First budget of new Cork city is passed

First budget of new Cork city is passed
Pic; Larry Cummins

GREEN Party proposals to increase commercial rates by 2% were dismissed by rival parties as Cork City Council passed its 2020 Budget.

The budget is the first incorporating the enlarged city area with Ballincollig, Douglas, Glanmire and Blarney now under the jurisdiction of the city council.

The overall revenue expenditure by City Hall for 2020 will be €222.3 million compared to €166.8 million in 2019. Of the increase, €37.3 million is attributable to the boundary extension with €18.1 million being increased spending on the 2019 budget.

A last-minute proposal by the Green Party to secure an extra 1% spend in the budget by increasing the Annual Variable Rate by 2% to yield an extra €1.9 million in revenue was voted down by 25 votes to five.

The party would have looked to protect smaller businesses in the proposal by increasing the rates relief scheme by 4.9%.

The party was criticised in heated exchanges with other parties for tabling the amendment on the night of the budget meeting. The party was also denied the chance to table two further amendments as they were not handed in within the agreed timeframe of the meeting.

An amendment by Fianna Fáil’s Sean Martin to reduce spending on loan interest for an €11 million loan taken out by the council for housing maintenance by €200,000 was agreed. The money will be allocated to road resurfacing.

A proposal by Green Party councillor Dan Boyle to increase collection of the Derelict Sites Levy by €200,000 and put the money toward housing maintenance was rejected by 18 to 12 votes.

The budget will provide a €5.8 million increase on homeless spending to €13.6 million. The council’s payroll will grow by €2.3 million to accommodate 270 extra staff.

Over €26 million will be added to the city’s rate book from January 1 of next year.

City manager Ann Doherty said the council has done substantial work in recent years to eliminate a significant deficit and added there would be no commercial rates increase as a way to show an understanding of the pressures that businesses are under.

“The proposed budget provides a reasonable balance across the competing objectives of developing the social, cultural, economic, environmental and infrastructural needs of the city, in a socially inclusive manner, that council is charged with progressing,” said Ms Doherty.

As a result of the boundary extension, Cork City Council has now become a self-funding local authority from a Local Property Tax perspective. The city council will no longer receive funding from the Government's 20% equalisation fund that ensures all local authorities maintain their funding levels.

Ms Doherty added that the council will look to up its spend in new city areas in forthcoming budgets.

“In the next few years we would look to increase the level of spend in the extended area as a result of buoyancy in rates and other income streams and over time bring the level of spend to acceptable city levels of spending.” 

There will be no increase in car parking charges in 2020 which remain at €1.70/€2.00/€2.30 for both on-street and off-street parking. The council’s multi-storey car-parks at Lavitts Quay/Paul Street and Kyrl’s Quay/North Main Street remain the cheapest in the city.

Housing and building expenditure will increase from €48.7 million to €63.8 million.

Roads expenditure will increase from €29.2 million to €43.4 million. As a result of the boundary extension, an additional 550km of roads are now under the administrative area of the city council. A significant portion of the funding for this additional roads network will come from central Government.

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