Meeting of Cork County Council, 23rd June 2014

These are my notes from the above meeting.  Although they reflect the content of the meeting to the best of my ability, they are subject to whatever inaccuracies may be due to my typing, hearing and interpretation …

Meeting of Cork County Council
Council Chamber, 23/06/2014

1. Confirmation of Minutes of Annual General Meeting of the Council held on 6th June 2014

Minutes of AGM – Cllr N Collins (Ind) wants his name to be noted as dissenting to signing the minutes of the AGM.  He said there was an irregularity in voting rights.  There were 3 contenders and where there are 3, a minimum of 2 votes should  be taken.

A FG representative agreed that it was incorrect and morally wrong that the father of the house should be treated in this way.  Cllr Collins was defeated by just one vote.  He also wishes to dissent.

Sean O’Callaghan advised the Chamber that Standing Order No. 50 dictated how the procedure would be taken.  The grouping system did not apply because the selection was for membership of a committee, not for the election of mayor.

Mayor: Said that standing orders were followed.  Cllr Desmond (FF) proposed and Cllr McGrath (FF) seconded.

2.  Confirmation of Minutes of the Council Meeting held on 9th June, 2014

Confirmed and seconded.

3.  Votes of Sympathy
Votes of Sympathy (if any) to (i) the relatives of members or employees of the Council (ii) dignitaries of Church or State (iii) members of the old IRA and Cumann na mBan

Cllr Pat Buckley’s father.

The Council observed a minute’s silence because today is the 29th anniversary of Air India tragedy.

4.  Disposal of properties
Section 183 of the Local Government Act, 2001:
(a) Disposal of land at Scrahanard, Clondrohid, Macroom, Co. Cork
(b) Disposal of 47 Springfield Park, Cobh, Co. Cork
(c) Disposal of land at Knockanhill, Chapel Road, Kilworth, Co. Cork

All agreed

5.  Vocational Educational Amendment Act 2001
Ratification of the appointment of members of Cork County Council to the Education and Training Board

Mayor needed proposer and seconder for ratification of members proposed at the AGM.

6.  Local Government Act 2001
Appointment of a Member from each Municipal District to the Association of Irish Local Government (voting rights at AILG annual meeting)

Eight party representatives to the AILG were called out.  These were already agreed prior to the AGM.

Appointment of 3 of the above 8 Members as permanent delegates (5 years) to the Standing Policy Committee of the AILG

Three of these 8 were agreed to go forward to the Standing Policy Committee.

7. Western Committee
“That this Council would clarify whether or not the introduction of paid parking is a reserved function of each Municipal District.”

This was an issue that came up at the Western Committee.  Pay parking has been very contentious around the county and members have a desire to address it through the Municipal District Committees (MDCs).  Clarity was sought from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Cllr Carroll (FF):  To not be able to decide whether there is pay parking or not in towns is making MDCs toothless and powerless.  There is a very strong feeling against pay parking in all towns in West Cork.  He is hoping the Council will leave this power with the MDCs.

Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): MDCs are being brought in on the basis of Putting People First.  The concept was that they would respond to the local area needs.  It has always been questionable how much power they will have but is true that decisions should be devolved as low as possible.

Cllr O’Flynn: The decision on pay parking is a reserve function for the new MDCs as far as he is concerned.  There are two hours free parking in Mitchelstown and Charleville, but pay parking in Fermoy.  He wants to see the situation in all towns equalized.  We need to stand up for rural Ireland.

Cllr Murphy O’Mahony (FF): The decision on pay parking should be an MDC function.  Local knowledge and local expertise is very important with regard to pay parking.  To deny this is to belittle MDCs.

Cllr Forde (FG): We have had much argument about pay parking in Douglas.  There needs to be a certain uniformity of decision-making throughout the MDs.  This issue needs clarification so that we can move forward.  Although there is pay parking in Douglas, there is no pay parking in Carrigaline.

Cllr Fitzgerald: There is pay parking in Mallow and it is very problematic.  The pay parking situation has to be regularized.  People see the MDCs as a municipal authority and will be very disappointed if we do not behave as such.  Universal tickets for pay parking right through the county would be a good idea.

Cllr Murphy (FF): It is a reserve function to decide whether to introduce pay parking or not.  When MDCs were set up, the aim was to bring democracy closer to the people, especially with Town Councils abolished.  We were taken aback to hear that we might not have the power to introduce or otherwise pay parking.  We would like clarity today.  It is very important to respect the reserve function of the MD, where the local knowledge is paramount.

Cllr Mullane (SF): There is privatised pay parking in Mallow.  The privatisation creates the difficulty.  She would like to ask how many pay parkings in the county are privatised?

Cllr Creed (FG): Having read the response from the manager, it appears that the function to create or otherwise pay parking is there but that the function it can be over0ruled by the manager.  He would like to ask the manager to comment on last paragraph of his report to members.

Cllr McGrath (FF):  We need a report from the CEO in advance of the morning of the Council meeting.  We have not had time to read through and study it.  We had all thought that MDCs would have the power to deal with pay parking.  It seems that there is now a clawing back of power from the MDCs.  He doesn’t think the report clarifies the issue at all.  What does “inconsistency” mean?  We need corporate advice on this.  When will the report from the transport SPC be complete?  This was commissioned last December.  Until that report is issued, can we go ahead and propose changes to pay parking within the MDs?

Cllr McCarthy (SF): She wants clarification on the last two paragraphs of the CEO’s report.  It appears to read that if CEO doesn’t like a decision taken at the MD level, it will be overturned.  Is this the way it will always be at a MD level?

Cllr Collins (FG): It is muddying the waters letting to let this issue go further.  He thinks that the pay parking issue needs to be uniform across the board.  Tickets for pay parking should be interchangeable where possible.  If you go to Bantry for a weekend, the tickets you bought in Ballincollig should be able to be used in Bantry.  There is a consequence to doing away with pay parking.  Income, albeit small, will be taken from towns.

Cllr N Collins (Ind): Midleton Town Council was totally opposed to pay parking.  As a former member of Midleton Town Council, he supports this proposal.

Cllr Canty (FG): Welcomes the motion but it has opened a big can of worms.  MDs were going to work on this individually and collectively.  Ballincollig has a traffic warden and allows 1 hour free on the main street, 3 hours in car park.  Ballincollig fought hard for a traffic warden.  There will be no meters or boxes around the town.  Any money made from pay parking was to be put back into Ballincollig.  The business association in Balincollig fought hard to keep this.  It’s not broken, so don’t fix it.  Other towns had pay parking rammed down their throats and they’re sorry now.  He regrets what the CEO has had to say in his report.

Cllr McCarthy (SF): Thinks this is a farce.  According to the CEO’s report, MDCs don’t have the powers they thought they would have.  In Cobh, there is 1 hour free parking.  If the MDC decides it wants 2 hours free, will that be overruled by the CEO?  If this is the case, the whole idea of the MD is a joke.  At only our second meeting of full Council, this is already being exposed.

Cllr Murphy (SF): Businesses in Fermoy town are the second lowest rate payers in the county.  Business people in Fermoy are facing a huge challenge with a potential increase in rates to match that of the county rate.  They will be doubly penalized with the potential continuation of pay parking now that Town Council has been abolished.  If MDCs haven’t got the power to change things as they go along, it is totally unacceptable.

Cllr Murphy (FG): He is unhappy with the response from CEO.  It is totally unclear and everything has a but after it.  He thought the MDCs would be able to have a function in respect of pay parking.

Cllr O’Flynn (FF): This motion is timely with budgets being formed in October.  There is plenty of free out of town parking in retail centres.  Town centres have to compete with these people.  At present, it is cheaper to drive from Fermoy to shop in Mahon than it is to shop in Fermoy.

Cllr Lucey (FG): If the MDCs can’t manage its own local area, there is no point in its existence.  Money from parking in Macroom goes back into local amenities.

Cllr Desmond (FF): Businesses in Douglas are on their knees.  Is there an update on where the report from the SPC currently is please?

O’Sullivan (FF):  Appalled by what is circulated this morning.  No point in going to MDC meetings at all.  Pay parking has been damaging for Youghal.  Beneficial to Midleton not to have pay parking.

Cllr C O’Sullivan (FF): We thought the MDC had reserve functions.  This is a disgrace.  He appealed to the CEO to give us this one.  This is the first chance we have had to exercise reserve function.

Cllr O’Grady (SF):  Are MDCs obliged to bring a resolution to the CPG?  Looks like MDs can’t win whichever way they go.

Mayor: We all thought from legislation that MDs would have power but obviously statutory instruments are making a difference.

Cllr McCarthy (FG):  Pay parking kills business.  Midleton with no pay parking doing is ok.  Youghal with pay parking is struggling.  Concurs that pay parking in town centres gives business to the large multinationals like Tesco.  Do we want to see our town centres completely dead?  This type of decision has to be kept at district level.  When businesses close, the County Council will lose rates.  The County Council must think logically.

CEO: Emotive language has been used in this discussion.  He would like to think that members would respect the fact that his report is based on Regulations.  His job is to advise the members how to operate under the legislation.  He welcomes the opportunity of getting to the nuts and bolts of how the MDs and Cork County Council will perform their functions in future.  There is inconsistency across the county on how pay parking is implemented.  There are differing views across the chamber.  The Regulations are very clear.  The power to introduce bye-laws and making of charges and how to dispose of those charges is a MD function.  The Regulations brought in on 29th June reflect the fact that in one local authority area, there may be more than one MD.  If the decisions made by the MDs differ from County Council policy, the MD can discuss what they have decided with the CPG.  The MD shall not exercise what its members have decided whilst the CPG is making its decision.  The issue of pay parking will be brought to the Transport SPC.  A policy within which MDs should operate their function on pay parking is needed.  There should not be any change in pay parking arrangements until that policy is drawn up.  After that, the MDs can take their own decision on pay parking.  There is a need for us to grapple with this issue.  Any decision taken at MD level which might impact on the income brought to the CCC must be had regard to.  Regulations also say this.  His obligation as CEO is to bring that to members’ attention.  He thinks his report sets it out very clearly.  If there is any lack of clarity, it is that there is no consistent policy.

Cllr Murphy (FF): The CEO’s response has brought some clarity but it is not satisfactory.  The thinks a one size fits all approach will not suit what is a very diverse community.   Whatever policy the SPC comes up with, let it take cognisance of the huge diversity of towns through the county and not force pay parking on a town that does not have it at the moment.

Cllr Hayes (SF): Our issue is with the Minister, not with the CEO.  The Department appears to be making things up as it goes along.  This is a test for the MD set up.  If we don’t get this one, it is a talking shop essentially.  It seems that the Minister was in such a hurry to get rid of Town Councils, the MDs were an afterthought.

Cllr Sheppard (FG):  Cobh is the only area in its MD bringing in funding through pay parking.  So will all money brought in Cobh stay in Cobh or will it go to all of the MD?

Cllr Mullane (SF): Query on privatised pay parking.

Cllr McGrath (FF): He fundamentally disagrees with what is being said here today by CEO.  Members need the SPC policy within one month.  Businesses cannot wait any longer.

Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): Points out apparent inconsistencies between front and back page on having to consult the CPG.

CEO: He has to have regard to the overall budgetary position of the whole Council organisation.  Members have to consider what this really means at town level.

As regards the private pay parking in Mallow, any change to the pay parking regime in any town would be a matter for the CEO because he will be charged with operating the pay parking system in the town.

The policy on pay parking has sat at an SPC level since December.  The SPC met only once since then.  He is hoping that SPCs will be up and running by September.  The executive will put whatever resources are necessary to get the policy developed quickly.  It is really down to the SPC to decide the pace at which it wants to move.

Notices of Motion

8. Cllr Bob Ryan
“That Cork County Council prepares a Draft Architectural Conservation Area for Blarney with a view to a Variation of the County Development Plan in accordance with Development Plan Objective ENV 4-8.
ACA designation would serve to protect the unique architectural, industrial and cultural heritage of Blarney and support its role as a tourist attraction of both national and regional significance.”

Cllr Ryan: He introduced the concept of this motion locally and it has received much support from the people of Blarney.  He spoke of the development of Blarney since the 1700s.  No other town or village has all these historical features intact and in such close proximity to each other.  Blarney is of immense value to tourism.  It is important to protect the character and townscape for future generations.  It is an extreme oversight that Blarney has not been designated an ACA.

Cllr Conway (Ind): Supports the motion.  Blarney Community Council put a submission in the County Development Plan to this same effect.  The CEO has recommended in his reflections on these comments that an amendment of the County Development Plan be made to that effect.   He is representing Blarney Community Council himself.  He had been going to speak of this through the County Development Plan drafting process.

CEO: It is his intention to propose the Blarney ACA.  There are strong submissions supporting this.  It needs to be dealt with through the County Development Plan process.  We are near enough to completing a new plan; it should be done and dusted by end of this year.

Cllr. Ryan: Agree with the CEO’s process.  He is happy that he has put it on record that there were other Cllrs prior to this who were asked to put the case for a Blarney ACA to the Chamber and who did not.

9.  Cllr Seamus McGrath
To request written clarification from the Chief Executive on the opportunity open to members of Council to express an opinion on the current application before An Bord Pleanala by the Port of Cork for an expansion of activities in Ringaskiddy.  Also to request a report on the opinion of Management on this application.”

Cllr McGrath (FF):  There is a perception that there is an unlevel playing field with regard to planning process.  The Port of Cork had ongoing pre-planning consultations with An Bord Pleanala which the community is not afforded an opportunity to do.  He presumes the Port has also contacted the CEO in advance of submitting its planning application.  The community cannot do that either.  He is asking that he might afford the community the opportunity to either meet with him or to put forward their own views prior to his issuing his report.

CEO:  The Strategic Infrastructure Process doesn’t afford an opportunity for the CEO to engage more widely.  (Basically answered as he answered to me last Friday.)

Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF):  Agreed that there is major concern about this application amongst local communities.

Cllr McGrath (FF): Acknowledges that the process does not allow for the CEO to meet with communities, but it doesn’t preclude him from meeting them either.

10.  Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG)
“That the Council ask the appropriate SPC to draw up a proposal to grant aid committees in Towns and Villages in their efforts to provide Christmas lighting.  Cork County Council rate payers as well as the broader community would benefit from such a scheme.  As a county we should do everything to support business in local communities and encourage people to shop locally.  The scheme should be open and transparent taking into account the size of the town and local commitment.”

Cllr Murphy (FG): Towns with Town Councils have generally had help from Town Councils to have Christmas lights.  Maybe pay parking did pay for things like Christmas lights.  These towns also had a different level of rates from those who did not have Town Councils.  It is time to level the playing pitch for all our rate payers within the county.  Our small businesses have to pay for Christmas lights every year to try to make people stay local in their shopping.  A good Christmas can make or break businesses in a town.  It is better to help out like this than by through the big issues like reducing rates across the board.  The CEO has made it clear year after year that reducing rates by even 1% merely rewards the Tescos of the world, not the smaller players.  Maybe through little issues like this we might better be able to help local communities.

Cllr Murphy (FF): Supports the motion.  It is not just in the area of Christmas lighting we could help smaller businesses.  There are other supports that might be there for towns and villages from Town Councils.  He wants to know where we stand with issuing grant aids at MD level.  Various functions within our towns and villages were grant aided by Town Councils heretofore.  Traders are finding things very difficult.  It is important that we give every effort to them to ensure that the end of the year will come good for them.  He thinks we should write to the Minister to have different bands of rates for different types of businesses.  This needs to get to an SPC for policy as soon as possible.

Cllr Murphy (FG):  This motion is timely and worthwhile.  We must look at it as soon as possible.  The relevant SPC won’t be set up before September.  In the meantime, the Council Executive can give guidance on what schemes were available from Town Councils.  Whatever level of funding was there in the past from Town Councils should be followed through.

Cllr Hegarty (FG): This is a very creative motion.  Having come from a Town Council in Bantry, she can attest that Town Councils, who had very small budgets, were also creative.  Christmas lighting is a big attraction for a town.  There has always been a wonderful display in Bantry.  It brought shoppers into the town on 8th December.  She hopes other things done at Town Council level like twinning will be brought up in advance of the budget in an equally creative way.

Cllr McCarthy (SF): She also came from a Town Council in Bandon which as a former Town Commission did not have the budget to erect Christmas lights.  The CPG might decide whether and which it SPC to send this to for policy development.

11.  Cllr Noel Collins
“That this Council, due to the chronic shortage of social housing, request the Department of the Environment & Local Government to make additional funding available for the provision of sheltered housing to non-profit Housing Associations for the elderly and others.”

Cllr Collins (Ind): The shortage of housing is a major problem.  He has many such cases at weekly advice clinic. Non-profit housing associations manage 4,000 houses throughout the county.  Sheltered housing is a source of security for the elderly with safety securities in place.  Homelessness has a variety of causes.  The disposessed become wholly reliant on the state.  The State cannot cope.  Some 90,000 households are on the social housing list.  The gap between supply and demand continues to widen.  The number of social houses being built each year is going down.  Tenants must top up the state contribution on rent allowance.  For many, renting has become less and less affordable.  Sheltered housing answers so many of the value for money questions.

Cllr Murphy (FG): Supports the motion.  Members have spoken about this motion several times before.  Those voluntary associations have got substantial funding and our tenants benefit from the units they offer.  Since the demise of funding for housing associations, it left a huge void in the area and a huge number of people without housing.  There are fewer and fewer houses available, not just merely unaffordable.

Cllr McCarthy (FF): Welcomes and supports the motion.  She would like to put forward an addendum to motion by adding: “this Council further expresses its concern at the provisions of the Housing bill 2014 …”

Cllr Barry (FG): There is a hunger among the elderly for this kind of housing.  We have removed the elderly from the areas they are familiar and comfortable with.  He wants to be able to keep people living in their own communities.

Cllr Forde (FG): She thinks this issue very complex.  There is a think-tank at national level which is trying to come up with formulae to ease the current situation.  It comes down to the banking sector of course and she understands from reports that they are starting to issue loans again.  As a Council we should have specific debate which could inform CDP, downsizing, restrictions on building housing for senior citizens, etc.  We have a large Council and could perhaps feed our debate into the national think tank.

Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): Spoke in Irish. Commends Cllr Collins for very his timely motion.  He thinks this is very important because the Housing Bill is not a solution.  The Housing Bill potentially pushes the category of person with housing needs into the private rented sector.  The thinks the vast majority of people prefer the security of the local authority system.  While we are appealing for funding for non-profit organisations, we should also ask for funds to make houses available for local authorities.

Cllr Buckley (SF): In the last few weeks alone, he has experienced six issues of eviction.  One individual is homeless now.  He is in danger of losing his social welfare support because he has no address.  The reality is that people are going homeless every single day.  Society does not serve these people.  We need to go back to the CDP and work at this in a bigger way.

Cllr N Collins (Ind): He had 46 people into his advice clinic last Saturday, five of whom were in dire need of housing.  He got them caravans because he could get them nothing else.  People are not even able to buy a kettle because they have absolutely nothing.  With the high cost of nursing home care, sheltered housing would be a much better solution.

Cllr Barry (FG): There are 6,253 on the County Council housing list.  Once the HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) is introduced, this figure will be appear to be lower.  But it won’t be.  People cannot afford rent.  People will be removed from the housing list if the HAP comes through.

Cllr T Collins (Ind): NAMA owns houses which are standing empty in estates often in bad condition and deteriorating.  Cork County Council can’t purchase them from NAMA but it could lease them.  He knows of one lady in Banteer who cannot afford central heating of any kind but her chimney is so bad she cannot set a fire.

Cllr O’Keeffe (FF): Has Cork County Council been made offers of property in the County from NAMA?

CEO: Thinks Cork County Council has not been approached by NAMA.  He suggests Cork County Council could approach NAMA rather than waiting for NAMA to contact.

Cllr Murphy (FG): Need clarification on this.  There have been about 350 houses offered to the County Council over the last year but he is not sure if these were from NAMA.

Mayor Colman (FF): Recalled that at the last divisional meeting, Angela Murphy said she was waiting for confirmation from NAMA.  Maybe things have moved on from then.  Clarification will be sought.

12.  Cllr John Paul O’Shea
“That Cork County Council seeks immediate clarification from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar TD, in relation to receiving no response to date on the application this authority made on the Department’s request for flood damage and repair to roads throughout the County post the 6th January 2014.”

Cllr Collins: It is incredible how slowly this has advanced.  We need to know what funds are available to fix the extent of the damage.

Cllr T Collins (Ind): Is there emergency funding available?  The traditional patching of roads alone is costing a lot of money.  It is pointless.  Proper resurfacing is required.  Often roads are being damaged because the drains are not open.  Please Mayor, might the Minister be asked to provide funding to take care of these repairs.

Cllr McCarthy (SF): The most disappointing aspect of this is that the Council has not even had a response from the Minister.  She compliments the staff in the work they have done on the ground.  But members need an answer from the Minister, whether it is a yes or a no.

Cllr Carroll (FF): Supports the motion and would like to take it further.  The state of roads in West Cork was the main topic at every door in the run up to the election.  Many of the roads are gone beyond patching.  The money that Cork County Council has will go nowhere near what is required.  The County Council needs to approach the Minister and ask him to suspend an NRA project up the country and put the money from that NRA project into roads in West Cork.  Residents of West Cork pay the same road tax as residents of Dublin but they see the standards of their roads as being very different.

Cllr O’Donnabhain (FF):  Suggests that the Council would look for money now for clearing drains, etc. that will be necessary in the winter.  If the Council takes this approach, then the Department wouldn’t have to battle with every local authority application for emergency funding at the same time.

Cllr Linehan-Foley (Ind): Would like to take this opportunity to get a report on the board walk amenity in Youghal that was lost during the storms.

Cllr Forde: This Minister hasn’t been found wanting with regard to funding.  The money is coming but the needs are not being met.  People who suffered from the flooding in Douglas have not received money.  Did Cork County Council draw down money which might have come from insurance?  With regard to repairing roads, the velocity patcher cannot be used on certain road surfaces.  She wants clarification on that.  Is the money coming from the Minister being spent in areas where it should not be spent?  But obviously we should get more if the Minister is giving it.

CEO: He confirms that the Youghal boardwalk has €1.9million of initial funding.

Mayor Coleman: Believes all members are agreed that we will pursue the Minister on this.

CEO: The County Council has insurance only for County Council properties.  Any remediation arising from flooding comes from grants.

Cllr O’Shea (Ind): We’ve been asked to submit our application in early March.  If there was some indication from the Department that money would come from government, they would wait.  But now there is a concern that money will not come.  The engineering staff has already spent money they haven’t got to repair what they can.  Please put this on the agenda for the next Council meeting so that we can follow it through.

Cllr O’Flynn (FF): Suggested that we might send a deputation to meet the Minister.

CEO: The Executive has been pushing the Department hard for funding of €4.2 million.  The Department hasn’t made any decision on this yet.  The County Council is out to tender for 3 Velocity patchers which should improve the quality and permanency of patching work.

13.  Cllr Michael Collins
“That Cork County Council calls on the Minister for the Environment to retain the Leader partnership structure as they currently exist as they have proven to be the most effective way to deliver programmes abased on local issues and needs.  Anything other than the existing way the programmes have been delivered will have a detrimental effect on community led local development.  It will also negatively impact on the organizations and staff who have many years experience in delivering a range of valuable supports that address the needs of citizens, communities and enterprises and increases social inclusion.”

Cllr Collins (Ind): The decision made by the Minister goes against advice from everyone.  Even Europe.  It goes against empowering communities.  In Finland, they are not allowed have even a community council. People say we are going down the Finnish route.  He would also like a guarantee from the Minister that all rural development companies will be allowed to tender directly for the LEADER contract.  Rural Ireland has been forgotten.

Cllr Murphy (FF):  Supports the motion.  This issue has been brought up before.  The Minister’s is a very negative approach.  When responsibility for the LEADER funds is called to tender, it could end up in the hands of private companies chasing a financial model.  The way it is designed is not favouring Cork County at all.  It is pitting rural development companies against each other.  There is a general feeling that privatisation might be coming down the road.  There is also a feeling that the questions asked by the Minster were designed to get the answer he wanted to get to a tendering process.  There are 5 rural development companies in Cork who will have to tender for the whole County.  These companies just want to deliver services on the ground.  Ill thought out proposal on the part of the Minister.  It is a bit like MDs – very poor planning and inadequate engagement with the companies.  He asks the Minister to row back and think this through again.

Cllr O’Flynn (FF): Fully supports the motion.  The County Council have had a motion like this before.  It also got the support of all the members.  The Minister has never replied to any motion passed in the last Council, that one included.  The LEADER programme has been a massive success.  The winners have been the local communities.  Why change something that is working well?  Would you change the management team of your football club if you are winning All Irelands?  The Minister is not listening.  There is a public rally in Dublin on 9th July.  He encourages all members to go and stand by the people who elected you.

Cllr O’Shea (Ind): There is a huge lack of clarity in terms of the future of these companies.  The coo-operation between LEADER companies and the County Council over the years has been welcome.

Cllr Hayes (SF): LEADER is a fantastic set up in this country.  He read statistics for what LEADER has achieved.  We also need clarification from the EU on alignment.

Cllr Barry (FG): The delivery of the LEADER programme has been hugely beneficial.  He is concerned that the alignment policy is a done deal at this stage.  He asks Cork County Council to work very closely with the development companies.  The experience, knowledge, etc. that has built up in these development companies may be lost.

Cllr Conway (Ind): Blarney had stagnated until LEADER.  The people in the rural development companies are really on the ground and incredibly efficient at what they do.

Cllr Moynihan (FF):  He was at the opening of an astroturf near Millstreet over the weekend.  The community gave incredibly positive feedback on the LEADER fund and its implementation.  This type of work is being represented in 33 communities in his area.  It is keeping the community alive and vibrant.  Even the EU Court of Auditors supports how Ireland has implemented LEADER.  Our model is being replicated all over Europe as a success story.  Staff of the rural development companies are very committed.  They work long hours and are available at all hours of the day and night.  We must send the strongest possible message to the Minister.  The format of the LEADER set-up is also building leadership in communities.

Cllr G Murphy: We have superb rural development companies which have an ethos different from that in state agencies.  There will be less funding available from the LEADER programme in the next round.  He thinks we can do what we need to do by co-operation.  He is sure the tendering process will not pose a challenge for the rural development companies.

Cllr O’Donnabhain (FF): He is a board member of SECAD.  SECAD has an incredible track record in terms of delivery.  LEADER groups tackle issues that are not otherwise tackled.  The Irish model is EU best practice.  The Minister’s approach is is coming from the top down – this is the wrong approach.  The track record of the rural development companies is to work from the bottom up.  Minister Hogan does not deserve to got to Europe.

Cllr Forde (FG): She doesn’t think this is an either-or situation.  Cork County Council is also a development agency.  She thinks we need to work closely together.  She is concerned that people are saying the Council might not have the expertise to deliver in the way the rural development companies can.  She also notes that she would like the CEO to take on board a gender balance when setting up LCDCs.

Cllr Melissa (SF): Says that she is confused.  The LCDCs are to replace what LEADER funding was doing?  But there are pilot schemes underway and these have copperfastened that this new alignment proposal is going ahead.  Cork County Council should not be setting up these committees.

Cllr D’Alton (Ind):  Supports the motion and all the sentiment expressed in the Chamber but is also concerned that the feeling that it is a done deal may be accurate.  The rural development company in her area is SECAD and she has experienced their expertise and knowledge at first hand.  It would be tragic to lose this resource.  One of the concerns is that the LEADER fund is one of the largest funds run by the rural development companies.  As such, it allows them the opportunity to employ accountants and all the other professionals necessary to run a myriad of other smaller funds coming from Europe that, on their own, could not fund this necessary support system.  Many of these other smaller funds are not available to local authorities.  So if the rural development companies lose out, ultimately Cork County Council will lose out.  The Minister commissioned an Alignment Steering Group to prepare a report.  On reading that report, it does not seem to her that its intent was that rural development companies and local authorities would be competing against each other.  The report speaks of building “greater trust and collaboration between the local government and the local development sectors so that the best of both systems can be aligned to secure more effective delivery of services and supports to local people”.  This is not divisive language.  So if there is no opportunity for us to change policy at this stage, could we at least ask for a commitment from the Executive that they will do all within their power to work with local development companies and assist them to tender successfully for the LEADER contract.

Mayor Coleman (FF): Cork County Council is being seen as giving a severe blow to rural development companies.  It is not.  There has been co-operation on the ground between local authorities and LAGs.  The real weakness of the new system is that the local development company will have no security of staff and tenure.  It is good to have this debate. The Department has to change the structures that it is putting in place for tendering.

CEO: He does not want to pit local authorities against rural development companies.  This is not intended.  There has always been great co-operation between them on the ground.  The principles of LEADER will be well protected.  This isn’t really about the benefits of the LEADER programmes. It is also about recognising that local authorities play a significant role in community development at a local level.  The companies delivering rural developent programmes are now likely to experience the cuts and austerity measures that local authorities have experienced.  This move challenges whether or not there is duplication in the system.  There will probably be less funding all around through the next rural development programme.  This new alignment policy hasn’t been driven by local government at all but the message is out there that if the current LEADER companies don’t continue in their current form, there will be a loss to communities.  He doesn’t believe that at all.  He believes that local authorities and the rural development companies can work together.  The partnership has worked well in the North Cork pilot.  We still don’t know what the final structures will be.  They will be set out in legislation.  He thinks Council must continue to establish LCDCs, otherwise the funding from Europe won’t come to the Council.

Cllr M Collins (Ind): He welcomes the support for his motion from the Chamber and agrees that we should take a deputation to the Minister.  Maybe we will be meeting with a new minister by then?

Cllr Mullane (SF): She still believes we should not be setting up LCDCs.  To set up the LCDCs is to agree to the alignment we are all giving out about.

Cllr Murphy (FF): The tender is already available on e-tenders.  The five local development companies have to tender for the whole county.  Only one can get it.  Just as in the rural transport programme.

CEO: The rural transport programme was different.  He thinks that the final tender may be for running the LEADER programme in just part of the county.  But we still do not have finality on what the structures will be.

The motion was accepted by the Council.

9. Votes of Congratulations


10.  Any other business
Swipecards – new ones do not give the same level of access as the older ones.

Cllr Forde – I could not hear her. 


Comments on Development Committee meeting, 20th June 2014

All Development Meetings of the County Council are held in camera without media so that members of the Council can speak freely. This morning’s was no different, so I won’t post the notes I took at the meeting on my website.

The briefing on the Port of Cork planning application that was itemised on the agenda was indeed very much that – a briefing. The Planning Section brought us through some of the procedures associated with the Strategic Infrastucture Act and then the Planning Policy Unit gave a brief overview of the planning application for the Port’s proposals for the redevelopment of Ringaskiddy. Some interesting points from the community angle are that the Chief Executive (formerly County Manager) will make a report based on the recommendations of his staff. That report will be sent to Council members on 11th July and discussed at a meeting of the full Council on 14th July. Members’ opinions will not change that report but if the members’ opinions differ from those of the Chief Executive, they may prepare and append a report of their own. The entire package will then be sent to An Bord Pleanala.

Members expressed their disappointment that they had no indication of the Chief Executive’s views at this stage, particularly since the last day for submissions by the public to An Bord Pleanala is the 26th June.

I can’t honestly say that any new information came to light during the course of the briefing and subsequent discussion. What I can document is what I said myself and it is something I feel very strongly about. I commented on an aerial view of the port activities at Ringaskiddy that had been projected for the benefit of the briefing, saying that so often we see aerials of the port activities but so rarely do we see aerials taken with a wider angle lens which show the adjacent village of Ringaskiddy with a population of almost 400 people, the village of Shanbally with over 500 people, the towns of Monkstown and Passage West with some 5,200 people, a little further away the town of Carrigaline with 12,000 people and just across the water, the town of Cobh with 12,000 people living on the island. These people had come together as communities around the harbour to fight the Port of Cork’s proposals in 2008. They had paid heftily to employ an “expert” to represent their views at an oral hearing, they had taken time off work and lost wages to attend the oral hearing. They had used grannies and grandfathers to mind children, employed consultants at a personal level to assist them. They won but continue to be woken by the unloading of containers off the banana boat every Thursday night. The Port says that noise from the “redeveloped” facility will be no more than that experienced at present, but with the “redeveloped” facility, the residents will now be woken every night. Another resident of Ringaskiddy runs a limousine company. He washes his cars three times a week to clean them of the dust from the bulk loading and unloading.

Now these residents see the Port of Cork coming back again. This time, the new National Ports Policy has defined Cork as a Tier 1 port. This has allowed the Port to apply for European money to fund its planning application. As the local communities see it, ordinary people fund the Exchequer and the Exchequer funds Europe. So the residents have in essence paid for the planning application they now oppose. They will have to pay €50 each to submit their objections to An Bord Pleanala. They will have to, yet again, employ professional representation. Although the EIS is available on the internet, it has been presented as a photograph – in other words, they cannot even highlight a sentence to copy and paste it into a document to help them prepare their submissions. Many are not comfortable with the internet as professionals within the County Hall might be. So they must either come to see it in County Hall – for which they must take more time off work – or purchase a paper copy. This is available from An Bord Pleanala for €175. County Hall has advised that the An Bord Pleanala price is cheaper than they can do. The cost of purchasing the EIS from the Port is €500. As the local communities see it, this is not a level playing field.

Nor does one ever see an aerial view yet further encompassing the road network serving the Ringaskiddy port. Port traffic has massive impact on the whole Cork region. As was said by other members in the Chamber, there has been no change to the road network since the 2008 planning application. On this, I quote a report produced in 2013 by the Competition Authority. Although this report relates specifically to ports, it has not been referenced at all in the Port’s planning application:

“If ports are rivals and competing for the same cargo, there is an incentive for port authorities and private service providers to keep port-related charges down and provide better and more efficient services. This helps to keep transport costs down which can have a significant influence on trade volumes … it has been estimated that raising transport costs by 10% reduces trade volumes by more than 20%. Indeed, it has been shown that transport costs can have the same effect as tariff and non-tarif barriers to trade. It is not uncommon for transport costs to account for 10% of the total cost of a product, though it has been estimated that on average 5% of the value of imported merchandise is spent on freight and insurance costs relating to their international carraige. Transport and maritime costs are influenced by a range of factors including road haulage costs, ship travel time, ship size and cargo handling charges which makes calculating the port-specific cost element difficult. While it is likely that port-related charges account for 10% to 20% of total transport costs, the influence of these costs on trade means they should not be ignored by policymakers.”

This is important because we, the County Council, are policymakers.

So my question to the Chief Executive was how can we, the members, represent the views of the residents of our communities to him such that they can be reflected in his report?

The Chief Executive said that he regretted, particularly in the light of the quality of my presentation, that there really was no mechanism by which this could be achieved. The structure he was obliged to follow was set by legislation. The best he could offer was the appendage of the members’ report to his, wherein we could express the views of the residents.

What is disturbing to me is that so many of the Council members are from further afield than Cork Harbour and the Ringaskiddy redevelopment proposal has very little real meaning to them. There was quite a bit of chat in the Chamber as the meeting went on. Many were going in and out, sometimes with mobile phones. Yet on 14th July, all the members, regardless of what part of Cork they are from, are going to vote on whether to support or otherwise the Chief Executive’s report. The future of Cork Harbour, the second largest natural harbour in the world, is in their hands. What a responsibility.

First meeting of Ballincollig-Carrigaline Municipal District, 13th June 2014

These are my notes from the above meeting.  Although they reflect the content of the meeting to the best of my ability, they are subject to whatever inaccuracies may be due to my typing, hearing and interpretation …

CCC staff present

Kevin O’Regan (MD Officer)
Madeline Healy
Bernie McCarthy
Niamh O’Neill
Maurice Manning

Election of a Cathaoirleach
Deirdre Forde elected unanimously.

Election of Leas Cathaoirleach
Frick Murphy elected unanimously.

Standing orders
Cllr Forde explained that interim standing orders are in place to allow MDCs to function at present.  These can be looked at over time and amended as time goes on.  She hopes that they will be adopted as they are but the MDC can decide to revisit them later on in the year.

The standing orders were considered by the Corporate Policy Group during the week.  Cllr McGrath suggested that the standing orders need to be tailored to suit this MDC’s need, so put an examination of them on the agenda for September.

Cllr Forde agreed and said that if any councilor has any viewpoint in the meantime, they can make it known.

Schedule of meetings
It was agreed that MDC meetings would be held at 2 pm on the 3rd Monday of every month.

Municipal district functions
These were discussed at the CPG.

The reserve functions of local authorities are set out in Schedules 1,2,3 of the Local Govenment Reform Act.

The Minister issued regulations in May as to how all reserve functions should be exercised.  The CPG thinks the municipal district functions should be reviewed with the regulations in mind.

The schedule from the Local Government Act will be circulated to all Members.

Cllr O’Laoghaire suggested that because of the recent division of Carrigaline through the redefining of electoral boundaries, it would be good for the town if this MDC should meet with the Bandon-Kinsale MDC 2 – 4 times each year.  It was agreed that this would be a positive thing.

Madeline Healy explained that the Area Office is continuing to manage the roads functions of the town of Carrigaline in totality, regardless of electoral boundaries.  She will send out a map to members the extent of the engineering boundary.

Cllr O’Donnabhain asked for clarity about the Ballincollig boundary as well.  Madeline Healy clarified that the estate will not be severed and will all be managed from the Area Office.

Cllr Forde said that the proposed meeting of the two MDCs for Carrigaline will be put on the agenda for next month’s meeting and in the meantime, she will speak to the Chair of the Bandon-Kinsale MDC.

Allowance for Cathaoirleach
Cllr Forde said that the Department has fixed the expenses allowance for the Chair of an MDC to be paid at a maximum rate of €6,000/annum.  This figure was recommended by the CPG.

Cllr O’Laoghaire said that he found the suggested allowance excessive.  He suggested an allowance of one third of that proposed by the CPG would be more appropriate.  Cllr D’Alton agreed with Cllr O’Laoghaire and said that whilst travelling and other expenses were involved, €6,000/annum equates to €500/month and that this is excessive.

Cllr McGrath and Cllr O’Donnabhain requested that the decision on an allowance for the MDC Chair be deferred until next month’s meeting.

The next meeting of the MDC will be on 21st July.

Meeting of Cork County Council, 9th June 2014

These are my notes from the above meeting.  Although they reflect the content of the meeting to the best of my ability, they are subject to whatever inaccuracies may be due to my typing, hearing and interpretation …

1. Confirmation of Minutes
Minutes of Meeting of the Council held on 12th May 2014
Proposed and seconded.

2.  Votes of Sympathy
Votes of Sympathy (if any) to (i) the relatives of members or employees of the Council (ii) dignitaries of Church or State (iii) members of the old IRA and Cumann na mBan

3.  Disposal of properties
Section 183 of the Local Government Act, 2001:
(a) Disposal of land at Park Mews, Town Park Road, New Line, Charleville
(b) Disposal of 34 Church Road, Douglas West
(c) Disposal of 28 Ban na Greine, Carrigtwohill
(d) Amendment to the disposal of Lease of building at Glashaboy, Glanmire, by the inclusion of “5 years (by way of lease)” being the terms of the lease
(e) Amendment to Disposal of Land at Kilmurray Road, Carrigrohane, Ballincollig by the substitution of Kilumney Road in lieu of Kilmurray Road, being the location and the substitution of 0.374 ha in lieu of “Folio No. 4152F”, being the area of said property.
(f) Amendment to Disposal of Property at Ballybearna, Ballinhassig, by substitution of “Mr. John & Esther Corcoran” in lieu of “John Corcoran” being the persons to whom the property is to be disposed.

Disposal of properties has heretofore dealt with at Area Committee meetings.  Staff have an intimate knowledge of the properties in question at Area Committee level.
10 days before a Council meeting, notification of disposal of properties will come directly to each Member.
Queries were raised about properties in Glanmire and Church Road, Douglas.  Queries were answered by Senior Executive.

4.  Western Committee
(a) Allocation of Amenity Grants under the Amenity Grant Scheme 2014 for the Western Division.
(b) Allocation of Community Fund Scheme 2014 for the Western Division.

Copies of groups, project proposals and proposed grant amount to be allocated has been provided.  These were discussed in detail at Area Committee meetings.  Project proposals were proposed and seconded.

5.  Correspondence from Government Departments

Department of Health:
Letter dated 8th May 2014 in response to Council’s motion of 11th March 2014 in connection with the cessation of water fluoridation.

Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF): The response from the Minister is very disappointing.  It is watered down and has missed the point of the motion entirely.  There is no acknowledgement of the motion in correspondence.  The Department continues to refer to a 12-year old review which had no input by any toxicologist.  Most of the people who made up this review were dentists.  The current review we understood was to be an international review.  Correspond back, find out what makeup of experts on the Health Research Board are.  It is disappointing that the  Department doesn’t refer to the main crux of the issue, i.e. individual choice.  A growing body of people do not want fluoridation of their water supply.

Cllr Michael Moynihan (FF):  We were aware of FACCT investigation when we raised the motion but still chose to put the motion to the Minister.  Yet the Minister’s response places so much stock on the FACCT survey.  At the time of our motion, there was also a great deal of talk about an international body examining the whole issue of fluoridation of water supply.  The Minister doesn’t refer to this international study at all.  Where is the international study at?  Basically it comes down to a matter of choice.  We want people to have the option.  The letter should be referred back to the Minister again.  Hopefully following a Cabinet reshuffle,  another Minister may take a different view.

Cllr Kieran McCarthy (SF): Cobh Town Council also had a motion opposing fluoridation of the water supply.  They also sent a letter off to the Minister.  Unlike CCC, they did not even get a response.   He also believes the letter should be sent back to the Minister.

Cllr Paul Hayes (SF):  Also agrees that we should send the letter back to the Minister.

The Mayor concluded that the general thrust of Members’ opinions was to revert back again to the Minister for an improved response to CCC’s motion.

Notices of Motion

7. Cllr Kieran McCarthy
“That Cork County Council supports the introduction of bye-laws or other measure which would ensure that circuses which use animals are prohibited from performing in any part of the local authority area in light of the well-documented evidence of suffering endured by animals involved and the serious animal welfare issues raised.”

Cllr McCarthy (SF): Animal abuse images generally relate to social media, puppy farms, etc.  But as humans, we need to stop established practices when something is obviously wrong.  The use of animals in circuses is wrong.  Keeping them locked up in cages for 96% of their lives is wrong.  Some argue that it is acceptable because these animals were born into captivity.  Yet the children of Afro-American slaves born into captivity were still captive and expected to live a life of slavery.  This was wrong.  Abuse does not cease to be abuse just because its victim is not human.  The ISPCA and other animal welfare organisations are totally opposed to the use of animals in circuses.  There are a number of non-animal circuses in Ireland offering good entertainment and we should be encouraging their use more.  I propose that only animal-free circuses should be welcome in County Cork.  Seven cities and counties around the country also support this.  This motion was passed several years ago but because of a legislative hitch it could not be enforced.  We need to ensure that this legislative hitch is ironed out.

Cllr Margaret Murphy O’Mahony (FF):  Asks that all animals be supported in this motion, not just wild animals.  It is obviously the threat of physical punishment that makes animals perform in this way.  She is also concerned about how animals are transported and allowed to live.  She thinks we should catch up with many other countries and pass this motion.

Cllr Sinead Sheppard (FG): Says she was approached by many people in relation to this.  Minister Coveney brought forward legislation last year relating to this.  FG doesn’t want to see businesses hindered but tradition doesn’t have to involve the use of wild animals.

Tim Lucey (Chief Executive, CCC): This motion is really the remit of the Department of Agriculture.  This Department is drawing up a Code of Practice in relation to the use of circus animals, their monitoring, etc.  He thinks this motion should be brought to the Environment SPC when it gets up and running.  The SPC can then examine whether there is a legislative barrier to CCC’s bringing bye-laws forward.  He also thinks the SPC should take the Minister’s new Code of Practice into account.

Mayor Alan Coleman: It is clear from the debate that members are in support of the motion.  The children of Cork are very fortunate to have the Fota Wildlife Park in which they can see wild animals in as natural a surrounding as possible.  The County Council will pass the motion and its implementation will be dealt by the Environment SPC.

Kevin Murphy (FG): Does not wish to support the FF proposal to stop all animals taking part in circuses.  Many animals in circuses are domestic animals.  He does not want to be a kill-joy.

8.  Cllr Melissa Mullane
“That Cork County Council supports the maximum reduction of 15% in LPT as allowed under legislation.”

Cllr Mullane (SF): Councillors have the power to increase or reduce LPT by 15%.  Homeowners have to know by September what their LPT is going to be.  This is a reprehensible tax.  The Minister stated that funds raised through the LPT would go into local government services in 2013.  He said they would be redistributed to local authorities and that at least 80% of tax raised within each local authority area would go back to that local authority.

But policy has changed and now the Minister says the establishment of Irish Water created significant challenges.  The government has broken its own law.  No money has been returned for provision for local services.  Instead the money went into Irish Water who are still in rented accommodation in a hotel in Mallow.  Most of the money went to pay €100million in consultancy fees.

Cork County has a significant number of incomplete housing estates, massive housing lists, boarded-up houses, road infrastructure in need of urgent attention.  The LPT tax was supposed to be to address these problems.  SF wants this tax abolished and consigned to history.  Asks that Council would support the maximum reduction possible in the tax today.

Cllr Donnacha O’Laoghaire (SF):  The argument in favour of the LPT was that it would provide good quality funding for local services.  SF was concerned at the time.  The tax takes no account of ability to pay and goes back to central government.  These concerns have been realised.  LPT tax paid so far has gone to Irish Water and to paying bank debt.  There has been no improvement in local services.  SF wants to abolish LPT entirely.

Cllr Patrick Murphy (FF): Agrees with the thrust of the motion.  It is up to us to reduce the burden on householders in Cork.  The LPT was advertised as improving local services.  €32 million was collected through LPT in Cork County last year.  €3 or €4 million at best got back.

Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG): Every member would be very pleased if CCC could pass on a reduction of 15% in LPT.  Over the last number of years, CCC has had tight budgetary situations.  FG has been shaping CCC budgets since 1992.  They have handed over a reasonably good financial situation to Mr. Lucey.  They have always set aside money for grants in budget.  Grants such as Amenity Grants, Disability Grants, Housing Grants.  They have also set aside money for the Economic Development Fund to help the establishment of new business.  They would love to be able to implement SF’s proposal.  SF is credible enough in this issue because they have proposed to introduce many different taxes at national level.  Consequently a LPT at local level would not be necessary.  FG will support any set of estimates that do not cause a reduction in grants, etc. and that maintains the Economic Development Fund.  If the manager can see a way of doing all these things – and Cllr Murphy believes it is impossible – then reduce the LPT.    Otherwise it is not reckless to reduce it without the full facts.

Cllr John Paul O’Shea (Ind):  Supports the general thrust of the motion.  It is disappointing that the money collected through LPT in County Cork has not been returned to County Cork.  It has had a very bad effect on local services.

Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF):  The LPT is anything but local.  Thanks FG for being so up to date with SF policy.  It is reckless to have a tax that does not take people’s ability to pay into account.

Cllr Tim Collins (Ind):  When he was canvassing, he met an elderly person living on her own.  She was very worried about all the charges being imposed. Her only company was the phone and she now has to pay for that as well.  Time we eased the burden on ordinary people.

Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF):  Agrees that the LPT was misleading.  FF is talking about reducing it by 15% over a reasonable timeframe.  Public consultation on issue during month of July is necessary to informing our debate.

Cllr Kieran MCCarthy:  What is reckless is establishing a quango such as Irish Water which involves huge taxpayer expense.

Cllr Claire Cullinane:  She agrees entirely that the government broke its own law by not delivering the LPT back to the local authorities.  In doing so, the government took money from people who couldn’t afford it to pay off odious debts and to establish Irish Water.  This move has taken away the trust of Irish people.  It is our responsibility to replace that trust for the Irish people.

Cllr Marcia D’Alton:  In fairness to the comments made by Cllr Murphy in relation to local grants, my background is Passage West Town Council where the value and essential nature of grants from Cork County Council is all too evident.  So I want to thank Cork County Council for having ensured that, even in difficult times, these grants were continued.  However, because the LPT was not returned to local authorities as promised, it did not contribute to the funding of these grants.  The LPT was money taken from the people which was, rather than being returned to local authorities as promised, used to set up Irish Water which will in turn take further money from the people.  When I was canvassing, the message I was getting repeatedly was that people did not mind paying for services delivered and they did not mind paying reasonably for water.  But what they did mind very much was paying twice.  Either they pay for services or they pay LPT but they don’t pay both.  Services which used to be delivered by local authorities are increasingly being privatised.  So people see the LPT as a tax on the homes that they have spent their lives working to afford.  They like CCC to deliver their services.  They trust CCC.  Let us re-engage that trust by lowering the LPT and letting that lowering be a message to the Minister that what he has done by using what was to be a fund for local authorities to setting up Irish Water to be totally unacceptable.

FG – Funding of CCC is a huge issue.  The money we have to play with is miniscule.  He considers the way property tax is banded property tax to be a wealth tax in effect.

Cllr Dan Joe Fitzgerald (FF):  It is difficult to put budgets together.  The money taken in LPT gave CCC no benefit.  We need to work in that direction.

Cllr Tim Lombard (FG):  Nobody in this Chamber today will have any issue with reducing property tax by 15%.  But what will be the reduction in services? Community grants, disability grants, etc. may all be affected.  The real issue is that we will not know how much we can reduce it by until we know what we will get from national funding.   To reduce LPT may mean more people waiting for longer to have their roads fixed.  People really want services.  People deserve more than just cutting LPT without knowing what services we are commensurately reducing.

Paul Hayes (SF):  What FG is saying would be true if CCC had got money from the LPT but it didn’t.  It is false economy to say LPT cannot be reduced.  Businesses are still closing every day.  LPT is taking money out people’s pockets.  When people don’t have money to spend locally, businesses suffer and close.  Then CCC loses rates from the businesses that are closing.  We need to send out the message of relief to people today that the LPT is being lowered.

FF from Clon: We got no benefit from LPT last year so to reduce it will not affect services.  There is a public consultation on LPT coming in July, but the biggest public consultation we have had yet is the results of the local elections.

Tim Lucey (Chief Executive, CCC):  The motion didn’t seek a report, hence he has no report prepared.  He saw this as a motion which would generate debate.  We are awaiting the final LPT Regulations so it is premature to produce a report.  The Regulations will set out the consultative process that will come in mid-July which will provide for public submissions, etc.  CCC will need to take decision on the level of LPT before the end of September.  The Chief Executive must then issue a report to CCC as to whether there will be a change in LPT up or down.  There is a long road to go on this and serious questions must be asked before any decision is made.

It is debatable whether local government benefited or not from LPT.  Could local government have survived without the introduction of LPT?  It is debatable.  We need estimates of what the potential yield from LPT might be for 2015.  80% of what is collected in LPT needs to come back to local authorities.  Neither do we know how what we might get back from LPT might impact on other grants we get from central government.  If the motion is passed, it doesn’t have any bearing on whether he will implement it or not.

Cllr Susan McCarthy (FG):  Fears Cllr Murphy may have been misunderstood.  Fine Gael agrees that the rate of LPT should be lowered as much as possible.  It just wants to be very careful that lowering doesn’t result in a reduction of services.

The Mayor concluded that debate in the Chamber proved the motion to have won.

9. Votes of Congratulations

10.  Any other business
Cllr Des O’Grady (SF) had some queries about the final make-up of committees which seemed incomplete after Friday’s AGM.

Minutes of Cork County Council AGM, 6th June 2014

These are my notes from the above meeting.  Although they reflect the content of the meeting to the best of my ability, they are subject to whatever inaccuracies may be due to my typing, hearing and interpretation …

Permission is given for television cameras to be present in the Chamber.

Sean O’Callaghan calls out the names of those elected to the Council Chamber.

The outgoing Mayor, Noel O’Connor, welcomes all to the inaugural meeting of the new County Council.  He thanks management and staff of CCC who assisted him during the year with his work.  He spoke about some of the projects undertaken by the County Council during the year.  He identified the development of Spike Island as being one of the biggest of these.  He attended community festivals throughout the county and The Gathering festival in Cork run as part of Rebel Week.  This saw nine battleships sailing up Cork Harbour.  The Gathering festival highlighted what can be done when councils, councillors and agencies work together.

The outgoing Mayor spoke of the relationship Cork County continues with Cook County and its largest city, Chicago.  He look forward to our county’s reaping the benefits of nurturing this relationship.  The county has also worked on development of closer links with China.

Last year was the year during which World War 1 was commemorated.  He represented Cork County on a visit to Flanders to remember the War and those who were lost.

Promotion of economic development is now a prime function of the County Council.  The Council has purchased Mallow Castle and grounds, continues to work on the development of Fort Camden, Mizen Head, Spike Island and the new Cork Science Park.  The Economic Development Fund has been very effective in enabling jobs and promotion of enterprise.  It has funded the Ignite and Beacon initiatives and given direct support to small food businesses.

He wishes the incoming mayor every success.

Cllr Alan Coleman (FF) pays tribute to Noel O’Connor for the work he has done and for his representation of his people.  He has been an excellent ambassador for County Cork.  The work he had outlined was merely a snapshot of what he was involved in over the year.  He carried the chain with great dignity.  He is sorry the election did not go his way but he has served everyone very well as mayor.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) congratulated Noel O’Connor.  He says he served his time as mayor with great distinction and dignity.  He has been a friend to everyone and an excellent ambassador.  He has promoted Cork as a super-county.  He thanks him also for his service in representing his people and is sorry he wasn’t re-elected.  He wishes him good luck.

Des O’Grady (SF) wishes Noel O’Connor all the best.

Noel McCarthy (Lab) compliments Noel O’Connor on his year as mayor.  He says he was inclusive of everyone and was very kind.  His people in Mallow were very proud of him.

John Paul O’Shea (Ind) thanks Noel O’Connor also.  He says he has enjoyed working with him and wishes him well.

Tim Lucey (Chief Executive CCC) thanks Noel O’Connor for his kind comments.

1.  Local Government Act, 2001

(a) Election of Mayor

Cllr Seamus McGrath nominates Alan Coleman on behalf of Fianna Fail.  Cllr Coleman was first elected to Cork County Council in 1991.  He has served many positions and a long apprenticeship.  He has an ability to work across the political spectrum.  He is a reasoned and determined representative.  Cllr Coleman’s nomination was seconded by Cllr Frank O’Flynn.

Cllr Kevin Murphy nominates Deirdre Forde on behalf of Fine Gael.  Cllr Forde has been a member of Cork County Council since 1999.  She has served with dignity and honour.  She is a friend to all and always smiling.  Cllr Forde’s nomination was seconded by Cllr Michael Hegarty.

Cllr Des O’Grady nominates Cllr Rachel McCarthy on behalf of Sinn Fein.  She had a great election, topping the poll in the Bandon-Kinsale constituency.  The people spoke.  Cllr McCarthy’s nomination was seconded by Cllr Michael Murphy.

A vote is taken.
Rachel McCarthy has the fewest votes so is eliminated (10 votes).
A vote is taken again.  The results are:
Alan Coleman 26
Deirdre Forde 17
12 abstained

Cllr Alan Coleman is elected as County Mayor.

He takes the chain from Noel O’Connor and speaks to the Chamber.  This is a great honour for the people of his area.  He thanks proposers and those who supported him and those who didn’t oppose him.  He accepts the good wishes of those who didn’t support him.  He commiserates with Cllr McCarthy but knows she’ll have a long and successful career.  It is ironic that the election of Mayor was played out between himself and Cllr Forde.  Both of them used to sit side by side on the FF side of the house.  He knows they are still friends.  Cllr Forde has a fine political career.

It is unprecedented that the Chamber has 55 members and so many new candidates.  This presents challenges and refreshes the Chamber.  The challenge as a new Chamber is to ensure that the staff of the CCC organisation will deliver the best service possible to the public.  This is a different type of Chamber from that which we had before.   Debates over the last few days between the parties has reflected that.  This change was by public demand.  Each of the 55 members in the Chamber is part of the political establishment of Ireland.  After election, FF members spoke to every representative in the Chamber – FG, SF, Ind and Lab.  The fact that FF spoke to FG means that old civil war politics are gone and we are dealing with the issues of today, not the past.  The days of not talking to SF are over.  The public has dictated that they are here.  The 10 elected Independents form a substantial block within the Chamber.  The days of considering Independents as a political backwater sitting on the sideline are over.  FF spoke to them in detail.  Now the distribution of committees, etc. will be given a fresh approach.

FF intends remaining a political force relevant to what people want.  The challenge is in delivering what people want.  Discussions held over the last few days were very important.  They reflected people being responsible and mature.  It is sad to see them caricatured in the media.

The top table of management has changed too.  There is a new County Manager and a new County Engineer.  He hopes to bring a freshness to how the County Council organisation is managed.  County Cork has become very high rate-paying county – one of the highest in the country.  FF has a concern about that.  Small and medium sized businesses have been suffering.  He hopes the lift in economy will help but he wishes the Chamber to address this anyway.  He does not want people of Cork to be paying high level of LPT relative to other areas.  He doesn’t want to see LPT reflect rates in the county, i.e. one of the highest countrywide.

Some core services are not being delivered at the level desired.  In particular, county roads are of concern.  There is no national focus on county roads and the level of spend on county roads dropped again this year.  This is a huge challenge and one that cannot be tackled alone.  Resources need to be got from government.

The Council has become very involved in tourism and economic development.  This is very good for the county.  He wants to ensure tourism permeates down through the communities we represent.  The Cork Harbour projects are very exciting.  The West Cork coastline has also huge potential.  The focus on tourism will continue and should bring huge gain to communities.

Council housing stock is also discussed.  The blight of boarded up houses is a major concern.  It improved somewhat last year but he will be ensuring management continues to focus on this issue.

National legislation is changing with regard to alignment.  This is a huge issue on the doorsteps.  He speaks specifically of LEADER.  He personally doesn’t support alignment.  County Cork communities like the way things have been done, with the mentoring and help.  The benefits are visible on the ground.  The bottom up approach has worked well.  If the Department of the Environment continues with its current policy, CCC management has a huge job to get the confidence of those using and handling LEADER funding.  Those working in the communities feel confident with the current situation and don’t want to deal with County Council beauracracy.

He hopes the chamber will be even-handed during his time as Mayor.

Cllr Deirdre Forde speaks to welcome Cllr Coleman to the Mayoral chair and congratulates Cllr McCarthy on her nomination.  She wishes all elected councillors well in their work.  She thanks her own FG colleagues and hopes all the Members will work together for the greater good of the county and region.

Cllr McCarthy wishes Cllr Coleman well.  She thanks her own party for her nomination and notes that she is delighted with SF’s increased representation.

Cllr Murphy wishes Cllr Coleman good luck.  He notes that Cllr Coleman has had long gestation period!  The budget and County Development Plan are huge tasks ahead of him.  He congratulates all members on their election and commiserates with those who were not.  Those who stood for election have courage.  There is no shame in not being elected.  To those Independents who supported FF today, he wishes to let the people of Cork decide how independent they really are.

Tim Lucey (Chief Executive CCC) congratulates the new Mayor.  He looks forward to working with him.  The Mayor will get the full support of management and staff of CCC.  He personally wants stability within Chamber for the next five years.  He recognises that this is a very different Council here now but that it is healthy and democratic and he is ready to work with all councillors.  All will have to achieve a meeting of minds to ensure that the county can maximise its contribution to the lives of the people in this county.  All need to provide the right conditions for economic growth of the county.  It is also a challenge that the County Council has lost 27% of its staff and €54m of revenue.  He sees CCC as a very agile unit of local government, not a burocracy.  The County Council has huge accountability to the public.  That is the strength of local government.  He wants local government to be continued to be seen as the leader of everything in this county.  This presents a challenge for community groups and other organisations.  The County Council doesn’t always sing its own praises and earn itself the positive publicity it deserves.

(b) Election of Deputy Mayor

John Paul proposes Timmy Collins as deputy mayor.  Joined CCC in 2003.  Re-elected 2009 and again 2014.  Declan Hurley seconds.

Kevin Murphy proposes Susan McCarthy.  Michael Hegarty seconds.

Des O’Grady proposes Ger Keohane.  Won’t be leaving politics outside the door.  People voted against austerity.  Seconded.
Collins 28
McCarthy 17
Keohane 10

Collins has majority so elected.

Timmy Collins thanked all of those who supported him during the election.  Thanked his family who have supported him throughout.  Proud to go back to his village in North Cork as deputy mayor.  Also welcomes independent leader in the chamber, John Paul O’Shea.  Looks forward to working with him and with Alan Coleman.

Susan McCarthy thanks her party for putting her forward.  Looking forward to contributing in proactive and meaningful way.

Keohane congratulates.  Very proud day for himself.  Thanks to Sinn Fein.

B. Appointment of Representatives to Joint Bodies

2.  Appointment of 5 Members to the Regional Assembly
Kevin O’Keeffe (FF)
Gerard Murphy (FG)
Frank O’Flynn (FF)
Kevin Conway (Ind)
Joe Carroll (FF)

Appointment of 8 Members to Cork County Education and Training Board
Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF)
Gerard O’Sullivan (FF)
Mary Hegarty (FG)
Michael Hegarty (FG)
Des O’Grady (SF)
Linnenane (SF)
Claire Cullinane (Ind)
Padraig O’Sullivan (FF)
Margaret Murphy O’Mahony (FF)

(Think list incomplete – to be confirmed)


Appointment of 9 Members to the Regional Health Forum
Mary Rose Desmond
Padraig O’Sullivan
Rachel McCarthy
Deirdre Forde
Timmy Collins
Mary Linehan-Foley
Joe Harris

(Think list incomplete – to be confirmed)

Apppointment of 1 Member to LAMA
Frank O’Flynn

C.  Appointment of Committees of the Council

Divisional Committees

Northern, Southern and Western Committees –
Ballincollig-Carrigaline is the only ward in the Southern Committee.

D.  Appointment of Strategic Policy Committee Chairs

Under the Group system, the following are Chairs of SPCs and will take part in Corporate Policy Group meetings.
Seamus McGrath
Kevin Murphy
Tim Lombard
John Paul O’Shea
Donnacha O’Laoghaire
Declan Hurley
(1 more required – to be confirmed)

First Municipal District Committee meetings
The first Municipal District Committee meeting for Ballincollig-Carrigaline will be 13th June @2.30pm.  CCC will be in touch with regard to location.

Induction training for Elected Members
Cork County Council nominates all the 55 Members of the Council to attend the training session being organised by the Association of Irish Local Government for all Elected Members to take place on 26th June 2014 in Cork.

Statement regarding AGM of Cork County Council

Copy of my email sent to all independents prior to the AGM of Cork County Council.

Dear all,

I am very conscious that we all voluntarily came together as a group of Independents last Saturday with an agreed spokesperson and that whilst much water has gone under the bridge since Tuesday, I have spoken to just some and not all of you on my position.

I do not wish to be part of the “agreement” proposed on Tuesday prior to our induction meeting in the Chamber. My reasons are myriad, but the primary and over-riding one is that I cannot and will not give up even the perception of the independence which was so important to those who voted for me. I have no desire to wear a chain nor to hold the position of a chair. Therefore I do not consider that a 5-year alignment with any political grouping in return for these positions is adequate reward for the loss of the absolute independence I guaranteed to those who placed their trust in me. Whilst I appreciate that we will have months to work on the budget prior to its being brought before full Council, I cannot commit to supporting a budget about which I may have reservations for any of those five years. The aims to be worked towards in the run-up to the budget do not come close to meeting the priorities I outlined to those who voted for me. The additional committee positions being offered as part of the proposed agreement do not offer me any opportunity to influence policy in areas where I have expertise.

It was clear from our meeting on Saturday that we had formed a defined group to increase our chances of getting the positions on committees that we particularly wanted. It was also clear that our forming a group would allow us the opportunity to appoint a group chair to an SPC and consequently get to take a seat at CPG meetings. The benefits of this approach are self-evident.

But what was equally clear at Saturday’s meeting was that our formation of a group had no relation to any pact or agreement with any other party. Indeed, this position was voiced and confirmed prior to our going our separate ways. Our individual positions as independent members of the Chamber was also clarified.

I have to be truthful and say that, at a personal level, I was blown away at the leap our voluntary grouping had taken between Saturday lunchtime and Tuesday morning. At our Tuesday meeting, it became clear that negotiations with regard to an agreement with political parties had been undertaken on our group’s behalf. As a member of that group, I certainly had not been informed of even an intention to undertake such negotiations.

As confirmed at our Saturday meeting, each member of our group is independent. Should any one of you wish to be part of the 5-year agreement with Fianna Fail and Labour, that is of course your prerogative. I choose not to be part of it for the aforementioned reasons. I have made it clear to John Paul that as agreed on Saturday, I will support him to take the chair of the SPC of his choice and, indeed, should he wish to propose himself for the position of Mayor tomorrow, I will also support him in that.

As it was clear that the formation of our independent group was not aligned with any agreement or pact of any kind, I hope I am correct in assuming that our independent group will continue to work together towards the aims for which it was established. Should I not be correct in that assumption, I should be grateful if you would let me know.

I look forward to working with all of you.

All the best,

Notes from introductory meeting to Cork County Council

Introductory meeting to new elected members of Cork County Council
Council Chamber, 03/06/2014

Tim Lucey, Chief Executive Cork County Council

There are 8 Municipal Districts proposed for County Cork.
There will be massive change in the county without Town Councils.
There are 3 Divisional Committees in the county (North, South and West).
The statutory functions between the Divisional Committees and the Municipal Districts need to be sorted out over next 12 – 15 months.
As a consequence of the Local Government Reform Act, the county is very much a transitional phase.
The Chief Executive (formerly County Manager) is particiularly keen that the muncipal districts become a success.
Some functions such as roads, housing, environment and planning services are organised on a county basis, not broken down into the municipal district structure.

Some statistics:
County Cork has had a 10.3% increase in population since 2006.  The population is now 399,216 (2011).
Its size is such that it is equivalent to 3 – 4 other local authorities combined.
County Cork covers 7,459 square kilometres, i.e. 11% of the Irish State.
The county has more than 7,500 miles of public roads, i.e. 14% of the nation’s total.
Cork County Council has dealt with 20,000 planning applications in the last 5 years.
The County Fire Service operates from 21 fire stations.  It costs €12.7 million to operate annually and responds to approx 3,000 emergency calls per year.
The coastline of County Cork is 1,100 km long, i.e. 19% of the length of coastline of the Irish State.
The county has 1,200 km of rivers.
It has 50,000 registered library users.
The county’s social housing stock is more than 8,000 units.

Staff numbers in Cork County Council have fallen from 3,468 to 2,650.
There has been a 27.2% reduction in staff on the ground (from 2,947 to 2,146).
The revenue budget is down 15% in day to day budget from €360.8m in 2008 to €306.7 m in 2014.

The demand for social services such as parks and playgrounds increases in periods of economic downturn.

Levels of funding coming into the local government system are unlikely to change over next 3 – 4 years.

This Council will have to prepare the County Development Plan 2015 – 2021.  A draft of the plan has been on public display for 3 – 4 months.  Members will be briefed separately on this.  The Chief Executive will report on submissions to the County Development Plan to members.

Members will also be obliged to contribute to preparation and passing of the Cork County Council 2015 budget.  A decision on whether an adjustment will be made in Local Property Tax must be taken by end September.  It is not likely that additional money will go into local government.  Funding of local government is mostly through exechquer funding.  But the Local Government Fund has been reduced by the amount of money got through Local Property Tax.  So essentially there has been no additional money into local government at all as a result of the Property Tax.  It is a challenge to get this message out.

Budget 2015 must also examine the issue of commercial rates harmonisation.  With abolition of town councils,  the County Council needs to see how rates across nine former UDCs can be harmonised.  €74 is the county rate at present. Some towns will face an increase and we need to decide how to manage this.  Mallow, for example, is €58.  The County Council depends on rates for income and does not want to see a reduction of money coming in to run local government either.  So it will be a challenge to get this right.

All of our towns need to be supported as best we can because they are the future growth engines of the county.  Municipal districts are being set up and every town is to have a similar level of service over time.  The County Council will aim for this over next 2 – 3 years.  It will be a challenge because different towns have different strneghts and set-ups.

Economic development:
The South Cork Local Enterprise Office has been recently set up.  This will add to the economic activities the County Council performs.  Cork County and Cork City Councils set up the economic development fund funded from rates a few years ago.  Considerable emphasis will be placed on this over the coming years.

Community and social issues :
There is an ongoing programme of work in this area both nationally and locally.  The local development companies programme continues tomove on to ensure better integration between the work of local development companies and county councils.  The extent of money Cork County Council puts into community development is not always recognised and is often somewhat overshadowed by the local development companies.  There is a suspicion that communities might suffer from integration of the local development companies and the county councils.  The Chief Executive is certain that they won’t; there is a certain level of duplication at present.  The elected members of the County Council are the only people who have a legitimate mandate to represent the interests of our communities.

There are a significant number of community service programmes in place.

Environmental and energy matters:
The County Council must have policies that support investment decisions in infrastructure and industry that recognises national policy and that, on balance, supports the future development of our county.  We are, as a county, recognised nationally as always taking the right decision to support business and growth.

The aspects of the elected members’ role:

  • represent constituents locally
  • be part of the goverment of this county for the services and business areas we are charged with.

County Councils are the only company that has to encompass all aspects of the physical, social, infrastructural, cultural, community and environmental development whilst also taking care of the public good.  Consequently, a balanced approach is required.

Sean O’Callaghan, Corporate Services Cork County Council 

The Municipal District Officer for Ballincollig – Carrigaline is Kevin O’Regan.  Other MDOs for other regions also identified.
Each member of Cork County Council will be a member of the full Council, a Divisional Committee and a Municipal District Committee.  They will also be members of other committees of Cork County Council.
They may be nominees to some external bodies, e.g. CC ETB, Regional Health Forum, AILG, Southern  & Eastern Regional Assembly.
The Southern Committee meets on 3rd Monday at 11am.  (County Hall for me.)

The Development Committee is a meeting of full council held in committee on 3rd Friday of every month at 11 am.

The Municipal District Committee will be held once per month starting on Thurs 12 or Fri 13th June.

There are two further meetings of the full Council – the annual meeting in June and the budget meeting in December.

Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) assist council in policy making progress.  Membership of SPCs includes sectoral interests.  The relevant Director of Service from within Cork County Council will attend.
Revised guidelines for SPCs have been issued from the Department.  These will be implemented shortly.

A Mayor or chairperson is elected for each Municipal District.  A Chairperson is also elected for each SPC.

The Corporate Policy Group meets on 1st Tuesday of every month.  It comprises chairs of SPCs and Municipal Districts.  The CPG advises and assists Council in policy making.  It also links the work of all the SPCs and develops consistent policy for all Municipal Districts.

Councillors are entitled to a taxable representational payment of €16,565 per annum paid weekly in arrears.

The annual expenses allowance is:
–       based on mileage from home to County Hall
–       includes payments for subsistence and postage
–       payment made monthly in arrears
–       subject to a minimum of 80% attendance at meetings.

There is also a conference and mobile phone allowance.  The conference allowance has been reduced and set at €1,000 per councillor per annum.  Between now and December it is reduced to €500.  The Department has also set increased requirements in relation to reporting back to full Council.  The mobile phone allowance is a maximum of €600 per year per member.

All members are to sign the attendance book at full Council meetings
Car parking – free on full Council meeting day outside motor tax office.
Swipe cards – currently being prepared.  Will be ready for Friday.
Photographs – nomination paper photos will be used for website and info for management team.
Members’ rooms – working with facilities manager on this.
Council website – currently being updated.

Members will attend a briefing about planning, housing and roads on the 18th June at 11am.
Further briefings will be arranged on finance and environment.
All members will be required to attend training by AILG on 26th June.

Tim Lucey, Chief Executive Cork County Council

New members will find they have a massive amount of stuff to take on.  A phenomenal amount of change has arisen from Local Government Reform as well.  8 Regional Authorities go to 2 Regional Assemblies and there are likely to be further changes arising from this.  The biggest immediate piece of work is the County Development Plan.  The Council will be dealing in due course with 8 Local Area Plans.  Policy development is critical – the basis upon which we make determinations on zoning, etc.  That’s 18 – 24 months down the road.

When Municipal District Committees get up and running, we’ll get the feel for what’s happening locally.

Divisional committees – will arrange on a quarterly basis that the Directors of Service will give specific briefings to members on updates.

There is no update on whether there will be increased representation on SPCs because Town Councillors are gone.  Guidelines for revision of SPCs have been issued.  It is really up to the SPCs themselves to decide.  The CPG will decide on committees in due course also because of the increase in the number of Council members.

8 SPC Chairs will be decided on Friday.  The first CPG meeting will comprise these 8 Chairs and the County Mayor.  In July, the CPG meeting will have a full compliment of members.  There will be no changes to SPC structures until then.

The County Council is working towards circulating all documentation electronically.  It is also developing a members-only external area of the website.

Motions to meetings have to be submitted today for agenda to go tomorrow for Monday.  They must always submitted by Tuesday for the following Monday.  One notice of motion per member per meeting is permitted.