All posts by Marcia D'Alton

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.

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.

Alternative to proposed Local Government Reform

Whilst the inadequacy of Irish institutions in handling finance is well proven, consider basic distribution channel theory.  In distribution, the term “middleman” describes an intermediary between a producer and an end customer.  The middleman adds an extra step in the distribution chain, puts a mark-up on for himself and generally adds cost.  It is regarded as good to eliminate the middleman.

A middleman without direct link to a producer has lost his raison d’être.  He simply swims aimlessly, clutching at any marketable merchandise.  His mere existence is an unnecessary expense.  In Irish local government, there is only one middleman: the County Council.  And elimination of this expense is entirely feasible.

The structure for sustainable, bottom-up local government in this country is already in place.  Rural districts were created in the Local Government Act 1894.  Typically, they looked like a doughnut shaped ring around a town.  The town was managed by the then equivalent of the Town Council whilst the affairs of the rural district were the responsibility of the Rural District Council.  Each had an extensive statutory role.  When Rural District Councils were abolished by the Local Government Act 1925, all their functions were transferred to the County Councils.  But because rural districts are subdivided into the electoral districts we use today, they continue to be used for statistical analysis.

The only sustainable, affordable way of implementing bottom-up local government is to consider a town and its rural hinterland to be intrinsically linked and each to be the responsibility of a Rural District Council.  Each rural district, including its central town, would elect nine representatives to that Council.  Membership would be considered to be a part-time role.  Headquarters of the Rural District Council at the existing Town Council offices would be manned by a single full-time administrative staff member.  Each of the rural districts already has County Council Area Offices, so an engineer from each Area Office could function without additional cost as the Rural District Engineer.  Management would be a shared function with Cork County Council.

Rural District elected members would receive representational payment similar to that currently received by members of a former UDC, i.e. €5,000 p.a.  They would have limited statutory functions, performing primarily representational, rating and social functions, similar to Town Councils.  Unlike Town Councils, they would be statutorily consulted on such issues as planning and housing.  Their annual budget would be limited and similar to that of current UDCs.

Three elected representatives from each Rural District Council would convene at Cork County Council headquarters monthly for a countywide meeting.  This would be the new County Council and the principal opportunity for elected members from each rural district to present the financial arguments for their area to the County Council executive.

Were such an approach to be considered, there would be a suggested 14 Rural District Councils, each with nine elected members in County Cork.  At a practical level, some rural districts would need to be amalgamated such that each Rural District Council would have responsibility for 20,000 – 30,000 people.  But at least the amalgamations would be between towns with established relationships and with sufficient proximity to have relevance to each other.  For example, it would make sense to amalgamate the Fermoy and Mitchelstown rural districts to yield a Rural District Council with responsibility for a total population of almost 32,000.  Both towns are adjacent and work closely together.  Public representation for each citizen would be 1:3,555.  While still greater than the European norm, it is better than the current 1:7,200 and the post-reform proposed representation ratio of 1:7,000.  Crucially, such an approach would bring citizens closer to their elected representatives and would allow real local issues to relay directly to the County Council executive.

No system of local government is without its drawbacks, but if well managed, the interactions between towns and countryside are the basis for a balanced regional development which is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.  And happy rural areas mean happy cities and suburbs.

Update on meeting of Passage West Town Council with Cork County Council Area Engineer

  • Request that the barriers around the Centre Block would be moved in for the Easter weekend. The Area Engineer said that she would speak to the contractors.
  • The slip at Toureen/Patrick Murphy Park is dangerous. The hand rail is corroded. The Town Council will be requested to pay for a new one at a cost of €200. It will be fabricated locally.
  • The picnic tables to be erected in Patrick Murphy Park/Toureen will be:

o Between the seats in Patrick Murphy Park

o Opposite Derek O’Brien’s

o Opposite the Tavern

  • Request that the concrete plinths under the tables would be made flush with the grass, firstly to facilitate wheelchair access and secondly, to facilitate neat grasscutting.
  •  Sods in the old church need to be taken away. The Area Engineer said that she would look after this.
  •  The Festival Committee wants a plaque erected in Fr. O’Flynn Park in time for the festival and is seeking the assistance of the Area Office in this regard. The Area Engineer said the timescale was short but that she would do her best.
  •  The 10k Road Race is next week. The Area Engineer said that the contractors used by the Area Office for grasscutting had started their work in Monkstown today and so the grass should be complete in time for the Road Race.
  • Request that the road sweeper should make a visit to the town in advance of the Road Race. Also that notice should be given of its coming so that footpaths could be swept onto the road for debris to be picked up by the road sweeper. In particular there is much gravel on the road around the area where the Road Race is to finish. Noted that visits from the road sweeper were far more frequent before Christmas 2013. The Area Engineer said that she would try to get the road sweeper.
  •  There is a water hydrant cover missing on Church Hill adjacent to the Eircom building. This is dangerous.
  • Request that the Area Office might place boulders on the edges of the grass at Toureen on a temporary basis to stop cars from using the grass as a parking space.
  • Request that the Area Office might donate some tar to fill potholes in the car park at the GAA Club in advance of the Road Race. If the tar is donated, the Club will look after the filling of the holes.
  • Concerned that the County Council operatives who empty bins, etc. in Passage West will be operating throughout a larger area and without additional staff. Concerned that Passage West might not get the same attention it has been getting to date, particularly with regard to emptying of the Water Tower and emptying of the litter bins. The Area Engineer said that the operatives have been operating that larger area since Christmas. The best service possible will be provided.
  • Observed that litter bins are not always emptied in advance of weekends. This causes great mess in the town and negates the litterpicking work the Tidy Towns does during the week. Request that the Tidy Towns would be given a key for the litterbins such that they are not emptied by Friday, the Tidy Towns would be able to empty them and put the bags in the water tower for subsequent collection by Cork County Council. The Area Engineer agreed that this would likely be possible and that she would look into it.
  • Request that the two litterbins with broken locks would have those locks replaced.
  • Acknowledgement that the Area Office has previously requested that voluntary effort would not be used to clean the LHS of the R610 from Passage West to Rochestown. Request that the Area Office should clear this side of the road of litter. It is intended that the all-community clean-up on 23rd April in advance of the Road Race will look after the cleaning of the footpath on the RHS. The Area Engineer reiterated that cleaning the LHS of the road is a very dangerous job and one which she could not condone the local community doing. She said cleaning of roadsides subject to dumping is a task regularly requested of the Area Office. They know it is necessary but simply do not have the resources. She will ask the operatives to be aware of it and to do the best they can but is not hopeful it can be tackled.
  • Request that the footpath from Pembroke Wood across the R610 to the Rockenham side should be dished. Appreciation of the works done crossing at the bottom of Rockenham, but there are 400-odd houses in Pembroke Wood and dishing should also have been carried out to facilitate those residents. The Area Engineer agreed and said that she would investigate further.
  • Request that the footpath up the Glen in Monkstown should be fixed and widened to facilitate the elderly. The Area Engineer said that she was aware this was necessary and would follow it up.
  • The Tidy Towns has done a survey of signage throughout the town. Request that if they send a list of redundant and damaged signage to the Area Office that these might be removed or addressed as appropriate. The Area Engineer agreed that this would be fine.
  • Request for advice and assistance with regard to rehabilitation works the Tidy Towns hopes to undertake at Steampacket Quay/Penny’s Dock. The anticipated works were costed in accordance with a quote received from a recommended contractor. However the contractor omitted one essential element of the intended job in the quotation and so the project is now undercosted. Despite best efforts, no cheaper quotation can be got and so the Tidy Towns is short of funds. The Area Engineer acknowledged that the project is worthwhile and the Area Office can offer limited assistance with regard to making up the shortfall. The Town Council also offered an increase in its already-promised financial contribution to the project to assist with the shortfall.