The system of local government in the four county boroughs and the Borough of Dún Laoghaire is based on a plan which associates the city or borough manager with the elected council. This plan of city government was first introduced in the City of Cork in the year 1929. In the following year it was adopted for Dublin and in the year 1934 and 1939 respectively, it was introduced in the cities of Limerick and Waterford. Since the original Act was passed many improvements in the law as embodied in that Act have been adopted. The purpose of this Bill is to give the City of Cork the benefit of these improvements. The city council has been consulted and their representations have been considered with regard to the Bill, which in its main provisions is in accordance with their recommendations. It provides for triennial instead of annual elections to the council, for an extension of the reserve functions of the council, for the consolidation of the existing rates into one municipal rate and a provisional order procedure for the extension of the boundary. It places an obligation on the manager to attend the council meetings and arrange for the attendance of such other officers as may be necessary. It gives the council the same power as other city councils have in respect of requiring the manager to exercise functions not reserved to the council. It also deals with certain minor matters such as decoration of the city on appropriate occasions and the maintenance of branch water pipes.
The Bill provides for combining the office of manager with that of town clerk on the occurrence of the next vacancy in the latter office. These provisions will not affect the existing town clerk. Cork is the only county borough in which these two offices are not combined.
With regard to electoral areas, the city at present forms one area and the council do not wish to have it divided, but, at the same time, they desire that there should be power to divide it if such course were considered advisable at any future time. Section 4 of the Bill makes the necessary provision. The abolition of annual elections will bring the council into line with other local authorities. Annual elections in Cork were in the nature of an experiment. Under the Act of 1929, one-third of the council were to vacate office annually, the purpose being to prevent complete change of membership in any one year. Annual elections are expensive and have, in fact, been suspended. In future the council will be elected every three years and they will have power to fill casual vacancies.
Sections 16 to 21 deal with the consolidation of the rates. At present there are five rates, improvement, borough, library, water, and poor law rates, each with a separate fund. These rates will all be merged in one municipal rate. The only other rate which will not be merged in the municipal rate is what is known as the "Contract Water Rate" which is a payment or rent for the purchase of water rather than a rate. Section 25 which deals with the future extension of the borough is not, as some have thought, an absolutely new provision. The existing law as contained in the Application of Enactments Order, 1898, provides for the alteration of boundaries if necessary. The provisions in this Bill are designed to give to Cork the benefit of the provisions contained in the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1930, relating to the inclusion of rural areas in the city. If any agricultural land is added to the city, it will be rated at one-half and the appropriate part of the agricultural grant will be paid into the municipal fund. The inclusion of this section does not give the city any right to extension. The borough council will have to put forward their case for extension and prove it in the ordinary way. Before any area can be added to the city the views of all the persons interested will be heard, and a provisional order if it is made will not have effect until it is confirmed by an Act of the Oireachtas.