Kieran’s Comments, Cork City Council Budget Meeting

Cork City Council Budget Meeting,

17 November 2014, Cllr Kieran McCarthy

The Garden of the Council

 Lord Mayor,

I was listening to an old interview with President Erskine Childers this morning on RTE player and he referred to politics as a garden where different parts of it to be tended to in order to have an overall healthy picture or nation.

It is fair to say that this Council’s garden six years/ seven years ago was in great nick, well attended to, a strong stage presence as such, there were regular barbeques, almost Greekesque in their view as we look back now with rose tinted glasses, the fine wine flowed in a sense, and the sun seemed to shine more on the finances back then. There were great hazy days in the sun.

But my how the financial plaque has swept through this Council’s garden. Our directorate crops have been eaten away at, leaving their roots in shambles, and some will never return in the short term. Some parts of our garden are bordering on barren and many of our orchards have been slogged back to their branches. We lost 367 staff over the last number of years and only gained 11. One gets the impression we are just hanging in there like a tree with fruit that a north Dublin wind wants to take more from.

Since 2009 central government have constantly eaten away at our municipal programmes. We are windswept but interestingly still standing, just almost, and resilient.

The digging into our crop reserves is not positive. Digging into the rainy day fund will put this city under further pressure.

I see in the third paragraph of the draft report this evening (p3) the terms “ we are bringing a financial balance” which Tim Healy and his team painstakingly put together every year. We’re lucky to have the knowledge that Tim has of the broad spectrum of our accounts and I welcome the broad allocation of funds across the directorates from Housing, roads, environment to arts, culture and heritage.

But there isn’t a balance in terms of the limits that are on this city’s development arising out of these continuous series of status quo’s budgets. The existence of strict budgetary controls is continuing to affect services. The retention of a status quo is not good for a city and region such as Cork

One of the key highlights of this year’s budget is apparent on p.3; ward funds are being retained. That’s what we have been reduced to on the first page of our budget document. There is nothing wrong with having ward funds but that is the discretionary fund that we as councillors have in 2015.

Frameworks that we have to provide funding for this city are inadequate; on one scale they are pushing those to the limits, to larger financial struggles, whether it be ratepayers or those that pay the local property tax.

The frightening aspect is with both, LPG and Rates, our largest scale pots of incomes, the money raised is not enough to really make a go in developing the policies of our various directorates. Our service provision across all directorates are set at a minimum.

Indeed, without real reform of Local Government people are essentially paying more and getting less. That’s the reality of the overall picture of our garden. The government talk about their “putting people first” programme but when all is said they are “putting people paying first”.

This Council going forward is now dependent on levies on development, we’re dependent on some kind of boom to top up our funds. We need to sit down and have a serious chat to central government.

The national and wider frameworks of how we fund this Council need to be seriously addressed and not put on the long finger as what we are seeing.

I propose that in the new year a delegation from this Council does meet the Minister and that our financial plagued garden is explained to him and that a more sustainable approach can be found.

Thanks Lord Mayor