I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy John Paul Phelan. I requested this Commencement debate to ask the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to outline the timelines for the publication of legislation to give effect to the proposed new local authority structures for local government in Cork.
We have gone through a very deep process in Cork over the last two or three years with the local boundaries and the local government structures. These are the most significant changes in local authority structures in Cork since 1965. There was an extension to the city boundary 52 years ago, and we have now gone through a similar process, which was a lengthy process, and in some regards we have come to a conclusion on the boundary. This new proposed boundary will see up to 100,000 people move from the Cork County Council area into the Cork City Council area. This would have a knock-on effect in many ways. It would have a knock-on effect in how the city and the county communicate and operate, which will have to be worked on in time.
There are 31 councillors in City Hall and 55 councillors in County Hall and there is an issue around when these new electoral boundaries are to be put in place so that councillors can plan for a local election that is 65 weeks away. Clarity is required on those boundaries. Clarity is also required for the 542,000 residents of the city and county so the authorities can work together and put structures in place. The structures may include some kind of contractual arrangements on planning and housing, for example. To put the structures in place and to see a move on the huge projects involving planning, environment and housing for these 100,000 people in less than 60 weeks will be a burden on the two local authorities.
There are many aspects that need to be considered such as the local authority structures and how the services will be delivered to the people on the ground. From the local election perspective, clarity is required on the boundaries because currently there are eight districts in the county and six districts in the city. I assume we will have completely new districts in place. That will also have to be clarified.
I have more questions than answers so hopefully the Minister of State will be able to point us in the right direction around the timeframes for these new structures.
When does the Minister of State propose that the legislation will be brought before the House? When is it proposed to set out the new district boundaries so that local election candidates can plan? What does the Minister of State envisage as the system for planning and housing? Does he expect them to be moved immediately or will it happen over a period of time?