Parking charges in Cork city to rise; councillors approve 'extremely challenging' budget 

Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty said the preparation of the 2022 budget for Cork City Council proved to be an “extremely challenging task” as a result of the impact of the pandemic.
Parking charges in Cork city to rise; councillors approve 'extremely challenging' budget 

Car-parking charges in Cork city will increase next year for the first time since 2017.

Parking charges are set to rise in Cork city but commercial rates will remain unchanged as councillors agreed an expenditure budget of €240 million for 2022 at their annual budget meeting yesterday, an increase of approximately €14 million in spending compared to 2021.

The budget was passed by a 24-7 majority of councillors.

The main contributors to the increase in expenditure are an increase in budget to homeless services of €4.5m, an increase in the Capital Advance Leasing Facility/Mortgage to Rent of €3.9 million, an increase in funding for road resurfacing of €400,000 and an increase in payroll of €4.8m.

Fianna Fáil councillor John Sheehan said the budget of nearly quarter of a billion “befits a city of Cork’s ambition”.

“I think it does a lot of very, very positive things in the city in terms of housing, in terms of development, in terms of building up our infrastructure,” he said.

Cuts in a number of areas 

However, Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent said while spending is up overall, there are cumulative cuts of over €1.4m.

The budget sees a reduction in spending for areas such as footpath repairs and housing maintenance works.

There is also a €20,800 cut to firefighting equipment and materials as part of cuts to the Fire Service, as well as cuts to a number of other areas, including marketing and promotion of the city.

“We may not have been at this point if we’d had reimbursement that we did get last year [from central Government] for Covid-related costs and the loss of income,” said Mr Nugent.

“That money may come back next year, and hopefully it does.

“Earlier speakers referenced the capital budget rather than the revenue budget tonight — there is ambition there, but I think we are being let down [by central Government].”

Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Martin, chairman of the city’s finance committee, said there was open engagement between management and councillors during budget talks.

“Nobody is happy with every budget, but I think we came to a balanced conclusion in the end." 

In a report to councillors, Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty said the preparation of the 2022 budget for Cork City Council proved to be an “extremely challenging task” as a result of the impact of the pandemic.

She thanked councillors for engaging with the budget process, and said their contributions and suggested solutions were of “great benefit in the finalising of the draft budget”.

In July, councillors voted to increase the Local Adjustment Factor (LAF) of Local Property Tax (LPT) in Cork City by 9%.

Ms Doherty said the €1.9m generated because of the increase in the LAF will fund Local Area Committees (€300,000 per LAC) and the sports capital grants of €400,000.

No rates increase 

There will be no increase in commercial rates in 2022.

Ms Doherty said it is intended that the rates incentive scheme will continue next year, whereby a grant is given to all compliant ratepayers when certain criteria are met.

With the increase in the number of cycle lanes across the city centre and the pedestrianisation of several streets, over 440 car-parking spaces have been lost to the city over the last two years. As a result, car-parking charges will increase next year for the first time since 2017.

The charge for Paul St car park will increase from €2.30 to €2.70 per hour, while the charge for North Main St car park will increase from €1.70 to €2.30 per hour.

The cost of on-street parking will also increase from €2 to €2.50, but because that requires amendments to bylaws, a full year of annual increase will not be possible next year.

Allocations for the arts

Under the budget for next year, €931,800 has been allocated for arts bodies, including a contribution to Cork Opera House, €270,000 for community grants, €400,000 for sports grants, €200,000 for amenity grants, and just over €85,000 for tidy district grants.

Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill, who is vice chairman of the city’s finance committee, spoke in favour of the budget at last night’s meeting.

“Each year that we increase, the expectation for what we do increases with it, so it’s always difficult if there’s a pullback in any direction, but the overall spend of this budget is higher than last year,” he said. “Naturally we all prefer bigger budgets to do more work, but I think we have to acknowledge the work that is being done.”

Sinn Féin councillor Eolan Ryng described the budget as a “tale of two narratives”, where on the one hand the overall spend has increased, but on the other, there are cuts to what he described as “bread and butter” areas.

Meanwhile, Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy said that despite the cuts, “there is still much work being pursued as presented in the budget book, as well as many opportunities being mined down into”.

“Covid has thrown us into a worrying time about finances, but it has clearly showed the resilience of this organisation as well.”

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