These are my notes from the above meeting. Although they reflect the content of the meeting to the best of my ability, they are subject to whatever inaccuracies may be due to my typing, hearing and interpretation …
Meeting of Cork County Council
Council Chamber, 23/06/2014
1. Confirmation of Minutes of Annual General Meeting of the Council held on 6th June 2014
Minutes of AGM – Cllr N Collins (Ind) wants his name to be noted as dissenting to signing the minutes of the AGM. He said there was an irregularity in voting rights. There were 3 contenders and where there are 3, a minimum of 2 votes should be taken.
A FG representative agreed that it was incorrect and morally wrong that the father of the house should be treated in this way. Cllr Collins was defeated by just one vote. He also wishes to dissent.
Sean O’Callaghan advised the Chamber that Standing Order No. 50 dictated how the procedure would be taken. The grouping system did not apply because the selection was for membership of a committee, not for the election of mayor.
Mayor: Said that standing orders were followed. Cllr Desmond (FF) proposed and Cllr McGrath (FF) seconded.
2. Confirmation of Minutes of the Council Meeting held on 9th June, 2014
Confirmed and seconded.
3. Votes of Sympathy
Votes of Sympathy (if any) to (i) the relatives of members or employees of the Council (ii) dignitaries of Church or State (iii) members of the old IRA and Cumann na mBan
Cllr Pat Buckley’s father.
The Council observed a minute’s silence because today is the 29th anniversary of Air India tragedy.
4. Disposal of properties
Section 183 of the Local Government Act, 2001:
(a) Disposal of land at Scrahanard, Clondrohid, Macroom, Co. Cork
(b) Disposal of 47 Springfield Park, Cobh, Co. Cork
(c) Disposal of land at Knockanhill, Chapel Road, Kilworth, Co. Cork
5. Vocational Educational Amendment Act 2001
Ratification of the appointment of members of Cork County Council to the Education and Training Board
Mayor needed proposer and seconder for ratification of members proposed at the AGM.
6. Local Government Act 2001
Appointment of a Member from each Municipal District to the Association of Irish Local Government (voting rights at AILG annual meeting)
Eight party representatives to the AILG were called out. These were already agreed prior to the AGM.
Appointment of 3 of the above 8 Members as permanent delegates (5 years) to the Standing Policy Committee of the AILG
Three of these 8 were agreed to go forward to the Standing Policy Committee.
7. Western Committee
“That this Council would clarify whether or not the introduction of paid parking is a reserved function of each Municipal District.”
This was an issue that came up at the Western Committee. Pay parking has been very contentious around the county and members have a desire to address it through the Municipal District Committees (MDCs). Clarity was sought from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Cllr Carroll (FF): To not be able to decide whether there is pay parking or not in towns is making MDCs toothless and powerless. There is a very strong feeling against pay parking in all towns in West Cork. He is hoping the Council will leave this power with the MDCs.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): MDCs are being brought in on the basis of Putting People First. The concept was that they would respond to the local area needs. It has always been questionable how much power they will have but is true that decisions should be devolved as low as possible.
Cllr O’Flynn: The decision on pay parking is a reserve function for the new MDCs as far as he is concerned. There are two hours free parking in Mitchelstown and Charleville, but pay parking in Fermoy. He wants to see the situation in all towns equalized. We need to stand up for rural Ireland.
Cllr Murphy O’Mahony (FF): The decision on pay parking should be an MDC function. Local knowledge and local expertise is very important with regard to pay parking. To deny this is to belittle MDCs.
Cllr Forde (FG): We have had much argument about pay parking in Douglas. There needs to be a certain uniformity of decision-making throughout the MDs. This issue needs clarification so that we can move forward. Although there is pay parking in Douglas, there is no pay parking in Carrigaline.
Cllr Fitzgerald: There is pay parking in Mallow and it is very problematic. The pay parking situation has to be regularized. People see the MDCs as a municipal authority and will be very disappointed if we do not behave as such. Universal tickets for pay parking right through the county would be a good idea.
Cllr Murphy (FF): It is a reserve function to decide whether to introduce pay parking or not. When MDCs were set up, the aim was to bring democracy closer to the people, especially with Town Councils abolished. We were taken aback to hear that we might not have the power to introduce or otherwise pay parking. We would like clarity today. It is very important to respect the reserve function of the MD, where the local knowledge is paramount.
Cllr Mullane (SF): There is privatised pay parking in Mallow. The privatisation creates the difficulty. She would like to ask how many pay parkings in the county are privatised?
Cllr Creed (FG): Having read the response from the manager, it appears that the function to create or otherwise pay parking is there but that the function it can be over0ruled by the manager. He would like to ask the manager to comment on last paragraph of his report to members.
Cllr McGrath (FF): We need a report from the CEO in advance of the morning of the Council meeting. We have not had time to read through and study it. We had all thought that MDCs would have the power to deal with pay parking. It seems that there is now a clawing back of power from the MDCs. He doesn’t think the report clarifies the issue at all. What does “inconsistency” mean? We need corporate advice on this. When will the report from the transport SPC be complete? This was commissioned last December. Until that report is issued, can we go ahead and propose changes to pay parking within the MDs?
Cllr McCarthy (SF): She wants clarification on the last two paragraphs of the CEO’s report. It appears to read that if CEO doesn’t like a decision taken at the MD level, it will be overturned. Is this the way it will always be at a MD level?
Cllr Collins (FG): It is muddying the waters letting to let this issue go further. He thinks that the pay parking issue needs to be uniform across the board. Tickets for pay parking should be interchangeable where possible. If you go to Bantry for a weekend, the tickets you bought in Ballincollig should be able to be used in Bantry. There is a consequence to doing away with pay parking. Income, albeit small, will be taken from towns.
Cllr N Collins (Ind): Midleton Town Council was totally opposed to pay parking. As a former member of Midleton Town Council, he supports this proposal.
Cllr Canty (FG): Welcomes the motion but it has opened a big can of worms. MDs were going to work on this individually and collectively. Ballincollig has a traffic warden and allows 1 hour free on the main street, 3 hours in car park. Ballincollig fought hard for a traffic warden. There will be no meters or boxes around the town. Any money made from pay parking was to be put back into Ballincollig. The business association in Balincollig fought hard to keep this. It’s not broken, so don’t fix it. Other towns had pay parking rammed down their throats and they’re sorry now. He regrets what the CEO has had to say in his report.
Cllr McCarthy (SF): Thinks this is a farce. According to the CEO’s report, MDCs don’t have the powers they thought they would have. In Cobh, there is 1 hour free parking. If the MDC decides it wants 2 hours free, will that be overruled by the CEO? If this is the case, the whole idea of the MD is a joke. At only our second meeting of full Council, this is already being exposed.
Cllr Murphy (SF): Businesses in Fermoy town are the second lowest rate payers in the county. Business people in Fermoy are facing a huge challenge with a potential increase in rates to match that of the county rate. They will be doubly penalized with the potential continuation of pay parking now that Town Council has been abolished. If MDCs haven’t got the power to change things as they go along, it is totally unacceptable.
Cllr Murphy (FG): He is unhappy with the response from CEO. It is totally unclear and everything has a but after it. He thought the MDCs would be able to have a function in respect of pay parking.
Cllr O’Flynn (FF): This motion is timely with budgets being formed in October. There is plenty of free out of town parking in retail centres. Town centres have to compete with these people. At present, it is cheaper to drive from Fermoy to shop in Mahon than it is to shop in Fermoy.
Cllr Lucey (FG): If the MDCs can’t manage its own local area, there is no point in its existence. Money from parking in Macroom goes back into local amenities.
Cllr Desmond (FF): Businesses in Douglas are on their knees. Is there an update on where the report from the SPC currently is please?
O’Sullivan (FF): Appalled by what is circulated this morning. No point in going to MDC meetings at all. Pay parking has been damaging for Youghal. Beneficial to Midleton not to have pay parking.
Cllr C O’Sullivan (FF): We thought the MDC had reserve functions. This is a disgrace. He appealed to the CEO to give us this one. This is the first chance we have had to exercise reserve function.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): Are MDCs obliged to bring a resolution to the CPG? Looks like MDs can’t win whichever way they go.
Mayor: We all thought from legislation that MDs would have power but obviously statutory instruments are making a difference.
Cllr McCarthy (FG): Pay parking kills business. Midleton with no pay parking doing is ok. Youghal with pay parking is struggling. Concurs that pay parking in town centres gives business to the large multinationals like Tesco. Do we want to see our town centres completely dead? This type of decision has to be kept at district level. When businesses close, the County Council will lose rates. The County Council must think logically.
CEO: Emotive language has been used in this discussion. He would like to think that members would respect the fact that his report is based on Regulations. His job is to advise the members how to operate under the legislation. He welcomes the opportunity of getting to the nuts and bolts of how the MDs and Cork County Council will perform their functions in future. There is inconsistency across the county on how pay parking is implemented. There are differing views across the chamber. The Regulations are very clear. The power to introduce bye-laws and making of charges and how to dispose of those charges is a MD function. The Regulations brought in on 29th June reflect the fact that in one local authority area, there may be more than one MD. If the decisions made by the MDs differ from County Council policy, the MD can discuss what they have decided with the CPG. The MD shall not exercise what its members have decided whilst the CPG is making its decision. The issue of pay parking will be brought to the Transport SPC. A policy within which MDs should operate their function on pay parking is needed. There should not be any change in pay parking arrangements until that policy is drawn up. After that, the MDs can take their own decision on pay parking. There is a need for us to grapple with this issue. Any decision taken at MD level which might impact on the income brought to the CCC must be had regard to. Regulations also say this. His obligation as CEO is to bring that to members’ attention. He thinks his report sets it out very clearly. If there is any lack of clarity, it is that there is no consistent policy.
Cllr Murphy (FF): The CEO’s response has brought some clarity but it is not satisfactory. The thinks a one size fits all approach will not suit what is a very diverse community. Whatever policy the SPC comes up with, let it take cognisance of the huge diversity of towns through the county and not force pay parking on a town that does not have it at the moment.
Cllr Hayes (SF): Our issue is with the Minister, not with the CEO. The Department appears to be making things up as it goes along. This is a test for the MD set up. If we don’t get this one, it is a talking shop essentially. It seems that the Minister was in such a hurry to get rid of Town Councils, the MDs were an afterthought.
Cllr Sheppard (FG): Cobh is the only area in its MD bringing in funding through pay parking. So will all money brought in Cobh stay in Cobh or will it go to all of the MD?
Cllr Mullane (SF): Query on privatised pay parking.
Cllr McGrath (FF): He fundamentally disagrees with what is being said here today by CEO. Members need the SPC policy within one month. Businesses cannot wait any longer.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): Points out apparent inconsistencies between front and back page on having to consult the CPG.
CEO: He has to have regard to the overall budgetary position of the whole Council organisation. Members have to consider what this really means at town level.
As regards the private pay parking in Mallow, any change to the pay parking regime in any town would be a matter for the CEO because he will be charged with operating the pay parking system in the town.
The policy on pay parking has sat at an SPC level since December. The SPC met only once since then. He is hoping that SPCs will be up and running by September. The executive will put whatever resources are necessary to get the policy developed quickly. It is really down to the SPC to decide the pace at which it wants to move.
Notices of Motion
8. Cllr Bob Ryan
“That Cork County Council prepares a Draft Architectural Conservation Area for Blarney with a view to a Variation of the County Development Plan in accordance with Development Plan Objective ENV 4-8.
ACA designation would serve to protect the unique architectural, industrial and cultural heritage of Blarney and support its role as a tourist attraction of both national and regional significance.”
Cllr Ryan: He introduced the concept of this motion locally and it has received much support from the people of Blarney. He spoke of the development of Blarney since the 1700s. No other town or village has all these historical features intact and in such close proximity to each other. Blarney is of immense value to tourism. It is important to protect the character and townscape for future generations. It is an extreme oversight that Blarney has not been designated an ACA.
Cllr Conway (Ind): Supports the motion. Blarney Community Council put a submission in the County Development Plan to this same effect. The CEO has recommended in his reflections on these comments that an amendment of the County Development Plan be made to that effect. He is representing Blarney Community Council himself. He had been going to speak of this through the County Development Plan drafting process.
CEO: It is his intention to propose the Blarney ACA. There are strong submissions supporting this. It needs to be dealt with through the County Development Plan process. We are near enough to completing a new plan; it should be done and dusted by end of this year.
Cllr. Ryan: Agree with the CEO’s process. He is happy that he has put it on record that there were other Cllrs prior to this who were asked to put the case for a Blarney ACA to the Chamber and who did not.
9. Cllr Seamus McGrath
“To request written clarification from the Chief Executive on the opportunity open to members of Council to express an opinion on the current application before An Bord Pleanala by the Port of Cork for an expansion of activities in Ringaskiddy. Also to request a report on the opinion of Management on this application.”
Cllr McGrath (FF): There is a perception that there is an unlevel playing field with regard to planning process. The Port of Cork had ongoing pre-planning consultations with An Bord Pleanala which the community is not afforded an opportunity to do. He presumes the Port has also contacted the CEO in advance of submitting its planning application. The community cannot do that either. He is asking that he might afford the community the opportunity to either meet with him or to put forward their own views prior to his issuing his report.
CEO: The Strategic Infrastructure Process doesn’t afford an opportunity for the CEO to engage more widely. (Basically answered as he answered to me last Friday.)
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): Agreed that there is major concern about this application amongst local communities.
Cllr McGrath (FF): Acknowledges that the process does not allow for the CEO to meet with communities, but it doesn’t preclude him from meeting them either.
10. Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG)
“That the Council ask the appropriate SPC to draw up a proposal to grant aid committees in Towns and Villages in their efforts to provide Christmas lighting. Cork County Council rate payers as well as the broader community would benefit from such a scheme. As a county we should do everything to support business in local communities and encourage people to shop locally. The scheme should be open and transparent taking into account the size of the town and local commitment.”
Cllr Murphy (FG): Towns with Town Councils have generally had help from Town Councils to have Christmas lights. Maybe pay parking did pay for things like Christmas lights. These towns also had a different level of rates from those who did not have Town Councils. It is time to level the playing pitch for all our rate payers within the county. Our small businesses have to pay for Christmas lights every year to try to make people stay local in their shopping. A good Christmas can make or break businesses in a town. It is better to help out like this than by through the big issues like reducing rates across the board. The CEO has made it clear year after year that reducing rates by even 1% merely rewards the Tescos of the world, not the smaller players. Maybe through little issues like this we might better be able to help local communities.
Cllr Murphy (FF): Supports the motion. It is not just in the area of Christmas lighting we could help smaller businesses. There are other supports that might be there for towns and villages from Town Councils. He wants to know where we stand with issuing grant aids at MD level. Various functions within our towns and villages were grant aided by Town Councils heretofore. Traders are finding things very difficult. It is important that we give every effort to them to ensure that the end of the year will come good for them. He thinks we should write to the Minister to have different bands of rates for different types of businesses. This needs to get to an SPC for policy as soon as possible.
Cllr Murphy (FG): This motion is timely and worthwhile. We must look at it as soon as possible. The relevant SPC won’t be set up before September. In the meantime, the Council Executive can give guidance on what schemes were available from Town Councils. Whatever level of funding was there in the past from Town Councils should be followed through.
Cllr Hegarty (FG): This is a very creative motion. Having come from a Town Council in Bantry, she can attest that Town Councils, who had very small budgets, were also creative. Christmas lighting is a big attraction for a town. There has always been a wonderful display in Bantry. It brought shoppers into the town on 8th December. She hopes other things done at Town Council level like twinning will be brought up in advance of the budget in an equally creative way.
Cllr McCarthy (SF): She also came from a Town Council in Bandon which as a former Town Commission did not have the budget to erect Christmas lights. The CPG might decide whether and which it SPC to send this to for policy development.
11. Cllr Noel Collins
“That this Council, due to the chronic shortage of social housing, request the Department of the Environment & Local Government to make additional funding available for the provision of sheltered housing to non-profit Housing Associations for the elderly and others.”
Cllr Collins (Ind): The shortage of housing is a major problem. He has many such cases at weekly advice clinic. Non-profit housing associations manage 4,000 houses throughout the county. Sheltered housing is a source of security for the elderly with safety securities in place. Homelessness has a variety of causes. The disposessed become wholly reliant on the state. The State cannot cope. Some 90,000 households are on the social housing list. The gap between supply and demand continues to widen. The number of social houses being built each year is going down. Tenants must top up the state contribution on rent allowance. For many, renting has become less and less affordable. Sheltered housing answers so many of the value for money questions.
Cllr Murphy (FG): Supports the motion. Members have spoken about this motion several times before. Those voluntary associations have got substantial funding and our tenants benefit from the units they offer. Since the demise of funding for housing associations, it left a huge void in the area and a huge number of people without housing. There are fewer and fewer houses available, not just merely unaffordable.
Cllr McCarthy (FF): Welcomes and supports the motion. She would like to put forward an addendum to motion by adding: “this Council further expresses its concern at the provisions of the Housing bill 2014 …”
Cllr Barry (FG): There is a hunger among the elderly for this kind of housing. We have removed the elderly from the areas they are familiar and comfortable with. He wants to be able to keep people living in their own communities.
Cllr Forde (FG): She thinks this issue very complex. There is a think-tank at national level which is trying to come up with formulae to ease the current situation. It comes down to the banking sector of course and she understands from reports that they are starting to issue loans again. As a Council we should have specific debate which could inform CDP, downsizing, restrictions on building housing for senior citizens, etc. We have a large Council and could perhaps feed our debate into the national think tank.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): Spoke in Irish. Commends Cllr Collins for very his timely motion. He thinks this is very important because the Housing Bill is not a solution. The Housing Bill potentially pushes the category of person with housing needs into the private rented sector. The thinks the vast majority of people prefer the security of the local authority system. While we are appealing for funding for non-profit organisations, we should also ask for funds to make houses available for local authorities.
Cllr Buckley (SF): In the last few weeks alone, he has experienced six issues of eviction. One individual is homeless now. He is in danger of losing his social welfare support because he has no address. The reality is that people are going homeless every single day. Society does not serve these people. We need to go back to the CDP and work at this in a bigger way.
Cllr N Collins (Ind): He had 46 people into his advice clinic last Saturday, five of whom were in dire need of housing. He got them caravans because he could get them nothing else. People are not even able to buy a kettle because they have absolutely nothing. With the high cost of nursing home care, sheltered housing would be a much better solution.
Cllr Barry (FG): There are 6,253 on the County Council housing list. Once the HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) is introduced, this figure will be appear to be lower. But it won’t be. People cannot afford rent. People will be removed from the housing list if the HAP comes through.
Cllr T Collins (Ind): NAMA owns houses which are standing empty in estates often in bad condition and deteriorating. Cork County Council can’t purchase them from NAMA but it could lease them. He knows of one lady in Banteer who cannot afford central heating of any kind but her chimney is so bad she cannot set a fire.
Cllr O’Keeffe (FF): Has Cork County Council been made offers of property in the County from NAMA?
CEO: Thinks Cork County Council has not been approached by NAMA. He suggests Cork County Council could approach NAMA rather than waiting for NAMA to contact.
Cllr Murphy (FG): Need clarification on this. There have been about 350 houses offered to the County Council over the last year but he is not sure if these were from NAMA.
Mayor Colman (FF): Recalled that at the last divisional meeting, Angela Murphy said she was waiting for confirmation from NAMA. Maybe things have moved on from then. Clarification will be sought.
12. Cllr John Paul O’Shea
“That Cork County Council seeks immediate clarification from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar TD, in relation to receiving no response to date on the application this authority made on the Department’s request for flood damage and repair to roads throughout the County post the 6th January 2014.”
Cllr Collins: It is incredible how slowly this has advanced. We need to know what funds are available to fix the extent of the damage.
Cllr T Collins (Ind): Is there emergency funding available? The traditional patching of roads alone is costing a lot of money. It is pointless. Proper resurfacing is required. Often roads are being damaged because the drains are not open. Please Mayor, might the Minister be asked to provide funding to take care of these repairs.
Cllr McCarthy (SF): The most disappointing aspect of this is that the Council has not even had a response from the Minister. She compliments the staff in the work they have done on the ground. But members need an answer from the Minister, whether it is a yes or a no.
Cllr Carroll (FF): Supports the motion and would like to take it further. The state of roads in West Cork was the main topic at every door in the run up to the election. Many of the roads are gone beyond patching. The money that Cork County Council has will go nowhere near what is required. The County Council needs to approach the Minister and ask him to suspend an NRA project up the country and put the money from that NRA project into roads in West Cork. Residents of West Cork pay the same road tax as residents of Dublin but they see the standards of their roads as being very different.
Cllr O’Donnabhain (FF): Suggests that the Council would look for money now for clearing drains, etc. that will be necessary in the winter. If the Council takes this approach, then the Department wouldn’t have to battle with every local authority application for emergency funding at the same time.
Cllr Linehan-Foley (Ind): Would like to take this opportunity to get a report on the board walk amenity in Youghal that was lost during the storms.
Cllr Forde: This Minister hasn’t been found wanting with regard to funding. The money is coming but the needs are not being met. People who suffered from the flooding in Douglas have not received money. Did Cork County Council draw down money which might have come from insurance? With regard to repairing roads, the velocity patcher cannot be used on certain road surfaces. She wants clarification on that. Is the money coming from the Minister being spent in areas where it should not be spent? But obviously we should get more if the Minister is giving it.
CEO: He confirms that the Youghal boardwalk has €1.9million of initial funding.
Mayor Coleman: Believes all members are agreed that we will pursue the Minister on this.
CEO: The County Council has insurance only for County Council properties. Any remediation arising from flooding comes from grants.
Cllr O’Shea (Ind): We’ve been asked to submit our application in early March. If there was some indication from the Department that money would come from government, they would wait. But now there is a concern that money will not come. The engineering staff has already spent money they haven’t got to repair what they can. Please put this on the agenda for the next Council meeting so that we can follow it through.
Cllr O’Flynn (FF): Suggested that we might send a deputation to meet the Minister.
CEO: The Executive has been pushing the Department hard for funding of €4.2 million. The Department hasn’t made any decision on this yet. The County Council is out to tender for 3 Velocity patchers which should improve the quality and permanency of patching work.
13. Cllr Michael Collins
“That Cork County Council calls on the Minister for the Environment to retain the Leader partnership structure as they currently exist as they have proven to be the most effective way to deliver programmes abased on local issues and needs. Anything other than the existing way the programmes have been delivered will have a detrimental effect on community led local development. It will also negatively impact on the organizations and staff who have many years experience in delivering a range of valuable supports that address the needs of citizens, communities and enterprises and increases social inclusion.”
Cllr Collins (Ind): The decision made by the Minister goes against advice from everyone. Even Europe. It goes against empowering communities. In Finland, they are not allowed have even a community council. People say we are going down the Finnish route. He would also like a guarantee from the Minister that all rural development companies will be allowed to tender directly for the LEADER contract. Rural Ireland has been forgotten.
Cllr Murphy (FF): Supports the motion. This issue has been brought up before. The Minister’s is a very negative approach. When responsibility for the LEADER funds is called to tender, it could end up in the hands of private companies chasing a financial model. The way it is designed is not favouring Cork County at all. It is pitting rural development companies against each other. There is a general feeling that privatisation might be coming down the road. There is also a feeling that the questions asked by the Minster were designed to get the answer he wanted to get to a tendering process. There are 5 rural development companies in Cork who will have to tender for the whole County. These companies just want to deliver services on the ground. Ill thought out proposal on the part of the Minister. It is a bit like MDs – very poor planning and inadequate engagement with the companies. He asks the Minister to row back and think this through again.
Cllr O’Flynn (FF): Fully supports the motion. The County Council have had a motion like this before. It also got the support of all the members. The Minister has never replied to any motion passed in the last Council, that one included. The LEADER programme has been a massive success. The winners have been the local communities. Why change something that is working well? Would you change the management team of your football club if you are winning All Irelands? The Minister is not listening. There is a public rally in Dublin on 9th July. He encourages all members to go and stand by the people who elected you.
Cllr O’Shea (Ind): There is a huge lack of clarity in terms of the future of these companies. The coo-operation between LEADER companies and the County Council over the years has been welcome.
Cllr Hayes (SF): LEADER is a fantastic set up in this country. He read statistics for what LEADER has achieved. We also need clarification from the EU on alignment.
Cllr Barry (FG): The delivery of the LEADER programme has been hugely beneficial. He is concerned that the alignment policy is a done deal at this stage. He asks Cork County Council to work very closely with the development companies. The experience, knowledge, etc. that has built up in these development companies may be lost.
Cllr Conway (Ind): Blarney had stagnated until LEADER. The people in the rural development companies are really on the ground and incredibly efficient at what they do.
Cllr Moynihan (FF): He was at the opening of an astroturf near Millstreet over the weekend. The community gave incredibly positive feedback on the LEADER fund and its implementation. This type of work is being represented in 33 communities in his area. It is keeping the community alive and vibrant. Even the EU Court of Auditors supports how Ireland has implemented LEADER. Our model is being replicated all over Europe as a success story. Staff of the rural development companies are very committed. They work long hours and are available at all hours of the day and night. We must send the strongest possible message to the Minister. The format of the LEADER set-up is also building leadership in communities.
Cllr G Murphy: We have superb rural development companies which have an ethos different from that in state agencies. There will be less funding available from the LEADER programme in the next round. He thinks we can do what we need to do by co-operation. He is sure the tendering process will not pose a challenge for the rural development companies.
Cllr O’Donnabhain (FF): He is a board member of SECAD. SECAD has an incredible track record in terms of delivery. LEADER groups tackle issues that are not otherwise tackled. The Irish model is EU best practice. The Minister’s approach is is coming from the top down – this is the wrong approach. The track record of the rural development companies is to work from the bottom up. Minister Hogan does not deserve to got to Europe.
Cllr Forde (FG): She doesn’t think this is an either-or situation. Cork County Council is also a development agency. She thinks we need to work closely together. She is concerned that people are saying the Council might not have the expertise to deliver in the way the rural development companies can. She also notes that she would like the CEO to take on board a gender balance when setting up LCDCs.
Cllr Melissa (SF): Says that she is confused. The LCDCs are to replace what LEADER funding was doing? But there are pilot schemes underway and these have copperfastened that this new alignment proposal is going ahead. Cork County Council should not be setting up these committees.
Cllr D’Alton (Ind): Supports the motion and all the sentiment expressed in the Chamber but is also concerned that the feeling that it is a done deal may be accurate. The rural development company in her area is SECAD and she has experienced their expertise and knowledge at first hand. It would be tragic to lose this resource. One of the concerns is that the LEADER fund is one of the largest funds run by the rural development companies. As such, it allows them the opportunity to employ accountants and all the other professionals necessary to run a myriad of other smaller funds coming from Europe that, on their own, could not fund this necessary support system. Many of these other smaller funds are not available to local authorities. So if the rural development companies lose out, ultimately Cork County Council will lose out. The Minister commissioned an Alignment Steering Group to prepare a report. On reading that report, it does not seem to her that its intent was that rural development companies and local authorities would be competing against each other. The report speaks of building “greater trust and collaboration between the local government and the local development sectors so that the best of both systems can be aligned to secure more effective delivery of services and supports to local people”. This is not divisive language. So if there is no opportunity for us to change policy at this stage, could we at least ask for a commitment from the Executive that they will do all within their power to work with local development companies and assist them to tender successfully for the LEADER contract.
Mayor Coleman (FF): Cork County Council is being seen as giving a severe blow to rural development companies. It is not. There has been co-operation on the ground between local authorities and LAGs. The real weakness of the new system is that the local development company will have no security of staff and tenure. It is good to have this debate. The Department has to change the structures that it is putting in place for tendering.
CEO: He does not want to pit local authorities against rural development companies. This is not intended. There has always been great co-operation between them on the ground. The principles of LEADER will be well protected. This isn’t really about the benefits of the LEADER programmes. It is also about recognising that local authorities play a significant role in community development at a local level. The companies delivering rural developent programmes are now likely to experience the cuts and austerity measures that local authorities have experienced. This move challenges whether or not there is duplication in the system. There will probably be less funding all around through the next rural development programme. This new alignment policy hasn’t been driven by local government at all but the message is out there that if the current LEADER companies don’t continue in their current form, there will be a loss to communities. He doesn’t believe that at all. He believes that local authorities and the rural development companies can work together. The partnership has worked well in the North Cork pilot. We still don’t know what the final structures will be. They will be set out in legislation. He thinks Council must continue to establish LCDCs, otherwise the funding from Europe won’t come to the Council.
Cllr M Collins (Ind): He welcomes the support for his motion from the Chamber and agrees that we should take a deputation to the Minister. Maybe we will be meeting with a new minister by then?
Cllr Mullane (SF): She still believes we should not be setting up LCDCs. To set up the LCDCs is to agree to the alignment we are all giving out about.
Cllr Murphy (FF): The tender is already available on e-tenders. The five local development companies have to tender for the whole county. Only one can get it. Just as in the rural transport programme.
CEO: The rural transport programme was different. He thinks that the final tender may be for running the LEADER programme in just part of the county. But we still do not have finality on what the structures will be.
The motion was accepted by the Council.
9. Votes of Congratulations
10. Any other business
Swipecards – new ones do not give the same level of access as the older ones.
Cllr Forde – I could not hear her.