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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 5 Feb 1941

Vol. 81 No. 11

Cork City Management (Amendment) Bill, 1940—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The Cork City Management Act of 1929 was the first of a series of Acts providing for the adoption of the council-manager plan of local government. In the 12 years that have elapsed since it was passed the system of local government which it embodied has been extended, first to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, then in succession to the Cities of Limerick and Waterford and, finally, by the County Management Act of last year to the counties. As experience was gained provisions were inserted in the later Acts which were not included in the Cork Act and the purpose of this Bill, stated briefly, is to bring the Cork Act of 1929 up to date. The views of the city council have been obtained and it will be found that the Bill gives effect to most of the recommendations that have been made by the council. It provides for triennial instead of annual elections to the council, for the consolidation of the existing rates into one municipal rate, and for an extension of the reserved functions of the council. It also places an obligations on the manager to attend the council meetings and arrange for the attendance of such other officers as may be necessary, and gives the council the same power as other city councils with respect to requiring the manager to exercise functions not reserved to the council subject to the usual conditions. There is also included a simplified procedure for boundary extension.

Provision is made for combining the office of town clerk with that of city manager. Cork is the only county borough in which these offices are not held by the same person. The existing town clerk will, however, not be disturbed, but on the first vacancy in the office of town clerk the provisions of the Bill will come into force.

With regard to Section 4, which deals with the electoral area—at present the city forms one electoral area—the council do not wish to have it divided, but are of opinion that there should be power to do so at some future time if it is considered advisable. The Bill makes provision for that. It also, as I have stated, provides for triennial instead of annual elections. Under the Act of 1929 one-third of the members of the council was to be elected annually. This provision was in the nature of an experiment designed to prevent a complete change of membership in any one year. The precedent has not been followed elsewhere and the council wish to abandon annual elections, which are expensive. New provisions for the filling of casual vacancies on the council are necessary in view of the cessation of annual elections. The council will elect a person to fill a casual vacancy. Section 7 provides for certain additions to the functions reserved to the council.

In Cork County Borough there are several rates—improvement, borough, library, water and poor rates—and each has a separate fund. The Bill consolidates all these rates except what is called the contract water rate, which is in the nature of a rent or payment for a purchase of water, and creates a single municipal fund. The incidence of the rates will not be altered but wherever necessary adjustments will be made. Where premises are unoccupied for a reasonable cause a limited refund can be made.

It was originally intended to include in this Bill provisions relating to the superannuation of whole-time employees of the corporation, but it has been decided to deal with this matter in a Bill of more general application to be introduced later on.

I think before the Bill passes, a word of congratulation should be given to the former Minister for Local Government, who had the courage and the foresight to make this remarkable improvement in the matter of local administration which has now become so universally popular. I recollect that when those Bills were first introduced here they occasioned something very little short of a riot, but the people who then ran a very high temperature over them have now become converted. The Bill, is, however, an improvement upon the original Bill, but it is some satisfaction to the former Minister to notice that it has taken 12 years to find out that it could be improved.

There is one point which I should like to raise on the measure; it is in connection with the agricultural grant. In the First Schedule, I think, provision is made for assessing at half rates agricultural land and so on. I presume that the corporation will get, both now and in the future, whatever proportion of the agricultural grant they would be entitled to by reason of whatever land would be within the area of their jurisdiction. Let us assume, for the sake of comparison, that at the moment there are 200 acres of land which in the normal course is entitled to its proportion of the agricultural grant in relief of rates. If my recollection is correct—I have not had time to look the matter up—there is some amount of money earmarked for the various boroughs in respect of payments out of the agricultural grants in relief of rates. In the event of an extension of the boundary, if that 200 acres of land should run out to, let us say, 1,200 or 2,000 acres, will there be corresponding provision made in the extension for payment of an extra slice of the agricultural grant? It would be equitable that there should be, because the grant is paid in respect of lands. If the County Council of Cork has not to make any relief out of, let us say, £ x that they get, and if the land they have is reduced by £y, their liability then is £xy. By reason of the addition of the lands to the valuation of Cork, under the terms of this Bill, the rates would be assessable only on half of the valuation. I take it then, that in any extension which will take place there will also be provision for payment of an extra slice of the agricultural grant in relief of rates.

I am afraid Deputy Cosgrace is not quite correct in assuming there is general agreement about the Bill. I think that the same opposition which there was to the Bill some time after it was introduced is definitely there to-day, due to the fact that there is too much executive authority centred in one man. Even those of us who are not opposed to the managerial system, are definitely opposed to one man being given such executive authority over the citizens of Cork as one man has at the moment.

I hope the Deputy will not be provoked by a casual remark of Deputy Cosgrave's into a discussion of principles which have been established.

Deputy Cosgrave conveyed the idea that we were all very happy about the Act.

Well, I take it the Deputy desires to express dissent?

We are as antagonistic as ever to the principle as applied.

Perhaps it would be of help to remember the reception wholeheartedly given to the Bill from the Labour benches when it was applied to Limerick.

It is like medicine; you do not like it, but after all it is doing you good.

Experience is the best argument I can make about the success or otherwise of the City Management Act, and from our experience of the working of that Act we are not at all pleased that so much executive authority should be centred in any one individual.

The Deputy having made his protest, should now come to this Bill, which does not propose to abolish the managerial system.

I want to tell Deputy Cosgrave and the Minister that amendments to the Bill as it is at the moment are being submitted by members of the Cork Corporation. Beyond that I will say no more for the present.

Mr. Broderick

I do not intend to touch upon the agreed principles of the Bill as in operation, but this Bill refers to an extension of the borough boundary of Cork. Am I to assume that, before any such extension takes place, the matter will be the subject of inquiry and deliberation?

The Minister to conclude.

In regard to the matter which the last Deputy has raised, the power is there for the Minister to do it by provisional order, but those provisional orders are not and will not be made until some inquiry has been held. Deputy Cosgrave referred to the agricultural grant. That is a matter which I will have looked into. I think the feeling is in the direction stated by the Deputy, but in order to be quite clear I will let the Deputy know before the Committee Stage is reached, so that if the Bill does not meet the point sufficiently he will be afforded an opportunity of putting down a suitable amendment. I do not want to go into the principle of the Bill as raised by Deputy Hickey, except to say that I think Deputy Hickey should be very satisfied in the sense that, if it goes far, it gives more power to the local body than it had up to the present. This Bill has been put together on suggestions or recommendations made by the local body themselves. It was largely on their recommendations that this Bill was framed. Since the Bill has been put into draft embodying those recommendations of the local body it has been submitted to that local body, and while they may be preparing amendments we have not heard from them that they were in any way dissatisfied with the terms of the present Bill.

Question put: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Mr. Broderick

I disagree with the powers in the Bill for the extension of the boundary of the borough of Cork.

Would the Deputy like to be recorded as dissenting?

Mr. Broderick

Yes, I dissent from the Bill, but I should like it to be perfectly clear that I dissent on the one point, the point of extension.

One Deputy dissenting from the Second Reading is all that can be recorded.

Mr. Broderick

I want the grounds for my dissent to be understood.

That qualification cannot be recorded. The records will record by name one dissentient.

Mr. Broderick

Very well. I have given the House my reasons for dissenting.

Question declared carried.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 19th February, 1941.