Notes from the full meeting of Cork County Council, 14th October 2014

With Deputy Chief Executive (DCE): Declan Daly

[a]                  CONFIRMATION OF MINUTES
1.  Minutes of Meeting of the Council held on 22nd September, 2014.

Cllr D’Alton (Ind) proposed the following amendments:

1.  In financial business (the discussion on LPT), the following points made by Members were not recorded:

  • public consultation not sufficient
  • money collected from LPT last year went to Irish Water – needs to come back
  • crazy that have to make any variation in property tax without knowing what the government is going to deliver to help run the County Council in 2015

2.  In Cllr Collins’ motion on the need for social workers in Housing:
CE agreed to speak to the Department about this.  Commitment not recorded.

3.  Cllr D’Alton’s motion in relation to traffic calming in estates:-
Agreed that it would go to SPC but both I and Cllr Forde asked that it would be dealt with quickly by the SPC.

Cllr Lombard also had an amendment.

[b]                  VOTES OF SYMPATHY

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

Cllr Flynn expressed a vote of sympathy.

[c]                  STATUTORY BUSINESS

3.              Disposal of Property
Section 183 of the Local Government Act, 2001:

  1. Disposal of freehold interest in property at 16 St. Mary’s Place, Carrigrohane to Gerald Weste.
  2. Disposal of land at 13 Mahon Terrace, Blackrock to Patrick O’Sullivan.
  3. Disposal of land at Ballybrowney, Rathcormac, Co. Cork to Patrick Pyne.
  4. Disposal of land at Ballynoe, Fermoy, Co. Cork.
  5. Disposal of Derelict Site, Main Street, Killavullen, Co. Cork.
  6. Disposal of Right-of-Way over former Mallow-Waterford Railway Line, Bridgetown, Castletownroche, Co. Cork
  7. Disposal of land at Fermoy, Co. Cork to Kathleen Hawe
  8. Disposal of land at Ballybrowney, Rathcormac, Co. Cork to Lisa Collin
  9. Disposal of former Courthouse Building, Bantry to the Port of Cork.

Discussion about the disposal of the right of way over the Mallow-Waterford Railway line with Cllr O’Keeffe (FF).   Executive clarified that the land holding is being sold.  This is only a right of way.  It will not impede the making of a cyclepath in the future.

4.  Election of a Member of Cork County Council to the Governing Body of the National University of Ireland, Cork.

There will be an advertisement in the press and then two nominations will come to the meeting.  Council will either approve or otherwise these nominations.

5.  Section 4(2) and Sections 32-35 of the Local Community Development Committee (Section 128E) Regulations 2014 (SI No. 234 of 2014):

Filling of casual vacancy on the North Cork Local Community Development Committee

A casual vacancy has arisen on the North Cork LCDC. In accordance with the provisions of Section 4(2) and Sections 32-35 of the Local Community Development Committee (Section 128E) Regulations 2014 (SI No. 234 of 2014), the approval of the members is sought to the appointment of Mr Michael Doyle as a replacement nominee for the environmental pillar to fill the casual vacancy on the North Cork LCDC. The previous nominee is hereby de-selected.

This is just a formality.  The Environmental Pillar is changing a nominee.  It was agreed.


6.  Corporate Policy Group:
Approval of attendance by Council Members at Conferences on the Conference List approved by the Corporate Policy Group at their meeting on 7th October, 2014.

Proposed and seconded.

[e]                  NOTICES OF MOTION

7.  Councillor Deirdre Forde:
“That the Manager outline the nature and extent of the city and county joint housing strategy. Specifically what pathways are available to county councillors who need to make representations on behalf of county constituents who are applicants in the city.”

Cllr Forde (FG):  Complements the Housing department for its recent reward.  However she has a big issue in relation to some constituents who are applicants for housing in the City Council area.  It is virtually impossible for her to get reply to representation.  She gave an example.  She recognises that City Councillors have their own workload but she did approach them at election time.  Also asked a question in the Housing SPC to see what were the pathways by which councillors might get a response from the City.  So she asks if the CE could please outline what level of co-operation there is between City and County with regard to the Joint Housing Strategy.  She also asks if the City Council would sit down with us so that we might work out together appropriate pathways by which we might help those who are disenfranchised in this regard.

Cllr G Murphy (FG):  Supports the motion.  This complication has arisen since Department says that people could be on a housing list for one jurisdiction only.  Has been told there is no such thing as transfers between the City and the County.  Seems to be a contradiction.

Cllr O’Grady (SF):  If you apply to either the City or County Council as a first off, you can change one of your areas of choice within either the City or County after a few months.  But if you change your area of choice from the City to the County or vice versa, you are back at the start of the process again.  Needs to be rectified.

DCE:  Gave Cllr Forde an email to contact the Housing section in the City Council:  This is the best email to make representations to.  She will get an automated response.  If any elected member has a specific query, they can ring the Community Housing Officer at 4924271.  Presumes this officer can also meet with Cllr Forde or anyone else.

Although City and County have a Joint Housing Strategy, this largely looks at assessment of needs and takes a more strategic approach.

Cllr Forde (FG):  Not happy.  Especially with an automated response.  This system the Acting CE has outlined has failed her to date.  When she makes a serious representation, she expects a serious response.

Cllr G Murphy (FG):  Suggests we refer the issue of co-operation to the to Housing SPC.  There is definitely a lack of linkage here.

The DCE will come back to Cllr O’Grady’s query after talking to some of the officials in Housing.

8.  Councillor Mary Rose Desmond:

“That Cork County Council outlines what plans are in place for infrastructural development in the Lehenaghamore, Lehenaghbeg area to take account of the ever increasing residential population.

That Cork County Council provides copies to members of any plans and drawings that may be have been drafted either now or in the past, including a breakdown of costs and timeline in undertaking the works involved.

To confirm if recent reports are correct that Cork County Council returned contributions received for these works to the developer Rudden Homes and if this is correct to outline;

1.      Under what circumstances was this money returned to the developer and why?
2.     How much was returned?
3.     What discussions if any took place between officials and members in advance of returning this money?
4.     Will officials agree to apply to the Depart of the Environment and Local Government for grant aid to enable this much needed works to commence?
5.     Will officials agree to meet with concerned residents of the area on future plans for development?”

Cllr Desmond (FF): Thanks the Acting CE for the report but it is not good enough to get a this report on the morning of the meeting.  She has asked this question while half-knowing the answer.  Thinks it is shocking that this money has been returned to the deveoper.  Surely something could have been done with it?  This is a lot of money to the residents in the Lehenaghmore/Lehenaghbeg area.  This is an area which has seen no investment whatsoever.  Is there further funding due to be returned to the developer?  Is there some dispute going on between the Council and the developer also?  More than 100 residents met last Thursday.  Agreement between them and councillors that this project needs to move ahead.  Major safety issue here.  We are going to read of a tragedy on that hill.  A car went into the wall of one resident’s house last Saturday morning when speeding down the hill.  Understands and appreciates the scepticism of the residents.  When planning was granted for many of these estates, the Area Planner of the time commented on the unsuitability of the road for the traffic that would arise from the developments.  That was 10 years ago in 2004.  Traffic is ever-increasing and so is speed.  Is particularly unhappy that council officials have not indicated that they are willing to meet with residents.

Cllr McGrath (FF):  Seconds and supports.  Has had similar motions in the past.  This area is the greatest example of a glaring deficit in infrastructure with significant development over the last 10 years.  Infrastructure does not match development.  Is a major safety issue.  Residents are rightly annoyed.  The need for the upgrade of the road was recognised when an initial design for that upgrade was done in 2006.  Initial design was far too ambitious.  Downscaled design with a more modest price tag is what we are now looking for.  We want the plan put in place to match the needs of the area.  Is an urban area with rural infrastructure.  People bought houses with a reasonable and fair expectation of infrastructure to match.  Issue of contributions is impossible to justify.  We are all aware that special conributions have a timeline.  Cannot understand how the money could not have been used in some way.   Need a very strong explanation of this.  This morning’s report is not adequate.  This scheme has to progress.  It is only a preliminary outline design.  It needs to go further along the road to detail design, then to Part 8 so that the scheme is ready to roll when funding can be secured.

Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF):  Supports what has been said.  Lives in the area so has been conscious of this issue for a long time.  Much anger in the locality because the sum of money that was returned is so large.  If it was 25% of what was required (as the report appears to outline), surely it could have got the ball rolling.  Traffic calming, etc. so badly needed.

Cllr O’Donnabhain (FF):  Could lead to fatalities.  Delighted to support colleagues.  Residents cannot use hill as people would under normal circumstances.

Cllr D’Alton (Ind):  Supports strongly what has been said.  The situation in Lehenaghmore reflects so badly on Cork County Council.  Firstly, permission was given to build hundreds of houses with what was known to be inadequate infrastructure.  There was a promise that infrastructure was developed and it never was.  Secondly, the handing back of the special contributions makes it appear that the County Council cannot budget, cannot manage money.  It doesn’t matter how small the amount, money is difficult to come by and it could have been put to good use.  And thirdly, the fact that residents living in Lehenaghmore cannot move without stepping into a car flies in the face of every sustainable transport plan that the Council claims to promote.  It is supporting people cycling and walking in an effort to get cars off roads but what it has allowed in Lehenaghmore is completely contrary to that.  When we give planning permission into the future that depends on upgrade of local infrastructure, we need to put a timeline in place by which that infrastructure will be delivered.  Should help with the first problem.  When the 7 year window of special contributions is coming to an end, all municipal districts to which those special contributions are relevant need to be informed.   That should help with the second.  And the third will be dealt with when the design of the road upgrade is advanced and the upgrade is put in place.  But this can never be let happen again.

Cllr Forde (FG):  There is an infrastructural deficit in Togher and Lehenaghmore and Lehenaghbeg.  Money was awash in 2004 and nothing was still done.  Now more dangerous than ever to live in those areas.  Would like the CE to be creative in sourcing funding to kick-start it.  Agree we need to go to full drawings.  At the meeting with residents during the week, was disappointed to hear certain councillors articulate the view that we need to get voices on radio.  Councillors need to wake up to the fact that we are the Council.  Has no problem with sitting down with the management to plan where we go from here.  In the meantime, the residents do not have proper infrastructure.  We need to sit down with the officials to drive this forward, regardless of political party.

DCE:  All aware of this problem.  No lack of sympathy for the residents.  No lack of desire to do the job.  We want to do the job.  The problem is the money.  The circulated report outlines the response to the motion.

Those who were involved in Clarke’s Hill, Carrigaline Western Relief Road and all those other schemes have advised us about this scheme.  They have advised us because of the particularly difficult terrain at the bottom of Forge Hill, you would not have been able to do even 25% of the length of the road involved with the money that was available.  18 landowners would have needed to have been CPO’ed.  The difference between this scheme and the others is that this project was on the list in 2004 when we were discussing schemes with the Department of Transport.  It didn’t attract funding at the time.  All the other schemes have been supported by the Department under a road development scheme.  This road development scheme does not exist any more so we can’t even apply to the Department for funding now.

The focus will have to lie with the less than €3million scheme now.

We were not happy to circulate drawings because we normally discuss CPO requirements with individual landowners beforehand.  Will happily meet with representatives of the residents and the relevant people within Cork County Council to see what can be done.  We can’t help with funding though.

The developer has done some work around the estate entrances.  There was another development by the same developer on the same road.  We will be asking An Bord Pleanala to advise on this.

Monitoring of special contributions – this is ongoing.  We have 300 special contributions that are live at the moment.  They are regularly reviewed by the Roads and Recreationa and Amenity and that work continues.

Can proceed with more detailed design.  Certain amount of work has been done.  There are still contributions available in places like Clarke’s Hill.  Would prefer to use contributions that are currently available for schemes that are underway rather than this scheme where there is no possibility of funding.  However, will talk to the Non-National Roads Design Office to advance the design.

Cllr Desmond (FF):  Welcomes that CE is willing to proceed to the detailed design stage.  Understands that wants to move to completion schemes that have started already.  But really wants to see this proceed.  Glad that he will meet with residents.  Will liase with him to arrange this.  Appreciates economic circumstances have changed.

Cllr McGrath (FF):  Will he also go through to Part 8?  Is it possible to make an approach to the department on one-off schemes with such a glaring infrastructural deficit?

Cllr Collins (FG):  The culvert adjacent to the bottom of the hill is being replaced by Southern Fruit.  Could these projects possibly be co-ordinated?

DCE:  Will try to bring it to Part 8.  Bridget rehabilitation is the only thing that one can approach the Department on at present.  Culvert replacement is the part of the OPW works.  Unlikely that we can co-ordinate.

9.  Councillor Des O’Grady:

“That Cork County Council set thresholds for Local Authority rent payments to landlords under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), Social Housing Support Scheme,  at the current value of private rents across County Cork.

17.  Councillor Noel Collins:

“That this Council call on the Government to have the rent supplement levels increased to match the current letting price for properties around the country and make it part of the pre-budget submissions.”

(Motions taken together.)

Cllr O’Grady (SF): 6 other local authorities are involved in HAP pilot schemes at present.  CCC is doing this since Sept 15th.  Thanks Housing Dept for arranging to give us a briefing on this.  This is the most profound change to social housing policy in this generation.  Those on rent supplement for over 18 months will be transferred to this rent scheme.  Tenants will then be regarded as being adequately housed and will be removed from the housing list.

Many tenants top up the rent contribution given by local authorities because the rent contribution is too small.  The limits under HAP are €750 a month for a couple in a 3 bedroom house, €700 for a 2 bedroom house.  These limits are what the County Council is proposing.

In Ballincollig,  €950 is the average price for 3-bed house.  Gave other examples.

Many families selected for housing under this scheme will have to look for rental housing outside of their chosen area.  Their only other alternatives are to move into cramped conditions with other families or become homeless.

Topping up rent will not be allowed under HAP.  If a landlord does not want to become involved with the HAP scheme, families will be forced out of the private rented accommodation they are in at present and will need to look for a HAP approved house.  It will uproot families and may even make some homeless.

Only one permanent answer to social housing crisis.  Certainly we need housing bodies to take up slack.  Also need to put people into private rented accommodation.  But mostly need to build new social housing.  Spoke of Sinn Fein’s proposals and what they could do.

Cllr G Murphy (FG):  Acknowledges there is a problem with HAP.  It should be attractive in that landlords who have to pay back mortgages to the bank would appreciate the isecurity of having rent paid on a regular basis.  But if the HAP system is not paying close to the market value of rent, it is no reassurance at all.  On a longer term basis, this and every other local authority should be the prime motivator in providing social housing.  A budget for social housing is being provided this year from the national resources.  Any way that money can be sourced to create social housing should be grasped.  Agrees with the motion.  Obvious problem that is going to arise.  We are in a transition period.  HAP is an effort to tide this over until we get back into a social house building programme but it needs tweaking.

Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF):  Not sure that the severity of the situation is realised.  HAP is going to exacerbate it.  Sense at a national level that social housing is a thing of the past and we are not reaping the negative aspects of that.  With rent allowance, very unrealistic caps are placed by HAP.  Quoted some of the Cork Simon recent homeless figures.  Deeply worrying statistics.  For those who don’t end up in that situation, while still sad and regrettable, a significant number of people have been forced to move away from the area they love and have grown up in simply to find housing that they could afford.  This is a very sad reflection on the housing situation.  The ultimate answer is increasing the social housing stock we have.  But in the meantime the HAP scheme is totally unsuitable.  The caps bear no relation to reality.

Cllr K McCarthy (SF):  Is this not RAS with a new facelift?  …

(I left the Council Chamber here for a few minutes.)

Community Welfare Oficer can refuse someone rent allowance if someone cannot get a house under the HAP scheme.  This is a dire situation to be in.  Completely opposes HAP.

Cllr K Murphy (FG):  Cllr Collin’s motion was in long before this one but this one is still being dealt with first.  The HAP scheme being dealt with here has hardly started and everyone is saying it is a failure.  Give it a chance.  €750 per family as a rent cap is very low.  But rent supplement was never there to cover the whole cost of rent.  Even in the bad times.  Will have to have a rent supplement review very quickly.  In general terms, it would be timely to look at this in the Housing SPC to lobby to get rent supplement increased.

Cllr McGrath (FF):  Fully supports call for rent supplement levels to be increased.  There is a crisis in the rent market at present.  Market very buoyant.  Landlords have become selective about prospective tenants.  Impossible for people to get a house at the moment.  A 3-bed house in Carrigaline is €950 – €1000 per month.  Rent supplement is €750/month.  Threshold report said that people are giving top-ups.  People forced to suport underhand activity.  System needs to be urgently changed.  Can’t see HAP going anywhere as long as the rental limits are the same.

Cllr J Murphy (SF):  One of the major problems with this is that there is huge disconnect between Council and social protection.  We had a briefing in Mallow on housing.  Was shocked by responses given to some of the questions about HAP.  Just the standard response in relation to social protection guidelines.  Deposits are rarely given back by landlords.  Many landlords want 6 months deposit up front.  Most people know rent allowance does not comver the full amount.  When you have a landlord and you are trying to get the landlord to buy into the HAP system and you don’t have a deposit, what chance do you have?  We all look at homelessness more in the cities but it is definitely hitting the rural areas more and more.  Anxious about the impact this HAP scheme is going to have.  Supports Cllr Collins’s motion as well – the two motions go hand in hand.  There is a new homeless person out there and that is the working poor.  These are people who are working and who get no rent allowance.  They are being evicted from their rented home because the landlord is upping the rent or whatever.  Cannot get another.  Has seen it – people sleeping in cars in suits.  Young families and properties simply aren’t there to rent.  People with very young children.  Families with no place to turn.  HAP scheme is a nightmare.  Rent allowance needs to be looked at as well.

Cllr Conway (Ind):  Supports the motion.  Aware in rural areas of single males who are having trouble getting accommodation.  There is a homeless hostel in Blarney.  Massive throughput at the moment.  Ok for Cllr K Murphy to say lets see how it goes, but HAP says you will be taken off the social housing list if you are going to qualify for HAP.  Also supports Cllr Collin’s motion.

Cllr McCarthy (FG):  Welcomes and supports both motions.  Problem here is that the threshold is too low.  We can’t discount HAP yet because it is new.  Have been similar schemes which have been running for many years and they do serve a purpose.  Was also at Simon Community presentation.  They had different solutions/proposals for what they wanted.  Short term beds as a first step.  They also spoke about needing to raise the rent supplement thresholds.  But we do need medium term solutions.  If we abolish HAP outright, are we going to put those people into residential homes?  We do need medium term solutions like these.

Cllr Buckley (SF):  Working on the ground, we see every week that homelessness is on the rise.  Fearful of the HAP scheme.  Threshold very low.  Will be forcing young families into very substandard run-down accommodation.  We have no guarantee that these buildings are going to be approved to reasonable living standards.

Cllr Murphy (FF):  Supports the motion.  Rent in towns is slowly going up.  Huge deficit of rental accommodation specially for single people.  Think we should scale or grade assistance given.

Cllr McCarthy (Lab):  Came across a lady who was told that she didn’t qualify for rent supplement but she could go onto the HAP scheme.  Then when she enquired, she was told the CC weren’t ready to register her under HAP yet.  It is not ok to to be waiting for HAP and not be able to get rent supplement.  And in HAP, you are told your rent must be up to date but how can it be if you can’t get rent supplement while you are waiting?

DCE:  Housing SPC is on tomorrow.  Suggests that all who can attend do attend.

The HAP limits are set by the Minister.  Those limits are currently under review.  CCC was asked to make a submission.  The outcome of that is awaited.  CCC has said in its submission that rent caps are too low for Cork.

Also awaiting a “frequently asked questions” type of document from the Department in relation to HAPs.  Will circulate this to Members when it comes.

Cllr O’Grady (SF):  Limerick pilot scheme – looked for 500 landlords to partake in the HAP scheme and they got 63.  If we get a similar response in Cork, we are in big trouble.  If your landlord won’t take part, you are then out on your ear.

We also need to take housing from NAMA, which we haven’t done in this Council.
We also need to take assistance from approved housing bodies.
We also need huge investment in building social housing.

Cllr N Collins (Ind):  Thanks Council for the support and hopes it will be brought to fruition at an early date to eliminate pain and distress of many people.

10.  Councillor Daithí Ó Donnabháin:

“That this Council would be furnished with a report detailing the following:

1. The total annual commercial rate collected by Cork County Council for the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and year to date 2014
2. A breakdown of the percentage of paying and non-paying rateable premises
3. Details on the total arrears of commercial rates for the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and year to date 2014.”

Cllr O’Donnabhain (FF):  Thanks CCC for the report which was distributed at the start of the meeting.  Concern is that 9,200 rated premises are providing this funding in 2013.  Wants to understand where we are at with regard to commercial rates.  What we are doing in terms of addressing this issue?

Is concerned that while there is some small increase in rates being brought in, this must be offset against arrears which is increasing year on year.  Where is the Council going vis a vis rates?

Also how are we being more dynamic in rates collection?  The more businesses that are operating, the more rates are brought in to the Council.  We will have to be more dynmaic and creative in terms of rates collection.

Businesses are and have been struggling for the last number of years and we have to be creative in how we respond to this.

Cllr McGrath (FF):  Arrears figure very interesting.  What is recoverable and not recoverable?  Not detailed here.  Seconds motion.  When you look at the robust debate we had in reducing LPT by €4m and we see here what the rates arrears are, it put things in perspective.

DCE:  Rates are a fundamental part of CCC’s income.  Despite reduction in resources in County Council, the rate income has largely held up.  In relation to 2013, in a lead table of collection of rates of 34 local authorities, we are at no. 6.  So very good job being done in Rates Department.  They will continue that.  CCC supports the Economic Development Fund.  Is very aware that businesses have been struggling.  Even though the last 3.5 years have been tough, County Council levels of rates collection have held up.

Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF):  Are the arrears figures for each year or are they cumulative?

Cllr O’Grady (SF):  Any outside agencies involved in collecting rates?

Cllr Rasmussen (Lab):  What would the 2014 collection be without the Town Councils?

DCE:  Outside agencies not involved in rates collection.  Yes, the CCC uses outside agencies in collecting fire and waste charges that were outstanding.  But not for rates.  About 80% of the total rates due are collected.  Will ask Sean to clarify the limit on arrears.

SOC. If the same occupier-owner on the property, arrears can be carried forward indefinitely.  Unless proceedings are taken against the owner-occupier.

Cllr O’Donnabhain (FF):  What is recoverable and not must be taken very carefully into account.  But percentages of arrears appear to be increasing year on year, while the percentage collected appears to be decreasing.  Is a health warning.

11.  Councillor Kevin O’Keeffe:

“That this Council call on Mr. Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to take more proactive measures to help the farmers involved in the cattle/beef producers sector. This agricultural sector has seen a significant drop in their farm incomes.”
[Deferred from Council Meeting on 22/9/14]

Cllr O’Keeffe (FF): The beef sector has turnover of €2b to economy.  Ireland is the largest exporter of beef in the world.  Beef farming is a low margin business at the farm gate.  Has become more regulated over time.  But in past 12 months, farmers have seen prices slashed.  The blame game has been focused at meat processors and there has been a lack of enthusiasm shown by Minister Simon Coveney with having the issue resolved.

The Minister has taken a back seat with his role in securing markets for our beef.  He has told farmers to expand their businesses, but this is no good if he does not source markets to which farmers can sell.  He delivers lots of soundbites but there is no meat or substance to these bites.  Farmers’ incomes in the beef sector have been severely hit.  In the long term the Minister must get more proactive and help farmers on the ground.

Cllr R McCarthy (SF):  Supports.  Stood with protest outside meat factor in Bandon.  ISA threatening to withdraw from quality insurance scheme.  This would be appalling.  Remember the scandal of the horse burgers.  No company or person has been held to account.

Cllr M Collins (Ind):  Very difficult time for farmers.  Major cuts in their payments and in the price of cattle.  The Minister has a duty to work for solutions.  Recent meeting in Dunmanway where Departmental officials were not able to answer questions put by those in the audience.  Supports motion.

Cllr K Murphy (FG):  It is unfair and silly that the motion blames the Minister for Agriculture.  The price of weanlings is mad at the moment.  The fight is with the beef factories, not with the Minister.  We protest about everything now.  To say that we might leave the quality assurance scheme is mad.  Nobody prosecuted over the Beef Tribunal and €40 million was spent on it.  Have your fight with the factories.

Cllr A Moynihan (FF):  Beef farmers are struggling.  Fierce pressure on.  Needs to be clear leadership shown on how they are going to get out of the predicament they are in now.  Weanlings going well; bullocks very low price.  But weanlings need to have labour put into them only to sell them as bullocks at the same price?  Sums just don’t add up.  In a discussion group in his area in Macroom of about 14 farmers, at least one farmer has started to clear out.  The other 13 are talking about reducing.  There needs to be clear leadership shown.  May be a role here for our new commissioner in Europe to make sure a fair price is available from our supermarkets for our farmers.  But we do need to look to the Minister for leadership.

Cllr O’Donovan (FG):  Very important for the rural economy.  Aware that the Minister has taken it up with the Commissioner.  But this is a market force and playing politics with it isn’t very fair.  Would hope that the EU can solve the problem.

Council agreed to send this motion to Minister Coveney.

Cllr O’Keeffe (FF):  Thanks for support.  It is the Minister’s job to get markets.  There is no good investing and investing if we have no markets.  The Minister has the power to do this, to talk to the Department of Trade and to talk to the factories.

12.  Councillor Kieran McCarthy:

A) “That this Council disagrees with the use of Government sponsored cheap labour schemes such as the Gateway scheme and calls on this authority to not engage in the hiring of people under such exploitative schemes,

B) and that this Council instead calls on the Minister to immediately suspend the embargo on public sector recruitment, thus allowing the hard-pressed people of Cork some dignified full paying employment,

C) that this Council issues a full written report to the members on how many times the embargo against public sector recruitment has been relaxed to accommodate the hiring of staff by Cork County Council, containing a list of all positions filled since the embargo was introduced in March 2009, and that a similar written report is issued to the members outlining how many people have been hired by this Council under cheap labour schemes such as Gateway, Job-bridge, etc.”
[Deferred from Council Meeting on 22/9/14]

Cllr K McCarthy (SF):  This motion has been on the agenda for a long time and now should be addressed by the Council and as soon as possible.  Taking away people’s dignity.  33 people on jobseekers were recently interviewed for Gateway.  Also found that one man who works for Cork County Council on Spike Island through JobBridge receives €50 on top of week’s wages for his work.   Gateway is replacing these jobs on the island for €20 on top of week’s wages.  This is exploitation.  The man is hired by Cork County Council through a Great Island Community Project.  We were told that all those working on Spike were in full time jobs.  But CCC was hiding behind the Great Island Community Project.  These schemes may be legal under the law but they are immoral and exploitative.  The Minister and some of his supporters will see Gateway as being a great way of getting people out of the house and maybe getting a job at the end of it.  Most of those want real full-paying jobs that give them dignity, not some meaningless job that pretends to give them hope.  How many full time jobs will the Cork County Council offer these Gateway people at the end of their term?  Isn’t the answer none?  So we call on the Minister to remove the embargo and get people into real jobs with real wages and get the economy moving again.  This Council is dysfunctional in that it cannot deliver the services people are paying for.  Gateway and JobBridge are no solutions.  Motion asked for a list of all positions filled since the embargo.  Report here today did not give this breakdown.

Cllr Mullane (SF):  Supports motion.  Blueprint for Gateway is CE schemes.  Husband just finished one working for the Council and is now back on a dole queue.  Difference is that people don’t apply for this scheme, they are contacted by social welfare.  If they don’t do this, they risk losing their pay.  Contravenes the right to a decent day’s work.  This is a faster route to the emigration queue than to the dole queue.   Shocked at the reference to Mallow Castle in the report.

Cllr Sheppard (FG):  Was speaking to young girl in Cobh who was going to interview for one of these schemes.  She’s getting €100 on the dole because she is under 25.  Now she had an opportunity to earn over €219/week on this.  She is very excited.  Was working out at roughly €11/hour.  Thinks this scheme will work for those who are staying at home with their parents and whose families are struggling to keep them.  This scheme offers hope for this group.

Cllr O’Donovan (FG):  JobBridge and Gateway are short term solutions.  They are a bridge between unemployment and full time job.  60% of those who have done JobBridge get jobs afterwards.  Cites a civil engineer example.  Sinn Fein turning down schemes like that.  €56/week and €15.38 extra/week with the youth employment scheme in Northern Ireland.  The Gateway scheme is very similar to the CE scheme. Same hours, same pay.  Sinn Fein generally cry for more CE schemes.  Now we have Gateway, nearly the same and Sinn Fein wants none of it.  Reinforces that both of these schemes were never meant to be a long-term solution.  Supports that the embargo on local authorities would be lifted.  But the fact is that we are still paying huge loans as a country.

Cllr McCarthy (FG):  There are problems with the scheme but was brought up with a work ethic and understands that the scheme can have major benefits.  Most people she has spoken to have been thrilled with the opportunity.  Has done some research on this – all she has asked said it was a very positive experience.  Was a springboard to other employment.  Thinks this motion not representative of other people out there.

Cllr M Collins (Ind):  Supports the motion.  Also very involved in community and voluntary sector.  The Gateway scheme is replacing good Council jobs.  A huge number of people are asking for the embargo to be lifted.  Won’t be if the Gateway scheme goes ahead.  Thinks schemes should be rolled out through community groups.  Would support scheme if it would maybe after 2 years of work on the scheme it would to the worker getting a full time job.  But there is no real future in the way it is at present.

Cllr K Murphy (FG):  The scheme was designed to take away person’s dignity?  This is not true.  It was not.  Welcomes the scheme.  It is a short-term scheme to ensure that people get some sort of experience with a view to long-term employment.  The employment can come from anywhere.  Let’s be positive for a change.  There’s a cloud of negativity over this Council.  To suggest people’s dignity is being removed is rubbish.  People want to join this.  Schemes are designed to ensure that the jobs we can’t cover at present at will be covered. Councillors will be coming in here very shortly to see that these things are done and here are people who can do them.

Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF):  Very important to understand that this has impact beyond those who are forced into the scheme.  As regards the Gateway, it is a problem because it is work with an employer who cannot take them on.  Labour is being devalued with schemes like this.  We are specialising in yellow collar work in this country.  Schemes like this disincentivise employers.  Vitally important for local authority to participate in fair employment practices.

Cllr P Buckley (SF):  70,000 jobs created at €70k/year or at €17k/year.  People on the Gateway scheme have the same debt now that they had 5 years ago.  Married man on 19.5 hours a week by the time he is taxed and PRSI, he will come out with 98c.  This would absolutely destroy a man.  Everyone likes to be working but not being demeaned.

Cllr O’Keeffe (FF):  Does one go off the live register if one is on the Gateway scheme?

DCE: It is a local authority operated scheme and presumes that one comes off the live register if one goes on it.

Cllr O’Keeffe (FF):  Was always totally against these types of schemes.  These are yellow pack jobs.  Manager seems to want to avail of the schemes.  You might get small jobs done, but think of the person’s dignity.  IF you go through the number of schemes we have offered, how can you talk about people coming off the live register when social welfare is paying people to be on these schemes?  Can see nearly 200,000 people on various schemes.  Proposes we accept the motion.

Cllr O’Sullivan (FF):  Cllr McCarthy said that a Municipal District Officer concealed information relating to Spike Island?  Would like Cllr McCarthy to clear that up.  Not ok to say a Municipal District Officer was concealing information.

Cllr K McCarthy (SF):  Was told in a report from an administrator in the Council that all the jobs on Spike Island were full paying jobs.

DCE:  We’re not in the business of misleading anyone here.  Happy to review the report given to the Municipal District Officer.

Cork County Council is an agent of the state undertaking the schemes as part of government policy.   We can’t decide whether or not to engage under Gateway, so we are engaging.

Cllr K McCarthy (SF):  FG seems to think I am talking about CE schemes.  Got a letter a week after election to the Council.  Had I not been elected I would have been demeaned by being forced to go on this scheme.  CE schemes are different because you have the option.  With Gateway, you are forced into it.  We want this Council to take it back to central government that we do not agree with exploiting people.

Cllr Mullane asked for a breakdown of the 8 permanent positions for which the embargo was lifted.

Mayor:  Doesn’t seem ok to have a scheme after which those who served their time on the scheme cannot be employed.  Will ask the Minister to lift the embargo to take on people who do the Gateway scheme.

Cllr Rasmussen:  People may have to go for interview but if they are not deemed suitable, they do not go on the scheme.  The TUS scheme has been around for several years and there has been no problem with it.

13.  Councillor Pat Buckley:

“That this Council urges very strongly that Irish Water engage with Cork County Council, so that Councillors will be able to access information which in turn can be passed on to the people we represent.”

[Deferred from Council Meeting on 22/9/14]

Cllr Buckley (SF): Areas of East Cork were without water during the week.  We couldn’t get information that the reservoir had run dry.  Irish Water offered no clarity, no out of hours service and its only back up plan was to refer to Cork County Council.  Has been calling for Irish Water to engage with us for over 3 months.  Is doing the same again now.  Councillors need to be able to get information so they can pass it on.

Cllr R McCarthy (SF):  Lack of information is an absolute disgrace.  Water supply in Bandon was turned off for 2 nights recently.  We cannot get information and we are being put back to Cork County Council.  Surely it is up to Irish Water to tell us in advance if the water is going to be turned off.  Really supports this motion.

Cllr N Collins (Ind):  Seconds the proposal.  Would be of big help to the public especially with the type of problem which was encountered in Ballycotton.

Cllr O’Donnabhain (FF):  Had queries raised about water problems.  The unaccountability of this quango speaks volumes.  PPS numbers, dealing with leaks and now people are keeping an eye on their own meters and doing their own calculations.  We are working off an email system with Irish Water.  Not at all acceptable.  Asks that a member of or a team from Irish Water comes to Cork County Council to answer questions.

Cllr M Hegarty (FG):  Cllr Buckley is right in that parts of East Cork were without water for some time.  Would have to agree that greater dialogue with Irish Water would be good.  But have to step back and analyse that since Irish Water took over, the pumps at the source were giving trouble for 2 weeks and Irish Water did not say.  The personnel at that end of Irish Water – many questions have to be asked of their proefessionalism.  If the reservoir falls below 3 m, there is a serious problem.  Since Irish Water has taken over, there have been 2 reservoirs in East Cork left run dry.  The implications of all of this are so serious.  They have to account for their stewardship and management of this situation.

Cllr Hayes (SF):  Issues arising in West Cork over and over.  Cape Clear was a huge problem.  You are through to a call centre.  Not dealing with any experts.  County Engineer was a huge help with regard to Cape Clear situation.  Irish Water doesn’t come back with emails.  On Saturday morning the local water services lad with the Council had just become aware of a low pressure issue after a month of complaining.  Serious.

Cllr Murphy O’Mahony (FF):  Cork County Council is still very much associated with water outages.  Makes us look unprofessional when we don’t know what is happening.  Proposes that some of the LPT money would be used to set up better communications with Councillors.

Cllr M Collins (Ind):  Supports the motion.  Desperate trying to liaise with them.  Was 35 minutes on the phone trying to get an information pack to an elderly lady in Clonakilty who was unable to do it for herself.  The call failed after 35 minutes.  We need to ask Irish Water to come in here and account for themselves.  4 weeks today I requested information on a breakdown.  It came back to me eventually from the Council.

Cllr McCarthy (FG):  Supports the motion.  Rang Irish Water 3 times in 2 hours.  Asked to speak to the same person.  No information.  Rang Cork County Council then and got all the answers.  You are wasting your time ringing Irish Water.

Cllr O’Shea (Ind):  Communications have broken down hugely with Irish Water in the last few months.  There are no answers coming back.  We are ringing curators and going back to the old times.  We are not supposed to be doing that but when we are not getting answers from Irish Water we have to.

Cllr J Murphy (SF):  Rang Irish Water.  They didn’t understand what she was saying when she rang.

Cllr D’Alton (Ind):  Not merely are communications an issue but what is going to happen over the winter when household pipes freeze?  Is Irish Water going to charge a call-out fee for this?  Up to now, when pipes freeze you call the County Council.  They may or may not be able to sort you out but they will always come.  And there is no charge.  Who is going to help households with frozen pipes this winter?  People are really afraid of this.

County Engineer:  All these questions are for Irish Water.  They have circulated briefing dates.  Irish Water heretofore has refused to attend Council meetings.  They are trying to set up a complaints procedure.  Not defending them, just telling us what they are doing.  Has instructed Cork County Council staff not to deal with public or public representatives in the first instance.   Because if the system breaks down, Cork County Council could be blamed for its not working.  But if serious, they will of course help.  Aware of the Ballycotton situation.  Was told after that it was a lightening strike that took out the water.  In fact it was a combination of events.

Mayor:  As a council we should write to Irish Water and say that our briefing date clashes with AILG training.

Buckley (SF):  Could Cork County Council put the Irish Water number up on its website?  If a situation such as that happens in East Cork again, Cork County Council will get the blame for it.

14.  Councillor Paul Hayes:

“That Cork County Council supports the call from the Restaurants Association of Ireland for the on-going retention of the 9% VAT rate for the food, tourism and hospitality sector. This measure was introduced temporarily in 2011 to promote job creation in the sector, and was extended until 2014. As the measure has proved successful in creating jobs in the area, we call on the Minister for Finance to retain the 9% VAT rate again in upcoming budget for the year ahead.
[Deferred from Council Meeting on 22/9/14]

Cllr Hayes (SF):  VAT on this sector was reduced from 13.6% to 9%.  This was a very good measure.  Asking that Cork County Council would add its weight to the call to extend this again.  The Restaurant Sector has done its own report on this.  Many younger people have been getting work in this sector also.  Lower tax rate brings Irish hospitality closer into line with our competitors.  Spain’s VAT rate – 10%, Portugal’s VAT rate – 6%, Germany’s VAT rate – 7%.

Chamber supported.

15.  Councillor Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire:

That Cork County Council

  • notes the calls from civil society organisations, legal practitioners, academics, human rights activists and Members of the Oireachtas for reform of Direct Provision, the administrative system for accommodating asylum seekers;
  • notes that, according to the latest available statistics from the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) Monthly Report October 2013 (published Feb 2014), there are 4,494 RIA residents in Direct Provision, and 1,530 of RIA residents, are children. These include 682 in Cork, at locations in Glounthaune, Wellington Road, the Kinsale Road, Millstreet and Clonakilty
  • Notes that the Government’s policies are not in line with the Common European Asylum System, and in particular, that the Government has failed to implement EU Directive 2011/95/EU on qualifications for becoming a refugee or a beneficiary of subsidiary protection status, in addition to aspects of Directive 2003/9/EC, on laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers.
  • That the average time spent in the asylum process, is 52 Months, the median time is 54 Months, and that 56.3% are in the system for in excess of four years
  • Considers that the system of Direct Provision is an unsatisfactory manner of accommodating Asylum Seekers, which is detrimental to family life, in particular to the welfare and development of Children, and that the extended periods of time in which residents are required to reside there, while their cases are being processed, is entirely unjustifiable.

Therefore, Cork County Council calls on the Minister for Justice and Equality –

  • to review in its entirety the Direct Provision System, and to examine alternative forms of support and accommodation which could be adopted which are more suitable for families and particularly children,
  • on foot of that review expedite the proposed Immigration, Residency and Protection Bill, and the reform of the Accommodation Policies for Asylum Seekers
  • and to establish in the interim an independent complaints mechanism and independent inspections of Direct Provision centres and give consideration to these being undertaken through the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) (inspections) or the Ombudsman for Children (complaints).”

[Deferred from Council Meeting on 22/9/14]

Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF):  Is concerned that we would come to this issue in 25 years time and wonder why we did nothing.  There are 682 people living in these circumstances.  Some of them are entitled to vote.  We are out of line in how we house these people.  The entitlements and rights that these people have are not acknowledged.  These are people who are trying to get on with their own lives.  They might do leaving cert and get wonderful results but cannot go to university.  52 months is the average time of staying in the centres.  To have to spend 4 and more and sometimes up to 10 years in these conditions must be very difficult to deal with.  Glad that the Minister says he is going to look at it.  We need to keep the pressure on so that it keeps moving, does not become a report that gathers dust on someone’s desk.

O’Grady seconds.

Mayor:  Motion is very well put.  There is a review nationally.  Thanks Members for their support for that motion.

16.  Councillor Aaron O’Sullivan:

“That this Council calls on Fáilte Ireland to extend the “Wild Atlantic Way” tourism trail to East Cork and that the Minister for Tourism Transport and Sport Paschal Donohoe TD intervene directly in the matter.”
[Deferred from Council Meeting on 22/9/14]

Cllr O’Sullivan (FF):  The Wild Atlantic Way was launched in April.  Stops in Kinsale.  Nonsensical that East Cork has been excluded.  Has extensive areas of sea.  Extension of trail would have a major impact on tourism in East Cork.  Cannot see logical reason why East Cork is not included.  Since he announced that he was going to raise this issue, he has been overwhelmed by support.  Been contacted by many businesses wanting to lend their support.  The enthusiasm has been fantastic.

Cllr Canty (FG):  Was chair of the SPC which brought in the Wild Atlantic Way.  Had major discussions with tourism bodies in relation to that.  The main reason East Cork is not included is that the Atlantic Ocean is on the west coast of the country.  The Irish Sea borders East Cork.  The Wild Atlantic Way is working well at the moment but another brand needs to be brought for Kinsale – Wexford.  Could see Dublin coming up with something for the East coast.  We didn’t see East Cork short, but always intended that another brand would be created for the southern coast.

Cllr K Murphy (FG):  Not surprised that Cllr O’Sullivan is getting enthusiasm from local businesses.  Is hugely successful.  It would not be appropriate to extend it eastwards into the Irish Sea and then Celtic Sea.  So we must try to ensure that the Wild Atlantic Way is maintained as it is and look at other branding for South and East Cork.

Cllr O’Flynn (FF):  Surprised that Cllr K Murphy is opposing the proposal.  We should extend the bounty this branding is bringing.  Supports the motion.

Cllr O’Grady (SF):  Supports the motion.

Mayor:  Thinks we should send the motion to Bord Failte just to get them thinking about it.

The rest of the meeting was adjourned.