Dáil Éireann - Volume 624 - 27 September, 2006

Written Answers. - Departmental Records.

Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way in which a discrepancy arose in the figures which he published for housing completions in 2005; the length of time this source of inaccuracy has been present; and the changes he is making for future methods of calculation. [28326/06]

[875]   Mr. N. Ahern: Since the early 1970’s my Department has used the number of new residential unit connections by the ESB as a proxy for the number of house completions. This series reflects the number of homes completed and available, and does not reflect any work-in-progress. No discrepancy or source of inaccuracy has been found in completion figures in 2005, nor is there any need to change the method of calculation for the future.

An issue that has arisen in relation to the data, is the use of house completions as a measure of residential construction activity. I am aware that these data are used by economists, and the Central Statistics Office, as a measure of the level of activity and value added from housing construction. In April 2006, the CSO contacted my officials to query the data published for 2005 as they considered that growth in construction employment suggested that the level of residential construction activity should be higher than the house completion data indicated (albeit that 2005 was a further record year for house completions with almost 81,000 units completed).

On foot of enquiries to the ESB, it emerged that the ESB had experienced longer delays in meeting the demand for connections than in previous years. The ESB estimated that there was a higher level of work-in-progress than usual, of about 5,200 units over the course of 2005, which we have been advised was cleared during the course of the first half 2006. These units were not completed and not available, and could not be counted as house completions, but the information was relevant in looking at trends in housing activity. Therefore, we provided this information publicly at the earliest possible time, which was when I released the house completions figures for the first 5 months 2006 on 10 July 2006.

As I have indicated at the outset, the ESB connections series reflects the number of homes completed and does not include work-in-progress and there are no plans to make any changes to this series.