14 Nov 2019

Cllr Kieran McCarthy’s Comments, Cork City Council Budget Meeting, 14 November 2019

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 Lord Mayor,

Can I thank the CE, the Finance Officer John Hallahan and Cllr Martin, the chair of the Finance Committee for their work on this draft annual budget book.

History is being made this evening as this marks the first budget of the extended city in its current size. We now have to budget for 210,000 people and a city five times more in size with more challenges and more calls for funding.

Reading through the various sections you can see the strengths of our directorates and the ongoing work programmes – the 28 per cent of our income spent on Housing with over 1,000 social housing constructs coming on stream in the next two years – and near 20 per cent on roads with several construction and public realms projects ongoing. The continued investment in community grants, sports grants and arts grants are all very welcome.

I welcome as well the reference in the document of strong financial management and budgetary control and in particular the pulling back of the revenue deficit.

I am happy to support the budget.

I do have a few concerns from reading the document;

Firstly, the increase in expenditure of e.5.8m in homelessness services will help those that need it but I do hope that the increase will actually provide better services to those who need support services to get out of the homelessness trap, and that the funding doesn’t completely disappear into emergency accommodation, with no long term strategy really emerging.

Secondly, from a business perspective, I have an issue that that 43 per cent of the Council’s income is from rates- I feel that’s not sustainable in the long term – But I do welcome the Economic Development Fund and all its moving parts plus the work of the Local Enterprise Office and the cultural festival scheme in Cork– I still think there is a job of work to really promote measures more in the Fund, the enterprise office and the cultural festivals to the general public – all provide very useful tools to help businesses to respond to commercial changes.

Thirdly, I would like to comment on the ongoing issue of the unresolved compensation package to the County Council. It is not positive that it has not been resolved before this evening – and I do think there needs to an appendix in this draft annual budget saying how the compensation figure of e.13.5m was reached plus a little about previous expenditure in our new areas– I would suggest it might go on pages 12 and 13 with its graph showing the expenditure increase showing a breakdown of figures. I say this in light of the County Council narrative as well earlier this week regarding the County suggesting it is losing significant income through the city boundary extension and no reference in their press releases to the compensation package.

Fourthly, it is welcome to see where sections of the LPT will go towards – I do note with unease though in the introduction the allocation of e.176,500 towards “tree cutting”  – I would like to see that for every tree cut we plant two – and that for the most part the tree budget is going towards planting trees – that is this document the words “tree cutting” would be replaced by the words “tree management and tree planting”.

That leads me quickly to my fifth and last point – which is the understating of the narrative around the Council’s investment in environmental and climate change adaptation work plus even in the sustainable development goals –I think all these aspects should come to the fore more and get their own primary paragraphs in the introduction.

–for example, in the introduction there is a huge section on parking regulation but very little on the campaign to get more park and rides, cycling initiatives plus more bus incentives – in terms of transport in this budget document one could argue there is a significant car focussed narrative.

We need to create a more modern urban agenda narrative as much as we can.

I wish to thank John Hallihan and all in the finance department again on this work and I look forward to seeing the implementation of the work programme for 2020.

Many thanks Lord Mayor.

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