The Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy, has welcomed the passage of legislation by Dail Eireann which underpins the implementation of revised local government arrangements in Cork.
Commenting on the matter, Mayor Murphy said,
“Cork County Council welcomes the passage of the boundary legislation by the Oireachtas. This represents a pivotal juncture for Cork and represents the cornerstone for ambitious future growth and sustainable development for both Cork County and Cork City and, indeed, the overall South West Region.
The boundary alteration process has proven, at times, to be very challenging and complex for both authorities, with many diverse views having been expressed in terms of what was best for Cork. I am pleased to note that the passing of the legislation has now brought finality to the matter and it allows both Councils to get on with the important job of ensuring that a seamless and efficient transition of services takes place in the months ahead. I am aware that great work has been completed to date by the Chief Executives of both Councils, and their staff, over the past year in planning and organising the transition of over 400 services involving circa 85,000 citizens from the County administrative area to the City administrative area. This work has been carried out under the guidance of the “Implementation Oversight Group” which was appointed by the Minister to oversee the process. The first changes will come into effect in early June 2019 and I will be working with the Lord Mayor Cllr Mick Finn and our respective teams in ensuring that a targeted communications strategy is implemented to ensure that relevant citizens, businesses and communities are informed of the changes. I would like to reassure our stakeholders that the transition will be implemented with the minimum disruption and inconvenience for them.”
Mayor Murphy added,
“People will be aware that the County Council had expressed concerns in relation to certain aspects of the draft legislation and we lobbied and campaigned actively to ensure that we communicated those concerns to the relevant decision makers and Oireachtas members. I am pleased to note that our voice was listened to and many of the desired changes that we identified have in fact been passed in the final legislation. I would like to extend my appreciation to the various Cork based TD’s and Senators that spoke on the matter and who articulated the views of the County in a positive and constructive manner.
The amendments that were successfully incorporated include, for example, provision for the extension of financial compensation arrangements (from the City to the County, having regard for the significant income loss that the County will experience due to the boundary alteration) for a 10 year period with possible extension beyond 10 years, as well as indexation of the contribution amount payable. The County is also pleased to note that other key amendments have been acknowledged and may be included in subsequent Ministerial regulations.
As with most things in life, you do not get your way in relation to everything, and compromise is the order of the day. The County is particularly disappointed to note that the strong case that we put forward for the retention of Blarney & Tower to remain in the County area proved ultimately to be unsuccessful. We steadfastly believe that these two settlements are inherently rural in character and nature and that they have little in common with the City. At this point, the decision has been made by our lawmakers that these areas are to transfer to the City. We respect the position adopted by the Oireachtas and will work with the City Council in transferring these areas to the City.
With regard to the compensation arrangements, I and my colleagues on the County Council spoke at length about our concerns regarding the arrangements that would apply in the event of non payment by the City of the compensation package. Basically the draft legislation proposed that the County would have to pursue any non payment as a simple contract debt through the Courts. The County was very unhappy with this proposal, and I am personally disappointed to note that the final legislation has not been amended to statutorily require the City to remit the monies to the County on a statutory basis and as a “primary charge”.
So, it is heartening at last to see the legislation passed as this will allow us to plan and deliver the transition in an effective manner in the coming months. It is clear to me that both Councils have been adopting a mature and collaborative approach in working through the issues – complex as they are – and both Councils have made sacrifices along the way. We are both united in doing what is best for Cork – both County and City. We have made significant progress in complex matters such as the principles underpinning the financial compensation model, transfer of staff, transfer of assets etc, and these discussions have been carried out in a positive and constructive manner.
Progress has also been made in actively pursuing funding and investment opportunities for Cork. Both Mayors convened joint meetings with Cork’s Ministers during the second half of 2018. The focus for those meetings was for us to lobby Government for the introduction of a stimulus package for the two Cork Councils as we re-emerge as two brand new entities from June 2019. The stimulus package would facilitate the transition process and forge a fresh approach to driving the economic performance of the Cork region. The Councils have since been actively pursuing funding opportunities, in particular through the Urban and Rural Regeneration Programmes where 22% of the Rural applications were from Cork, yet only one Cork project was approved under the Rural Regeneration Programme. I urge Government to prioritise Cork in the next round of funding under these and other funding programmes so as to ensure that Cork can survive and thrive during this period of serious change.
We are facing a challenging period ahead and are working hard to ensure that this reform programme is as successful as possible for everybody concerned. I would like to acknowledge the input and dedication of the County Council’s elected members and executive in providing strategic leadership to facilitate this change programme which is undoubtedly the most ambitious reform programme that local government in Ireland has seen since the abolition of the former Dublin County Council several decades ago. Further issues and complications lie ahead and of that there is no doubt, but we will work through them with our City Council colleagues to resolve them. It’s what the people of Cork will want us to do.”