vehicles licensed for the first time here

 

In Roscommon 0.070 new cars per head of population were licensed for the first time, in Galway it was 0.019[3].

Growth in new vehicle licensing in Roscommon has been going on for some time. In 2006 some 3,533 vehicles were licensed for the first time in Roscommon, and the county had the 18th highest level of new vehicle licensing. However, while the number of private cars licensed for the first time in most counties dropped significantly after 2007, from 2009 growth rates in Roscommon were very different.

This is shown clearly in the chart below, which graphs an index of new vehicles licensed in each county, with the base year 2006=100. Most of the counties follow a similar trend while Roscommon stands out very clearly: after 2009 it followed a significantly different trend.

Fig 2: Index of new vehicles licensed for the first time by licensing authority 2009-2014

Index of new vehicle licensed 06-14

Source data: CSO New vehicles licensed for the first time by licensing authority. Index 2006= 100, own calculations. City and county local authorities have been combined.

 

So what might be the reason for this anomalous statistic?

Much of the data referred to above relates to private cars[4] so it is not likely to be associated the licensing of vans and other vehicles, nor with fleet purchases, though that detail is being investigated. If fleet purchases are recorded as private cars, it is possible that there are large fleet purchases happening in Roscommon which affect the statistics. I am awaiting clarification of this issue.

It is likely that the high level of vehicle registrations in Roscommon could relate to a technicality in how people chose to licence vehicles and that the county data does not have a close relationship with the purchase of vehicles by a county’s residents. However, in order to licence a car for the first time, the licensee must have an address in that local authority area.

The 2015 data  referred to above is for new private cars and so does not reflect a trend towards a higher than usual level of purchases of second hand imports which are recorded as licensed for the first time.

Perhaps Roscommon residents just have a fondness for new cars, despite their lower income levels. Or perhaps the longer distances driven by rural residents, the poorer quality of the road network and the lack of public transport may influence the need for people to buy new cars.

But Roscommon does not have a monopoly on rural transport difficulties and if these were to provide the explanation other Western Region counties would be expected to have a similar level of vehicle registration per head of population.

I am investigating the different possibilities and I’ll post again when I have found an answer, but this is a reminder not to take any statistic at face value without trying to understand what lies behind it.

 

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] Vehicle licensing differs from registration in that a vehicle is licensed when a valid motor tax disc is issued for the first time. Registration occurs when a vehicle is issued with a license plate (registration number) for the first time.

[2] For the country as a whole there was a 31% increase in private cars vehicles licensed between 2014 (92,361) and 2015 (121,110) and a 70% increase since 2013. In 2015 private cars accounted for 78% of new vehicles licensed (82% in 2010).

[3] In Dublin the figure is 0.034 per head and Cork it was 0.028.

[4] Except Fig. 2 which is for all vehicles.

WDC Insights- Christmas Quiz!

We hope you have been following and reading the WDC Insights blog in the last year. Take our Christmas Quiz (9 questions) and see how well you score on regional development and Western Region issues. The answers are below with links to more information and the relevant posts.

Good Luck!

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1      The WDC published its report on ‘Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region’ in January. This included an analysis of data for each of the seven western counties. In 2013 what proportion of the total jobs in Sligo were agency assisted?

  1. 63.2%
  2. 27.6%
  3. 15.3%

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2      Agriculture in the Western Region of Ireland is characterised by smaller farm size, poorer land quality and a higher dependence on off farm income than in many other parts of Ireland. Nonetheless agriculture remains a significant employer and makes an important contribution to the regional economy.

What is the average farm size in the Western Region?

  1. 43.7 ha
  2. 15.2 ha
  3. 26.3 ha

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3      In the latest CSO data on Income and Living Conditions (released 26th November) poverty and at risk of poverty rates are given. What is the difference between the at risk of poverty rates between the BMW and S&E regions?

  1. 5.7%
  2. 15.2%
  3. 1.3%

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4      In a recent a creative momentum project survey what proportion of creative entrepreneurs were exporting?

  1. 8%
  2. 48%
  3. 68%

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5      Examining regional indicators can help us to understand the growth and development taking place in our regions, to highlight changes and assess issues of efficiency and equity among regions.

Looking at the data since 2003 are regional disparities

  1. Widening?
  2. Narrowing?
  3. Staying the same?

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6      Understanding the sectoral pattern of jobs in the region and patterns of sectoral growth and decline is particularly important to the development of job creation, skills and enterprise policy for the region.

What is the largest employment sector in the Western region?

  1. Industry
  2. Wholesale and Retail
  3. Public Administration and Defence

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7      The WDC has been highlighting rural broadband needs for more than a decade. It recently submitted its views to the consultation on the rollout of the National Broadband Plan.

What is the minimum download speed set down under the National Broadband Plan (in Mega bits per second (Mbps))?

  1. 30 Mbps
  2. 100 Mbps
  3. 12 Mbps

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8      In February 2015 the IDA published a new 5-year strategy which put considerable focus on the regional balance of future FDI investments. The strategy includes a target to increase the number of investments in every region, outside of Dublin. By how much are the investments in the regions targeted to increase?

  1. By 10-20% over the 5 years of the strategy?
  2. By 30-40% over the 5 years of the strategy?
  3. By 80-90% over the 5 years of the strategy?.

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9      With The Paris Agreement at COP21 marking a turning point in the response to climate change, it is time to consider how we will meet those targets in Ireland so we examine some of the issues for climate change mitigation in the Western Region in this post.

What percentage of households in the Western Region use oil to heat their homes?

  1. 63.1%
  2. 84.2%
  3. 38.8%

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Answers:

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  1. Assisted jobs

Answer:3) 15.3%

The WDC published a report on ‘Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region’ in January 2015.week. This included an analysis of data for each of the seven western counties. Taking Sligo as an example in 2013, there were 3,880 people working in agency assisted jobs there. 15.3% of total jobs in the county were agency assisted, which is below the state average (19.3%). Some 55.6% of assisted jobs in Sligo are in foreign owned companies; lower than a decade earlier. Irish owned assisted employment has grown steadily since 2011 and was up 4.8% in 2013. Sligo’s second largest assisted sector – Traditional Manufacturing – has had the strongest recent growth, up a fifth (21.5%) between 2010 and 2013.

For more about agency assisted jobs in the other Western Region counties see this post

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  1. Farm size

Answer: 3) 26.3 ha

Agriculture in the Western Region of Ireland is characterised by smaller farm size, poorer land quality and a higher dependence on off farm income than in many other parts of Ireland. Nonetheless agriculture remains a significant employer and makes an important contribution to the regional economy.

The average farm size in the Western Region (counties Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo) was 26.3 ha in 2010. Farm sizes are significantly smaller than in the rest of Ireland where the average farm in 2010 was 36.9 ha. Nonetheless farm size in the Western region has grown by a third since 1991 when the Western Region average was 19.8 ha with most of the growth occurring in the 1990s (almost 27% of the growth occurred between 1991 and 2000). For more information, read this post.

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  1. Poverty data

Answer: 1) 5.7%

The CSO released the latest data on Income and Living Conditions on 26th November 2015. The headline figures indicate a rise in incomes – increasing by 3.5% between 2013 and 2014, which in turn was higher than the figure in 2012. The release also provided data on poverty rates at a regional level.   Analysis of consistent poverty rates by region, which will be influenced by rural-urban patterns, shows that the rate for the Border, Midlands and Western region was 10.8% compared with 7.0% for the Southern and Eastern region in 2014. The at-risk of poverty-rate was also higher in the Border, Midlands and Western region compared to the Southern and Eastern region, 20.5% and 14.8% respectively. The difference was 5.7%.

For more on poverty and at-risk of poverty rates see this post.

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  1. a creative momentum project survey

Answer: 3) 68%.

In order to inform the development a creative momentum project activities, an online survey was circulated to creative entrepreneurs based in the participating regions. The survey ran from 28 September to 18 October and there were a total of 170 responses.

68% reported that they made some sales outside of their own country, which was higher than indicated in previous surveys. Cross-border business between Ireland and Northern Ireland seemed to be a strong element in these export sales. Of those businesses who did not export currently (44), 70% indicated a desire to export.

For more on the survey see this post

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  1. Regional Disparities

Answer: 1) Widening

There has been a significant widening of the gap between the BMW and the S&E regions since 2008, the difference in 2012 was 48.3 points and in 2008 was 40.6 points (in 2003 it was 42.6).

Disparities in regional GVA have been increasing in recent years and have been particularly significant since 2008 while, in contrast, disparities in disposable income reduced between 2003 and 2010, but have increased since then. For more see this post

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  1. Employment sectors

Answer: 2) Wholesale and Retail.

The largest employment sector is Wholesale and Retail and the two largest employment sectors in the Western Region are Wholesale and Retail, and Industry which together account for about 30% of jobs.  Of the region’s top seven sectors, all (except Health) account for a greater share of jobs in the region than the rest of the state.  Agriculture and Industry (manufacturing) are considerably more important in the region.  Among the region’s smaller sectors the share working in them in the region is considerably below that in the rest of the state.

In general the Western Region’s jobs profile relies more heavily than the rest of the state on the traditional sectors (Industry, Agriculture and Construction) and local services (Wholesale and Retail, and Accommodation and Food Service) which depend on domestic spending and tourism.  The region’s sectoral jobs pattern is influenced by its largely rural nature. For more information see this post

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  1. Broadband

Answer: 1) 30Mbps

The WDC in its submission to the consultation on the rollout of the National Broadband Plan suggests that one option would be to review the basic minimum standard, for both up and download speeds, every 5 years (or more frequently depending on technological change and demand requirements) and raise the minimum standard accordingly. For more from the WDC on broadband see here and here

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  1. IDA Strategy

Answer: 2) 30-40% over the 5 years of the strategy

The strategy includes a target to increase the number of investments in every region, outside of Dublin, by 30-40% over the lifetime years of the strategy. With Dublin maintaining a similar level to currently. For example for the West, which received 71 investments over the 2010-2014 period, the target is to achieve 92-99 investments over 2015-2019. For the Border region the target is 61-66 investments (it received 47 in the past five years). These targets do not just refer to new name investments, but include expansions by existing FDI companies and R&D investments.

Read more about it here.

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  1. Climate change

Answer: 1) 63.1% of homes use oil as their main heating fuel

The pattern of fuel usage in central heating is very different in the Western Region and the rest of the state. This is primarily due to the lack of access to natural gas across most of the region. Less than 5% of households in the Western Region use natural gas to heat their home compared with 40% in the rest of the state. Lack of access to natural gas makes the Western Region far more reliant on other fuels, many which have higher carbon emissions. Oil is used by 63.1% of households in the region compared to 38.8% in the rest of the state. Wood fuels and other biomass are slightly more important in the Western Region 1.4% compared to 1.3% in the rest of the state but there needs to be a significant policy focus using renewable energies for domestic heating. These include solid biomass (wood chips, pellets and logs). In many rural situations users have more space and fuel can be sourced locally with less transport required, so these options may be more suitable than for urban dwellers. Uptake could be improved with appropriate, targeted incentives.

For more on rural urban differences, western region statistics and the need for climate change mitigation to focus on rural areas see this post.

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How well did you do?

You got 8 or 9 answers correct

CONGRATULATIONS! You really know a lot about regional development, the Western Region and the Western Development Commission’s work.

 

You got between 4 and 7 answers correct

WELL DONE, a good score but some deficiencies in your knowledge. Perhaps you should read the WDC Insights posts more carefully in 2016!

 

You got between 0 and 3 answers correct

OH DEAR! Time to pay more attention to regional development and Western Region Issues. You’ll have to do some extra study over the holiday! Reread the WDC Insights blog and check out the WDC publications page and re-take the quiz in the New Year!

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Helen McHenry

Rural Dwellers and Climate Change Mitigation

With The Paris Agreement at COP21 marking a turning point in the response to climate change, it is time now to consider how we will meet those targets in Ireland.

In anticipation of the enactment of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill (which is expected shortly), the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG is currently preparing the National Mitigation Plan (NMP), a national plan setting out Ireland’s first statutory low carbon development strategy for the period to 2050. The plan will focus on reducing emissions nationally, but in order to ensure it is tailored to the needs of Ireland as a whole, it is important to highlight the issues from a rural perspective, in terms of current emissions and possible or likely mitigation measures as they affect rural dwellers.

The WDC remit covers a largely rural region which takes in some of the most remote parts of the state. Over 40%[1] of the population (68% in the WDC region) live in rural areas and smaller settlements. The top 5 most rural counties in Ireland are in the Western Region (Leitrim (89.6%), Galway county (77.4%), Roscommon (74%), Donegal (72.5%) and Mayo (71%)). The Western Region also has a higher share of the population living in smaller towns.

The focus of much WDC policy work is on rural areas and their needs when these may not have been considered in detail in policy making. There is no significant body of work (internationally as well as nationally) on climate change and emissions issues for rural areas in developed countries and yet there are important differences in energy use patterns and emissions.  While it is often acknowledged that rural dwellers have higher individual emissions the ways of addressing these are not usually explored, partly because emissions reductions may be more difficult to achieve in rural areas and partly because the focus is usually on larger populations and ways to reduce the emissions of individuals living in more densely populated areas.

It should be remembered that, as in other policy areas, urban/rural is a rather simplistic division, which ignores the ‘suburban’ and the differences between rural towns and the open countryside which all have distinctive emission patterns.

It is also important to be aware that people’s carbon footprints are closely linked to their incomes and consumption patterns and so do not necessarily relate directly to their location (urban or rural). In fact recent research in Finland[2] has highlighted higher emissions from urban dwellers based on their higher consumptions patterns.

Nonetheless, despite the difficulties with a simple urban/rural dichotomy, there are of course concerns specific to rural dwellers emissions that deserve consideration. In this post data from the Western Region, which is predominantly rural, is used to examine the issues.

Why?

Electricity, heat and transport are the three forms of energy use and therefore the source of emissions, for residential and commercial users and so different urban and rural use patterns are considered. Before discussing these individually, it should be remembered that the a first step in tackling climate change should be to increase energy efficiency and so reduce the amount of energy being used (in both transport and heating) bearing in mind that improved energy efficiency will contribute to improved comfort and health outcomes in many situations, as well as reducing energy use, and that the energy savings from improved efficiency measures may not be as large as expected.

There are not likely to be any significant differences among urban and rural dwellers in the type and way they use their electricity and in the associated emissions, but there are significant differences in heating and transport patterns. However, while patterns of electricity use may not differ significantly, developments in electricity generation and storage which reduce or eliminate carbon emissions from generation should, by 2050, have significant benefits for the heating sector and also, significantly, in personal transport with increased use of electric vehicles.

Heating

The differences in rural emissions from heating relate to type of housing, the age of housing and fuels used for heating,

Rural areas have a higher proportion of single dwellings rather than apartments, terraces or semi-detached housing and the lack of shared walls will tend to give rise to higher heating needs. Indeed, the CSO has noted in relation to the Buildings Energy Rating[3] data (BER) that areas with higher proportions of new dwellings and of apartments tend to have higher ratings. For example, 40% of all dwellings built during 2010-2015 with a BER rating were awarded an A.

They also show that mid-floor apartments are more energy efficient and 29% of all mid-floor apartments have an A or B BER rating. Single dwellings perform less well with only 11% of all BER rated detached houses receiving an A or B rating. Not all houses have been subject to rating and it should be noted that only 12% of all dwellings assessed so far have gained A or B ratings .[4]

It is often assumed that the housing stock in rural areas is older (and therefore less efficient and built to lower insulation standards, this can again be seen in the BER data), and indeed this was the pattern in the past, and is the case in many other countries. However, the building boom that occurred after the turn of the century has changed this.

In the Western Region, 29.9%[5] of all occupied homes have been built since 2001. This is greater than the proportion in the rest of the state and the share of newer homes in all western counties was higher than average. The total stock of housing in the Western Region increased by 14.9% since 2006, greater than the increase in the rest of the state (12.2%).

Figure 1: Share of occupied homes constructed before and since 2001 in western counties, Western Region, rest of state and state, 2011

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Source: CSO, This is Ireland: Highlights from Census 2011, Part 1, Table 39.

Fuel Type

The pattern of fuel usage in central heating is very different in the Western Region and the rest of the state (Figure 2). This is primarily due to the lack of access to natural gas across most of the region. Less than 5% of households in the Western Region use natural gas to heat their home compared with 40% in the rest of the state.   It is likely that, low as this figure is, that it actually overestimates natural gas usage in the Western Region as a number of households in counties where no natural gas is available stated that they used natural gas. It is likely that these households actually use LPG (which also has lower emissions than oil).

Figure 2: Percentage of each type of fuel used in central heating by households in the Western Region and rest of state, 2011

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Source: CSO, This is Ireland: Highlights from Census 2011, Part 1, Table 40.

Lack of access to natural gas makes the Western Region far more reliant on other fuels, many which have higher carbon emissions. Oil is used by 63.1% of households, 13.2% use peat and 6.9% use coal – all far higher shares than in the rest of the state- and 1.4% of households in the region use wood (including pellets) in their central heating, marginally higher than in the rest of the state. The heavy reliance on peat in Roscommon and Galway County also stands out, indeed Roscommon has the second highest use of peat of all counties.[6]

While we have considered the fuel usage in the Western Region[7] as a whole there are also urban/rural differences in fuel usage. In the Western Region peat is used to power central heating in almost a fifth of all rural households, but only by 3% of urban households. Electricity meanwhile is far more common in urban areas. Given its availability natural gas is also far more common in urban areas, being used by 11.4% of urban households but only 1.2% of rural. Oil however is the dominant fuel source for both urban and rural households.

Alternatives to higher emitting fuels like oil, coal and peat are readily available to rural consumers. These include solid biomass (wood chips, pellets and logs). In many rural situations as users have more space and fuel can be sourced locally with less transport required, so these options may be more suitable than for urban dwellers. Uptake could be improved with appropriate, targeted incentives.

Additionally, as the electricity generation decarbonises then electricity for heat will be another important option. At the same time as electricity storage methods (like batteries) develop further the options for storing energy from variable sources like wind, both at micro and network level, and improve possibilities for carbon free heating.

There is significant future potential for low carbon and renewable heat in rural areas, and so for reducing emissions, but it should also remember than rural dwellers tend to have lower incomes than urban dwellers and already have higher levels of fuel poverty, so that despite the potential for change, many lack the financial resources to switch to low carbon or carbon free alternatives. This needs to be considered in formulation of policies addressing the issue.

Transport

Rural people are more reliant on car based transport, they have less available public transport and tend to travel greater distances and clearly rural dwellers’ transport demand patterns need to be central to planning for climate change mitigation. There must be detailed consideration of transport issues for smaller settlements and rural areas which currently account for 48% of all trips (compared with 32% for the four main cities)[8]. The majority of the population will continue to live in the historical settlement pattern and spatial planning will not change that pattern significantly even in the long term (to 2050). Thus a National Mitigation Plan needs to focus on current spatial patterns as well as any future growth in demand.

In Ireland, a very high proportion of transport emissions are associated with rural and long-distance commuting. Analysis of travel and car ownership data conducted by NESC for “Towards a New National Climate Policy” [9] highlights that Dublin accounts for approximately 28 per cent of the population (in 2006) and 26 per cent of cars (2010). It notes that Dublin drivers make shorter journeys, on average just under 13,000km per year, while in other parts of the country drivers travel on average 18,000km per year and NESC calculated that emissions from Dublin drivers are 948,153 Mt CO2 eq and from drivers elsewhere are 3,719,868 Mt CO2 eq. These estimates are based on kilometres driven and so do not take account of fuel use per kilometre travelled. NESC suggests that it in order to address the challenge of reducing emissions in Ireland there should be a focus on solutions that can address the needs of rural drivers and those making longer commutes to urban areas.

In addressing this issue it is important to consider the underlying presumption that employment will be concentrated in cities. There are opportunities for employment to be more dispersed, in line with current population patterns. Towns, smaller centres and rural areas provide a variety of opportunities as locations for employment across many sectors (not just agri-food and tourism). Commuting travel demand, fuel use and time spent can also be reduced if employment is more dispersed, in line with current population patterns. In 2011 61% of rural dwellers (excluding farmers) worked in towns or rural areas illustrating the potential to stimulate employment closer to where people live (see note 8).

Alongside these more dispersed employment opportunities there is significant potential to make the most of the opportunities provided by trends in technology development, the growth of services employment, a move to more varied working hours , and greater remote and home working opportunities as well as incentives for enterprises to offer different work arrangements (timing of day, tele-working). These trends will change the way people work and how often they actually travel for work. The National Mitigation Plan should recognise that active policies to encourage and facilitate new work practices can help manage and reduce future travel demand in a sustainable and cost effective way that also has quality of life benefits.

But employment is only one factor generating trips. The 2009 National Travel Surveys showed that 70% of all trips are not related to employment. The importance of these non-work trips and the potential for change in this demand needs to be more central to climate change mitigation planning.

It can be argued that better spatial planning with more concentration in population centres will provide more concentrated transport demand which can be better served by public transport with lower per capita emissions. However, in addition to planning for future development, there is a need to manage current and historic settlement patterns. People will continue to follow historic patterns and it should not be assumed that land use planning can radically alter Ireland’s historically dispersed settlement pattern, especially in the Western Region and other rural regions.

Conclusion

When planning our national mitigation measures it will be important to consider both the impacts of proposed measures on rural dwellers and the rural economy. It is essential to ensure that there is a clear focus on rural dwellers in any plans so that our future climate change policy takes them into account, focuses on reducing their emissions and ensuring that the NMP and sectoral policies recognise the different emissions patterns of rural dwellers and provides for different mitigation responses.

 

Helen McHenry

[1] Total population living outside centres of 2,500 in the State 1,858,327 (40.5% of national population). Total population living outside centres of 2,500 in Western Region 558,093 (68% of population). CSO Census of Population, 2011

[2] Heinonen J and S Junnila, 2011 A Carbon Consumption Comparison of Rural and Urban Lifestyles Sustainability 2011, 3, 1234-1249;

[3] http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/dber/domesticbuildingenergyratingsquarter22015/

[4] Total dwellings assessed 551,214, Detached houses assessed 140,048 Q2, 2015

[5] Source: CSO, This is Ireland: Highlights from Census 2011, Part 1, Table 39. Data available at http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=CDD39&PLanguage=0

[6] Offaly is the highest.

[7] See for https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/Census-2011-Principal-Demographic-and-Town-and-Country-WDC-May-2012.pdf more detail

[8] For more information on rural travel patterns see above and https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC-Submission-to-DTTAS-on-SFILT-Consultation-October-2014.pdf and also https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC_Policy-Briefing-no-6-Commuting-Final.pdf and https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/Supplementary-Note-WDC-Policy-briefing-No6.pdf

[9] Towards a New National Climate Policy: Interim Report of the NESC Secretariat Report to the Department of Environment, Community and Loc

 

Public Policy Priorities in 2016 and Beyond

A seminar entitled Ireland’s Policy Priorities after the next General Election, on November 2nd provided a welcome break from the recent talk of Budget giveaways and election promises. Organised by the Policy Institute, Trinity College Dublin, in association with the Public Policy Advisors Network, the aim was to discuss what are and what should be the policy priorities of the next Government.

Some interesting contributions included that from Dan O’Brien, in which he examined medium term policy challenges, noting the ageing demographics generally as well as a sharp decline, over the last five years, in the number of those aged in their twenties. This is attributed to the birth rate as well as emigration and the ageing of that cohort of East European migrants that came here before the crash.

Another key policy theme which is likely to become a policy priority is Ireland’s response to the EU’s 2030 energy and climate change targets. The recent recession, which gave rise to a reduction in emissions (purely because of a contraction in economic activity), relegated the urgency of this policy priority. The return to economic growth will ensure that this is likely to become a more important policy priority. It was proposed that the next Government should appoint a senior Minister with responsibility for the low carbon agenda.

Considering the economics of the next programme for Government, Stephen Kinsella and Ronan Lyons examined the patterns of national economic growth since 2002 – characterised initially from 2002-2007 by a rapidly growing economy, followed by the economic crisis of 2007-2011 which in turn was followed by a period of readjusting public spending and restoring economic confidence in 2011-2016.

It is suggested that the period from 2016 could be that of ‘coming full circle’, with a rapidly growing economy and a need to manage expectations. In learning from our past mistakes, fiscal policy is key and the authors advocate the use of the concept of the Social Return on Investment (SROI). This differs from the current cost based accounting approach to public spending to a more holistic economic approach where the wider costs and benefits of a proposal would be measured. In doing, so the full implications of a cut are captured e.g. €100 cut to caregivers allowance, which then drives people into the public health system thereby negating any ‘savings’. This is arguably a more useful way of evaluating public policy instruments, allowing a more holistic measure of the effects of policies.

Examining Local Government and Spatial Planning, Seán Ó’Riordáin and John Martin point to the need for a new  long-term spatial plan for Ireland (the National Planning Framework) and the need to learn lessons from the National Spatial Strategy. The role of local government in supporting long term development of both rural and urban areas needs to be addressed.

Bringing the concept of Social Return on Investment to the debate on spatial planning, regional, rural and urban development might help advance this debate and the policy choices which arise. In considering investment decisions to support development of the regions, both urban and rural, measuring the Social Return on Investment might lead to different outcomes when considering cuts to or additional investment in various services in regional and rural locations.

For example, decisions on the closure of public services offices in regional and rural locations such as post offices, government outreach offices, garda stations etc. are usually based on cutting operational expenditure, including staff costs or economies of scale.  These cuts can deliver immediate financial savings for the organisation but this narrow view does not take account of the accumulated long term impact on the local economy, the overall needs of society and the disabling impact on local communities.

Taking account of the social rate of return allows for a more holistic economic and societal perspective, rather than solely on the efficiencies and financial savings generated for the individual organisation.  In doing so, the wider impacts beyond a particular locality can be captured, for example, unemployment and migration from rural areas and other regional centres can add to already significant pressures on housing and transport services in the capital. This in turn requires additional investment in infrastructure and services, which is often more expensive to deliver in congested urban areas. Examining all costs and benefits and the social rate of return could help us to make better, more informed choices.

 

The presentations are available at the PPAN website http://www.ppan.ie/latest-news/

Deirdre Frost

Realising the Hidden Potential of Ireland’s Towns

One third of Irish people live in towns. However, over many years towns have not received the level of attention and support necessary to ensure a sustainable future in the face of change.

In Kilkenny last week [1] the Heritage Council hosted an excellent conference on the potential of Ireland’s rural towns and villages.

Speakers discussed how the historic urban characters of many of our main streets are losing vitality and value through under-use or over-development. But the conference had a broader focus than heritage, examining the role of Irish towns and their activities in retail and as places for people to live, work and visit.

One of the refreshing aspects of the conference was that it considered towns and villages of all sizes and noted the role they have all played and continue to play in our society and economy. See here for more details of the conference.

This event was the culmination of two years’ work on the nature and role of Irish towns and what needs to be done to keep them vital and alive. As part of this the Heritage Council put forward six policy proposals for Ireland’s towns which are summarised here:

  1. An Irish Urban Policy should be developed which sets out to protect the strategic social, cultural, economic and environmental role of Irish towns of all sizes.
  1. Extend the Living City initiative to the historic core area of all Irish towns and develop fiscal measures specifically to encourage people to live and do business in towns.
  1. Reintroduce incentives for ‘Living over the Shop’ and work to ensure that regulatory burden that can deter such developments is eased.
  1. Ensure that the strategic economic role of towns in rural economic development is reflected in future funding programmes.
  1. There should be further research on the characteristics and role of towns and the barriers to their development.
  1. A Rural Towns and Villages network should be established to provide support and funding for community initiatives to revitalise towns.

Some of the background to the Heritage Council work in the area is here and the full details of their policy proposals will be available shortly.

And Finally…

Anne Phelan, T.D. and Minister of State[2] spoke at the conference and welcomed the Heritage Council work in the area. She also gave some insight into the ongoing rural policy process.

A Rural Charter is currently being drawn up, outlining the role for rural Ireland in the future, a new rural White Paper will be prepared in 2016 and a Rural Forum is also to be developed.

This focus on rural needs and rural policy is very welcome and we look forward to it coming together to provide stimulus and direction for future rural development.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] 5th November 2015

[2] Minister of State at the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Transport, Tourism and Sport with Special Responsibility for Rural Economic Development (implementation of the CEDRA Report) and Rural Transport