Kieran’s Comments, Budget Night, Cork City Council, 9 November 2017

Ready for Expansion

Thanks Lord Mayor; the annual budget evening for me offers lenses to see where the Council is progressing.

It is important to note that 2009 coincided with an expenditure of e.200,427,800 whereas today its e.160,241,400. And that drop in support for Ireland’s southern capital needs to be consistently highlighted.

In a year where the debate rages on the city pursuing an expansion, I would like to thank our twitter team during the week for drawing out some big picture positives on how much is spent per citizens on a multitude of services.

I am glad that we remain championing competing demands across the city’s social, economic, cultural, environmental and infrastructural development.

It is important that the Council does not become a one trick pony. Too often this Council is pulled into silo-ised debates on housing and roads. It is true to say they are very important but only make up about 45 per cent of the total budget. An increased homelessness budget is welcome but does show the increased homelessness challenge. I don’t want to welcome an increased budget for homelessness, I want the issue addressed and that there should be no need for a budget line on homelessness.

Need for Holistic Vision:

We need to retain a holistic vision for this city. Cork has such great gorgeous public spaces and we should never forget to call to mind our urban space and to celebrate our historic urbanism. The 500 trees recently blown down need to replanted; our parks and graveyards need to be maintained. I see next week St Finbarr’s Cemetery is celebrating its 150th birthday since its opening and its story is one of the Corporation of Cork seeking to expand its service but in 1860s Cork.

And I note with joy that funding for the 180 acres Tramore Valley Park has been allocated. This will be as the CE notes in her introduction as a “tremendous facility”, but it is also a serious advancement of the city’s investment in all things green, in renewable energy from beneath the park in the decaying landfill, in family life, in community life, in our parks development, in our Healthy Cities programme, in thinking in creating a series of regional park, and engaging all of the citizens in it.

We also have aspects such as the Local Economic and Community Development plan, which I would like to unpack and move forward with plus I think there should be more focus on showcasing the Local Economic Development Fund and getting more and more visibility to the many entrepreneurs, start-up and SMEs in the city. Streets such as the South Mall should be fully re-imagined as start-up street.

Interestingly from the outside looking in, the city is known for education and learning and its creativity and culture. Education and culture matters in this city as do many other aspects.

These concepts were also borne out as well with the UNESCO conference. We need to celebrate this city’s drive and ambition more. Yes, there are challenges but there are also multiple layers of success stories.

Being pro-active and not reactionary:

I think the future when the expansion takes place into the County will require experience of multiple strands of imagination, and pro-active pursuit of challenges to meet in an enlarged city. To be stuck in the gear stick of reactionary local government instead of a pro-active one does not help this Council or any other one.

Ongoing toolkit:

So I would like to think this budget is an ongoing toolkit of sorts on what the priorities in an enlarged city will lie. Many are positive investments. And in a week where this Council and the County Council made joint submissions on the draft National Planning Framework a core message must be to give local authorities access to further funding streams. And I don’t think the game is with increasing the Local Property Tax here – our Council require millions of euros to advance any national urban agendas.

And as before we gained large scale funding from European Structural Funds – because of our re-territorial classification as a much improving state, any of the new infrastructure coming online such as the Merchants Quay Bridge and Marina Park come from small EU urban agenda grants.

It is difficult to raise locally the funding required for large scale infrastructure and once again I call for a second EU officer who is tasked to track down future funding schemes.

I am very proud of some of the finished capital projects this year such as Blackrock Pier Regeneration project or the methodology adopted by our housing officers to accumulate near e.100m to pursue inner city renewal social housing projects. I think giving senior officers time to think through future funding avenues is highly important.

And we need to acknowledge v talented staff to bring such work forward.

Thanks Lord Mayor.