[a] CONFIRMATION OF MINUTES
1. Minutes of Special Meeting of the Council held on 9th September, 2015.
Proposed and seconded.
2. Minutes of Meeting of the Council held on 14th September, 2015.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): Wants a suspension of standing orders to discuss recent developments with respect to the Local Government Review Committee report.
Agreed for 1pm.
Minutes of the meeting proposed and seconded.
[b] VOTES OF SYMPATHY
3. Votes of Sympathy (if any) to the relatives of:
- members or employees of the Council,
- dignitaries of Church or State, or
- members of old I.R.A. and Cumann na mBan.
Cllr O’Flynn (FF) and the Mayor have sympathies.
[c] STATUTORY BUSINESS
4. Disposal of Property – Section 183 of the Local Government Act, 2001:
(a) Disposal of Nos. 3,7,12,16,22 & 24 Daniel O’Brien Terrace, Buttevant, Co. Cork.
(b) Disposal of No. 2 St. Cainir’s Place, Bantry, Co. Co. Cork.
Proposed and seconded.
Cobh Municipal District, 8th September, 2015:
(d) Disposal of Cobh Library by way of lease to Cobh Chamber.
(e) Disposal of 27 Philip O’Neill Place, Cobh, Co. Cork.
Cllr Sheppard (FG): Cobh Library has a lease of €5,000/year. Who gets the money? Is it Cork County Council or the Cobh Municipal District?
CE: The lease is taken into Cork County Council’s annual budget. It is distributed to the Municipal District through the GMA and other budgetary plans.
Proposed and seconded.
Kanturk Mallow Municipal District, 4th September, 2015:
(f) Disposal of Freehold Interest in house and plot at Church View, Dromagh, Co. Cork.
Proposed and seconded.
Fermoy Municipal District, 15th September, 2015:
(g) Disposal of Sites No. 5 and 6, Coolnanave Industrial Park, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork
(h) Disposal of site at Uplands, Fermoy, Co. to ESB Networks.
Proposed and seconded.
[d] FINANCIAL BUSINESS
5. Consideration of report on the financial impact of the LPT variation under section 20 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, as amended by Section 5 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2013.
CE: Document circulated setting out different scenarios around different levels of variation. Council decided to reduce LPT by 10% in 2015. That was for 2015 only. Now we need to decide for 2016. Have briefed CPG in relation to a number of scenarios. Presented these in summary here. Significant implications surrounding a 15% and 10% reduction. There are opportunities for the Council at a 5% reduction. Clearly more opportunities for no reduction. This is a matter for the councillors to decide.
€2.5m reduction in services over last year with 15% reduction.
€300,000 reduction in services over last year with 10% reduction.
Additional spending with 5% reduction.
The budget benefits from the fact that we have gone through significant cost saving measures and efficiency reviews. We have reprocured many of our services. This scenario presented today is the bottom line scenario. We have just completed service reviews across more areas, especially area offices and arising from the abolition of town councils. Expect this to provide more productivity in 2015 and beyond. The budget is largely completed at this stage. The decision here today will impact on this. If you decide today for a reduction in LPT, the Corporate Policy Group will help me to decide where reductions in spending should be made.
[As an aside, tenders are being opened in the Chamber. They are for fire fighting equipment, parking warden service contract (1 tender), rehabilitation of a church in North Cork and 1 other]
Cllr Murphy (FG): Would love to introduce a reduction but think we should hold LPT without any reduction.
Reasons: A 5% reduction will give back €4.50 per year to an individual, i.e. 8c per week or 1c per day. For people who are wealthy, it will give back €88 per year or 22c per day. We are looking after the wealthy if we cut this tax, not helping those who really need it. Exactly the same for the 10% reduction. 49c per day saving for an individual with this scenario. But the extra increase in income to the Council from a zero variation would be very helpful to roads, footpath, lighting, etc. for everyone. It is not our right to deny that. FG proposes no reduction in LPT.
Seconded by Cllr G Murphy (FG): The insignificance to the household of the reductions being proposed here today have been well explained. We propose that the Council adopts a county-wide hedge cutting programme with no reduction. Why should we do this because legislation says nationally that it is the job of the landowner. But it is a huge job to identify each landowner and force them through the courts to do it. Enforcement would cost more than actually doing the work. Uniform hedgecutting throughout the county would benefit everyone: tourism, the Wild Atlantic Way. Farmers have more than enough beaurcracy and cost already. They will not be able to carry out this work themselves. Urban dwellers and all vehicle owners take holidays in Ireland. They are constantly complaining about wing mirrors being broken and their cars being scratched. Many councillors have received representations from hauliers, etc. Their disadvantage on county roads is pushing up costs for all consumers. FG’s proposed approach to property tax would be more transparent. Each householder would know that their money is being used for a specific purpose around the county. We could explain to the people of Cork how much of the LPT is spent on community grants, amenity grants, disabled grants, etc. Think that we would be offering a very specific benefit to the people of this county. First time in a LPT situation that we can say the people of the county are getting something back in return. School buses have difficulty travelling some of our roads because of the hedgecutting. Children are at risk because of the hedges. If we decide today that we do universal hedge cutting throughout the county, we will be doing the people a service.
Cllr McGrath (FF): Bringing the LPT decision forward to today means that we have to take this decision at a very early stage. Thanks Finance Department for their open approach to the FF party questions. People were misled by the government about LPT from day one. They were always told it would lead to improvement in local services. That is not the case. Most local authorities are only marginally better off as a result of the LPT. It is an unfair and regressive tax. Doesn’t take into account people’s ability to pay. FF proposed 10% reduction last year. Believe that was a balanced approach. Key decision was to introduce the rates relief scheme which gave much relief to small and medium sized businesses. This year’s decision – we are furious with the government to reduce the allocation of LPT to this Council. They have reduced it by €1.6m, significant reduction over what we received last year. Additional insult to householders in Cork. We want to improve services in local authorities but we do not want to perpuate a tax which we think is unfair. Disappointed with the stark choices we have been presented with in this Council. Very narrow debate. €290m revenue budget does not include the capital budget. The variation in property tax is very small in this context. Not everything depends on the LPT variation. Some of the key functions which we are being told will be affected by our decision today are core functions of a local authority. We believe we need a debate as a local authority about our choices going forward. FF is proposing 10% reduction to keep things the same as last year. Reminds FG that their government set up this tax. FF would love more flexibility but does not have this opportunity because of the way the tax was set up by their former minister. €1.4m from general reserve should be used to maintain services provided last year. Also believe that we can provide the extra €1m spending proposed by the CE under the 5% scenario with a 10% reduction.
Believes the figure put forward in 2016 budget for commercial rates is conservative. It provides for a lesser figure for commercial rates next year than we did this year. Believes we will have an increase in commercial rates in the year coming. This is a most reasonable assumption in a growing economy. Challenges anyone to say there is not scope for further savings. Think we should have an efficiency committee – party leaders with executive – to set up those efficiencies.
We at least need to maintain people’s tax bills where they were next year. So FF is proposing a 10% reduction. We believe we can do this and maintain and improve services over last year.
Cllr Carroll (FF): This government has reduced local government road funding by 52%. If someone thinks the LPT is to replace that, they are in cloud cuckoo land. Go look for that money back and then we can cut the ditches. We are all being asked to cut LPT. It was never welcomed.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): SF proposes 15% reduction in LPT. For 2016, government cut of €1.5m in LPT to Cork County Council. €7.9m is being retained by the government. Government’s first option is always to cut local funding. It is playing games with the local governmetn fund. LGF previously came from motor tax, etc. The take from this is expected to rise across the state but the government is stil cutting funding to local authorities. This is a regressive tax that is especially hard on low and middle income earners. €5.9m going back into people’s pockets throughout the county if we cut the LPT by 15%. This is a small step towards the abolition of LPT which SF plans to do if it is in government. Arrears €53m Jan 2015. Bottlehill cost €35m. €4.3m spent each year on landfill care and maintenance. €3.5m is to be given to LCDCs in this year’s budget; it was not in last year’s budget. Interest is paid every year on land lying idle. We are proposing that €5.9m would be given to the local economy. This is one of the few powers allowed to councillors. We ask for support.
Cllr Hayes (SF): This is money taken out of the local economy which affects local businesses, etc. It is a stealth tax on people. Tells of a lady in Dunmanway on a widows pension who goes to bed at 6pm most evenings because she can’t afford to heat her house. Stealth charges have led to this. The menu laid out by the CEO looks appetising. But these are core services. This is what the Council should be about. They should be able to be accommodated in the budget of the Council. Our roads budget has been halved in recent years. We receive less than the national average per km to keep them up to scratch. We all pay our taxes which should be allocated to local authorities for public services. Property tax is a scam which was introduced to pay back the banks. Supports 15% reduction.
Cllr Hurley (Ind): It is an easy score attitude to propose putting money back into hedgecutting. The Council is addressing this. The decision today is reaching far beyond hedgecutting. Reminds Cllr McGrath that the 10% reduction last year was brought in with the suport of the Independents. We can either plus or minus the variation in LPT. This is a good place to be. The current day government has derogated on its responsibility to local authorities. It has handcuffed them – we have to go back to the general public to look to them to bail us out again. Not fair when government should be providing funding. SF has asked for extra money to deal with housing stock over the last 12 months. Now they are looking for 15% reduction. Figures speak for themselves. People are experiencing hardship. As a compromise, we are proposing 5% reduction.
Cllr Conway (Ind): Agrees with many of the sentiments expressed by Cllr McGrath with respect to the tax. Does not do what it says on the tin. It was portrayed as a tax that would provide extra services for those who paid it. What we are proposing is a 5% reduction as a minimum. But the services that can be gained from it would be major for the people involved. We know that the people in social housing do not pay LPT. In a way, those who do pay LPT do have the money. We are in favour in a 5% reduction for those people but we are also in favour of increasing services.
Cllr Collins (FG): Hedgecutting – by way of rebalancing the facilities we are providing on a county-wide basis, the portion of what is left could be used for the subsidisation of services in urban areas for the cutting of open spaces which has to date been done by residents themselves.
Cllr K McCarthy (SF): Wants to kill the myth that all the Independents are for 5% reduction. This one is for 15%. What this boils down to is whether one disagrees or agrees with LPT. We can’t abolish it so we can only give the people a break and given them the maximum reduction.
Cllr T Collins (Ind): Hedgecutting has been a problem for years. But have never heard a member of FG say heretofore say they will fund it. Now there’s an election coming and they say they will fund it. The 25% that was taken off the road funding by government would cut a lot of hedges in this county. We were elected to represent and to help the people. One way of doing this is to reduce their expenses. People have property tax, water rates and many other taxes they didn’t have before. There are poor people out there who cannot afford those two extra charges. Knows a 5% cut is not a lot but it is at least going in the right direction. Would ask the government to provide hedgecutting money throughout the county.
Cllr N O’Donovan (FG): This is one of the most important decisions we will make throughout the county. Cork County Council never got its share of roads funding even when the country was going well. It was thanks to research done by UCC that we got more. Made a plea last year to all the new Council who got in. Said that they would be told no funding available over the course of the year. We are here as local councillors and have the power to put money behind the things that people want. €14 of saving for people on the lowest band and €246 saving for those on the highest band. Ridiculous for SF to support this. The Council did propose a hedgecutting scheme in West Cork but a similar scheme did not work in County Clare. People do want to see benefit for the tax they want to pay. They want services on the ground.
Cllr Buckley (SF): LPT is an extra tax on people. You are paying twice for nothing. Government expects the ordinary Joe Soap on the ground to pay twice for everything and get nothing back.
Roisin (executive): Reduction as outlined in rates is coming from the Irish Water element of it. It is classified as grants in this year’s budget. So it is not missing – just reclassified. Will come off our valuation base but will come in as a grant. So the €126m figure has been reduced but is showing up as a grant. We are saying the same level of rates will be received in 2016.
Loan funding – we are covering this but much is recoupable. €44m of debt was recouped from Irish Water in July. More is recoverable under our social leasing programme.
Cllr Cullinane (Ind): What do we pay in LPT on our own housing stock? Thinks we should look for a tax relief on this. It is only a game. We pay out 100% and get 80% back. Also wants clarification on what the extra money should be spend on. Wants executive to clarify that we are discussing the percentage variation today and what the financial structure is. Not what any saving should be spent on. The Minister said publicly that there would be no change in our allocation this year but there has been. This needs to be discussed publicly. The figures that we paid for LPT last year were the same as the year before even though we gave a 10% reduction. Does this mean that we did not take account of the 10% reduction when doing our return?
Roisin: €600k was Council’s payment in LPT last year. It was just buy chance that the figure was the same as the year before. Council’s housing stock changes all the time. Council’s own housing stock is also affected by any LPT variation given by Council.
Cllr McGrath (FF): The sequence of proposals in the voting on this is important.
Mayor suggested a short recess.
Argument about standing orders. Mayor insists on enforcing them and in particular Standing Order Rule 33. The proposal is not to reduce LPT. The first amendment is to reduce it by 10%. If that is passed, then there are no further amendments. Maurice Manning (executive) explains.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): Cannot see how Standing Orders can be read like that. The first vote is an amendment to a motion. If that is passed, it becomes a motion on which any other amendments can be taken.
Mayor says this is not the case and management has explained Standing Orders. He is proceeding with a vote on the amendments proposed.
Vote on 10% variation in property tax: (SF refuses to participate.) For 13 – against 29 – abstain 8
Vote on 15% variation in property tax: (SF participates.) For 21 – against 28
Vote on 5% variation in property tax: (SF participates.) For 32 – against 15
5% variation has become a resolution of Council.
[e] NOTICES OF MOTION
6. Councillor Deirdre Forde:
“The CE give a written comprehensive report on why the Roundabout entrance to Maryborough Ridge Maryborough Hill has not yet been commissioned. What is the current status of the planning, the date of the original planning for this site, outline any discussions between Nama or its agents in relation to the current situation, and any potential School site, or through road. Further clarify which agency has recently carried out investigations on the site and on whose behalf.”
As Cllr Forde is not present, this is deferred.
7. Councillor Alan Coleman
“That management give the members an update on the flood relief schemes for Bandon and Skibbereen”
Cllr Colman (FF): There has been a huge level of delay in progressing these schemes. In 2009, we had serious flooding in Bandon. It was hugely debilitating to the town. We jave been promised by all governments that funds were in place for flood relief but we have had incredible unexplained delays. We as a Council must demand answers as to why these schemes are not progressing. The flood relief scheme in Bandon was managed by the OPW, was put out to tender in February 2014 and was withdrawn because of a threatened legal challenge. It went to tender again just a few days ago. Why did the documents, already prepared, have to wait this long to go out again to tender? The delay can be explained only by the funding not being in place.
Cork County Council is the lead agency in the flood relief scheme in Skibberreen. Cork County Council had a nominated tender. It went out to tender in July. We told the OPW that the tender was nominated. Then the OPW came back saying that Minister Howlin’s department is to do deeper investigation on the environmental assessment done on this project. This department is holding the scheme up. There has been no timeline given.
Can only assume that these two vital projects for West Cork are held up because funding is not in place.
Cllr Carroll (FF): One has to presume that there has been political interference in the process in Skibbereen. The final questions were asked in July. Everything was in place. The contractor was ready to be notified. We were told nothing could go wrong and that the next step in the process was for the Minister to sign off. We know the Minister would like to pick a choice time for himself. But now shocked to hear it has gone off the table. No proposed date for when something may happen. People of Skibbereen have suffered devastation year after year with their premises being flooded, cannot get insurance for their houses. People want to know who is codding who. Is it an election gimmick or what? People are very annoyed.
Cllr Murphy O’Mahony (FF): We got an update on the Bandon scheme this day last week at the Western Committee meeting from the County Engineer. We need to demand facts and figures from the OPW. We need a timeframe. Businesses are being held to ransom. They are unable to get insurance. The flood relief schemes are on hold for the 6th or 7th time for each of them. Would go stronger on the motion. Bring the OPW in. Set up a meeting or whatever. Just can’t carry on the way it is.
Cllr Hayes (SF): The OPW has moved the goal posts. This is calling for an assessment of an existing assessment. To be cynical, questions if the funding is actually secured. These are projects that are very badly needed. Roads in Bandon are like the surface of the moon. They are in appalling shape. They cannot be resurfaced while the drainage works are outstanding. Need clarification – what is the position with the OPW ?
Cllr J O’Donovan (FG): The businesses and the locals are in disarray. They want answers. We want to be able to relay those answers to them. The roads are appalling. Is concerned for both projects.
Cllr N O’Donovan (FG): The County Engineer’s update was very worrying. Spoke of a case in Claregalway where they are a year down the road and no progress. Requests letter from the Chamber to the OPW. Clonakilty is wondering whether there will be a similar delay.
Cllr Keohane (SF): We have been told that the Glanmire flood relief scheme will be delayed by 3 years. At the beginning of the year, we were told it would be starting this year. So can we add this also to our queries?
CE: Both these schemes are being dealt with under OPW powers. In Skibbereen, the County Council is acting as agents of the OPW and still needs their approval. In the Bandon scheme, the tender documentation was issued on 25th September and tenders are to be submtted by end November 2015. Tenders are to go back to the OPW who will then process them. But there is no indication of how soon construction will start on the ground. In the case of Skibbereen, we received tenders on 17th April. Opened 20th April. Assessment completed by middle June. Went to OPW for approval in August. We need OPW’s approval, OPW needs Department of Expenditure and Reform’s approval. An independent review of the EIS is now required under new legislation before the department will approve anything.
Cllr Colman (Ind): Proposes we write to both Howlin and the OPW.
(3 FF in Chamber at present)
Suspension of standing orders proposed by Sinn Fein to discuss the outcome of the Local Government Review Boundary Committee report.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): Sinn Féin wants to see two authorities, one in the city and one in the county.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): There has been huge discussion of the merger in the public. They are saying that Cork County Council did not debate the Boundary Committee’s report in public. Sinn Féin have been consistent in our approach. There are financial issues with the extension of the boundary. We should have started with identifying what is the best way to deliver services in County and then how to fund that. The challenges facing Cork City and County Councils are very different. Doesn’t believe a merged council will be in the same position to speak on the housing crisis, etc. Puts it to the Council that Cork County Council does not support the merger of the two Councils.
Cllr McGrath (FF): This is the first opportunity we have had in public to debate this issue. The public debate has been damaging to Cork as a whole. The split decision of the group didn’t help in that regard. Fianna Fail supported the merger. Thinks that this is something on which the pause button should be pressed. It is an issue that should be taken up by government. People should vote on this and it is something the local authorities should not be afraid of.
Cllr McGrath’s statement was seconded by Cllr Murphy O’Mahony.
Cllr Murphy (FG): Thought we as a Council were supporting the merger. The split decision of the Boundary Committee was unfortunate. There should a unanimous decision for any kind of a task like this. A major boundary extension to the city would have a detrimental effect on the county. We will have only €40m to run the county. That would not be possible. Equalisation was proposed for the first couple of years and after that there would be none. The Western Division feels that it will lose out very seriously with a merger. But yet the alternative is worse.
Cllr Colman (Ind): Thinks the minority report was a good thing because it showed everyone what the alternative to a merger was. It showed how little regard there was for the people in the remaining part of the county. It was good to have this placed starkly before us. The proposed merger would be positive in terms of representation for some areas of the county. We didn’t have a good divide of Municipal Districts. Believes it will be positive for rural parts of the county. Eight members in West Cork represent a huge tract of land. The implementation group should be let run its course. A new government will decide what will happen at that stage. There is much more detail to be got yet. Any future minister will decide based on the facts from the implementation group. The final decision can be made then but the process should be allowed continue in the interim. The negative comment is unfortunate. Much of it is ill-informed and not helpful.
Cllr Collins (FG): Understood that we did have a debate in the council. Not in favour of stopping the process. Maybe more indepth investigation of how it might work would be no harm. The implementation group is worthwhile. Thinks Cork City as an entity is an integral part of the county but as a functioning local authority we are responsible for more people. In spite of what they might like, we are part of Cork and the City is part of the County They cannot work on their own. Their population is dwindling. Their rate base is diminishing. But the city could not survive without the county. Development around the perimeter has caused damage to the heart of the city. One way to equalise this is to join forces. Cork City Councillors may be trying to mind their council seats. Deputies seem to be taking political lines in their support. County TDs are supporting a merger, City TDs are not.
Cllr N O’Donovan (FG): This is the first time we have discussed this since the review group came back with their report. It is unfortunate that some of the headlines have been as they are. We are not overly happy with all the recommendations either and think an implementation group can iron much of this out. Minority report proposes equalisation to be in place for 10 years – major shortcoming. Important that this report does not sit on the shelf. Important that representatives of the City and Council come together and iron out their differences.
Cllr B Moynihan (FF): Represents a rural political area. Very difficult to get funding there. We are in with Mallow at present. Has to assure his constituents that this merger will not reduce the services they already get. They experience rural depopulation, schools struggling, etc. Not easy. Needs assurances in his area that funding will not be reduced to his local area. Concerned that his area will be forgotten if the merger goes ahead.
Cllr Hegarty (FG): Much has been said about this but much of it is political point scoring. If there wasn’t a general election looming, would the headlines still be there? Everyone has issues and concerns but the implementation group should be set up and allow to do their work. We have been more than 50 years trying to come up with a change to the boundary and nothing has worked. Here is a suggestion. Hopefully it will let the people of Cork do their business.
Cllr O’Keeffe (FF): Always maintained that the city was a fourth division of the county at large.
Cllr Ryan (FF): The bickering that has happened publicly is very regrettable and very damaging. Some form of local government organisation has to be put in place to make the workings of the city and county feasible. Agrees a plebiscite would be fair and democratic. Put it before the people. We’re looking for a local government that works.
Mayor: Has been a lot of comment on the Local Government Review report. We are all on the one when we say we want the best outcome for Cork as a whole. It is unfortunate that much public commentary has been in my view over the top. Cork County Council already caters for 59% of the metropolitan area of Cork. We do this well. But we also represent a significant rural part of the county too. We as an organisation can stand out as being able to represent both. We have complex development zones and we do this well. It is important for us to stick by the decision we made. Let us let the implmemnetation team do their work and work with them to create a local government structure for Cork that works. Looking for change for 50 years. Report is now published. Proposes that we don’t take any of these motions today and just work with the implementation team.
Cllr Doyle (FF): Pit about the negativity from the city. We had meetings here about the merger/otherwise and we felt, having listened to all advice that it is the best way forward for Cork as a county. Much of what we have been hearing is negative and this is opposite to what we agreed on. We have the Municipal Districts set up. It is up to us as elected representatives to make sure that these work.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): Wants us to take the motion.
Mayor wants us to rule it out on the basis of standing orders and because there is not an adequate compliment of councillors in the Chamber.
8. Councillor Seamus McGrath:
“To request a written report from the CEO outlining a full update on plans for the Cork Science and Innovation Park.”
Response to motion: Response to McGrath’s motion on Curraheen Masterplan
Cllr McGrath (FF): Fully supports the development of this. Put the motion down prior to the decision of An Bord Pleanala in relation to the planning application. The decision by the Board is a severe blow to the masterplan. The Science and Innovation Park is badly needed for jobs. Cork County Council supported the planning application but the board refused it because they said it was against the masterplan. Why weren’t discussions held at pre-planning stage so that we didn’t have to refuse it initially and then come on side and support it? It has dealt a blow to the project and the jobs that could potentially have been created for Cork. The other question is the degree of frustration at the slow pace at which the Masterplan is developing. We approved it in 2011. This was a leap of faith. How is the infrastructural development to put it in place going to be progressed? Suggests we have a meeting to brief local members on this masterplan.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): The potential that existed was significant and it was very disappointing that it the development was refused. Supports Cllr McGrath’s suggestion in relation to a meeting. Wants this park to reach its full potential.
CE: A decision was issued by An Bord Pleanala last Thursday. The masterplan is robust and should be adhered to. There has been significant progress with permits, etc. The EIS is approved. There will clearly be a challenge in relation to long term funding for access roads, etc. There is nothing fundamental that undermines the masterplan or the phasing or the proposed usage. But we will review the Board’s decision in detail and if there are amendments required, they will come through as part of the Local Area Plans which are up for review next year.
Cllr McGrath (FF): Thinks we should set up a meeting to include the Blarney-Macroom area. We have had meetings like this in the past. This is a vital masterplan for Cork.
CE: Has no difficulty with providing a briefing on this. Will organise joint meeting between the two Municipal Districts.
Cllr Collins (FG): It is most disappointing that we are back where we started again. Who jumps first? Do we wait for UCC or CIT to come up with the funding for this proposal or do we wait for a brave developer? This project is of a scale of the Cork Airport Business Park and bigger. Can’t understand why An Bord Pleanala rejected it.
9. Councillor Noel Collins:
“That this Council call on the Government in its 2015 Budget to scrap the VAT on school uniforms, reverse the hikes in college registration fees while restoring grants to their previous levels.”
Cllr Collins (Ind) introduced the motion saying that “Education is a right and not a privilege”.
Motion was seconded by Cllr Linehan-Foley.
Cllr Harris (Ind): Registration fees for kids going to secondary school seem to vary from €100 to €600 for schools only a small distance apart. This is not free education. It causes class distinction in schools.
All agreed that we would write to the Minister.
10. Councillor Joe Harris:
“That this Council request a report from the Department of Finance into the investment strategy of pension and savings fund managers in our insurance companies over the past 15 years. In particular to ascertain why thousands of pension funds both defined benefits and defined contributions collapsed, leaving hundreds of thousands of people penniless and totally dependent on the state”.
Cllr Harris (Ind): Every year these insurance companies get hefty fees from these fund. The insurance companies are largely based in Cork and Dublin. This money should be invested in government guilds. The fees are based on the size of the fund so risk-taking is encouraged. These funds are taken out by people to pay for university, etc. and all have had similarly disastrous results. Putting your money under the mattress would have a better return. These insurance companies are now paying huge money in advertising their pension funds again. When they return to profit will these people who lost out heretofore be compensated?
Seconded by Cllr Hurley.
We will write to the Department of Finance.
11. Councillor Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire:
“To ask for a report on the operation of the Motor Tax Office, which is operated by Cork County Council, on behalf of the Department of Transport, including the breakdown of costs to Cork County Council, outlining the net cost, and to outline what costs incurred by Cork County Council can be recouped by the Council.”
Response to motion: Response to O’Laoghaire’s motion on motor tax office
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): €49.3m was collected in motor tax in 2014 to input into the local government fund. Cork County Council retains €2.95m from the local government fund. This is a tax that is collected locally but has no benefit for Cork. It is also doubling up because Cork County Council is also collecting the property tax. It cost €4.442m in 2014 to operate the motor tax office. This is a cost that is borne entirely by the Council. None can be recouped. National government should not expect Cork County Council to carry this burden of collecting central taxes. It puts funding around local government into context.
CE: We are incurring a cost which incurs money for the state and which is distributed around the country. At one stage there was a suggestion that when the local government funding coming to Cork County Council was €30 – 40m, the cost of collecting motor tax was included. This is not the case any more.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): Recognises the CE can not do anything about it but suggests that we write and put it to the department.
Cllr Murphy (FG): This has come up over and over again in the chamber and agrees that it is not right.
We will write to the Department.
12. Councillor Paul Hayes:
“That this Council calls on the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, and Minister of State for Housing to urgently revisit the current restrictions on the refurbishment of vacant council houses, or voids, in light of the serious crisis in housing at present. In order to expedite the turn-around time between council houses being left vacant by one tenant and re-allocated to another tenant, we propose that potential tenants be given the option to be allocated houses and to then take responsibility for refurbishment of the house, carry-out any light structural works, cleaning, painting and redecorating to bring the house up to standard. This would not apply to all allocations. Specified electrical and/or plumbing works on the property could only be carried out by council approved personnel or certified tradesmen at the request of the tenant. The concept of a disclaimer indemnifying the Council and their officials from any legal action or insurance claim by the tenant, should an accident occur while they are carrying out these works on the council house should also be considered.”
Cllr Hayes (SF): Money from government to fix up houses is just being drip fed. It is not anywhere near enough to cope with the housing needs. Why can’t tenants be allowed to paint their own houses? We are being tied up with red tape and beaucracy. We are always told that Council officials cannot sign off on a house until it is finished to a set standard. Suggests that a disclaimer would be looked at for Council officials.
Cllr Mullane (SF): Supports. Knows of homes that are left by former tenants in fantastic condition but are left boarded up by the County Council. In Mallow Town Council they allowed tenants to purchase their own doors, etc. and pay back the cost in the rent. This practice is stopped now. It was regarded as an additional cost to collect. We have too many voids.
Cllr Buckley (SF): Vital that turnarounds would be accelerated. There is always an issue with health & safety. Dad lived in a perfect Council house. It still hasn’t been given out a year later. If it was good enough for someone to live in up to the day they died, surely it is good enough for someone in need to take over. A family who has the good fortune to get a council house will have more respect for it if they are allowed to have a hand in doing it up.
Cllr McGrath (FF): Supports. Disgraceful decision of the Department last week to not fund 55 of our vacant units. Entirely illogical decision from a government which says they are putting the housing crisis at the top of the agenda.
Cllr Carroll (FF): This is a good motion. This happens over and over and needs to be looked at. The Council should also be stronger and heavier on people who walk away from social housing and leave it in dreadful condition.
Cllr Murphy (FG): Look at our framework document. The HSA is a ferocious problem here. We cannot go in unless we rip out top class built ins and replace them all. This is daft. We need to employ more contractors and look in a common sense way at the refurbishment of houses.
CE: Perhaps we could discuss this at SPC level? It is a very complex area. We have a duty that is specified. Every property must be brought up to an acceptable standard. There are times when there are works to be done. We have to ensure the house is right beause we have a duty in law to ensure that these works are done before the house is reallocated. These are the rental accommodation standards. We have to be able to stand over all the works done in a house we rent out.
Cllr Hayes (SF): It is all about urgency. We do need to come up with a policy.
13. Councillor Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony:
“That this Council asks the HSE why the allocated Home Help Hours for West Cork for the period January/April 2015 were not fully utilised. Target YTD 104,000 Utilised YTD 98,500 hours.”
Cllr Murphy O’Mahony (FF): Allocated home help hours are not being used. They are 5.3% below target in West Cork. These hours would make a huge difference to people in West Cork. The home help system is of huge benefit to vulnerable people and supports them to maintain independent living. Proposes that we write to the HSE to ask them why the hours were not fully utilised.
Cllr N Collins (Ind): The home help scheme is a national disgrace in a Christian country. Thousands of euro are approved for nursing home care but home care must make do with the scrapings of the bucket. He has written to the department about this. A full investigation into the home help scheme is long overdue. It needs to be brought up to date to meet the needs of today.
Cllr Hayes (SF): This is a very big problem in West Cork at the moment. The concept of home help is very straightforward. It is very shortsighted to be underfunded by the government. The cost of people staying in hospitals is multiples more.
Cllr Hurley (Ind): Believes that if someone with allocated hours dies, those hours are banked up and not reallocated. If they notify the HSE that the person has passed away, they continue to be billed.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): It is a false economy in terms of the cost to taxpayer. It is unfair on people in need of home help and unfair on the workers. The situation described by Cllr Hurley is grotesque.
Agreed that we will write to the HSE about these unallocated hours.
14. Councillor Joe Carroll:
“That this Council would, as a matter of urgency, call on the Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, to completely review the rates payment system, as the present system of payment is completely outdated. Many of the county’s small and medium businesses are struggling to stay operating and their rates bill is the most likely one to close them down.”
Cllr Carroll: The people in West Cork are clinging on to their businesses with their finger nails. Knows the Council’s hands are tied but wants the whole system looked at from the government down. The current rates system came in way back in the 19th century. At the time, the size of the building was important. Now you could take a computer into a room the size of a small kitchen and earn over €1m a year. Rates have to be connected to turnover. Knows of one woman in a village who opens her bar for the sake of the community even though the bar itself makes very little money. Wants some approach made to the Minister. The rates office in County Hall says there is very little they can do about it.
Cllr McGrath (FF): Seconded. The way the valuation is considered by the valuation office has been discussed here over and over. We have to move to a system where businesses are paying based on their performance.
[f] VOTES OF CONGRATULATIONS
15. VOTES OF CONGRATULATIONS (if any)
Mayor – Congratulations on the All Ireland win
Cllr Hayes (SF) – Congratulations to Cork Airport on the transatlantic flights which are a game-changer for Cork
Cllr Carroll (FF) – Congratulations to Clonakilty GAA on maintaining senior status
Cllr O’Laoghaire – Congratulations to Togher Youth who won the Youth award at the Tidy Towns competition today.
Cllr Harris – Congratulations to Douglas Minor Hurling
16. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
The meeting was concluded.