I will endeavour to continue from where I stopped when I began my contribution.
I propose to bring forward a number of amendments to the main provisions dealing with the Cork boundary alteration following consultation by the Department with the Cork implementation oversight group and comments received from the Cork local authorities since the Bill was published.
I will now go through the main provisions of the Bill in detail. The Bill is set out in five Parts made up of 32 sections and the associated Schedule. Part 1 contains standard provisions dealing with the Title, collective citations and commencement. It also provides for interpretation of key terms, regulations, orders and directions as well as a technical provision for expenses.
Part 2 alters the boundary between the county and city of Cork as indicated on the deposited map with effect from the day it is appointed by the Minister, which is intended to be a week after the local elections are held in mid-2019 when the new councils take office. It goes on to deal with a number of consequential matters, including the transfer of staff, land and buildings, property other than land, the transfer of rights and responsibilities, the continuation of leases, licences and permissions, the financial settlement that the transfer will require between the two authorities and the preparation of maps of the new local authority administrative areas that will apply after the transfer day. Any land and buildings in the transferring area owned by the county council will automatically vest in the city council with effect from the transfer day, apart from any exceptions that might be agreed between the two local authorities before that day. When it comes to staff and non-land property, the two local authorities will need to jointly agree and designate the property and the staff numbers and grades that should transfer. The usual safeguarding of employment terms and conditions will apply to the transferring staff of the county council. All rights and liabilities attaching to anything that transfers to the city council will automatically also transfer. There are also provisions to establish the Cork boundary alteration oversight committee to assist the two councils in performing their functions under the legislation and a key part of this will be an implementation plan that the committee will be required to prepare.
The final sections in this Part deal with arrangements between the two authorities for the performance of functions in the transferring area and the obligations on the councils and their staff to facilitate compliance with the legislation. A boundary alteration on this scale generates considerable work for the local authorities involved and the Cork implementation oversight group, which the Bill establishes on a statutory basis as the oversight committee, was set up just over a year ago to engage with the two authorities and oversee the implementation process. I have already provided financial support in the region of €1.2 million in 2018 to Cork City Council and Cork County Council and intend to make similar allocations next year towards additional staffing requirements to carry out the significant work required to prepare for and implement the reorganisation of both administrative areas. As well as preparing the implementation plan, the oversight committee will be able to provide advice and recommended solutions to any stumbling blocks that arise in agreeing the terms of the financial settlement that should apply or what staff posts and property should be designated for transfer.
Part 3 contains other consequential provisions, such as data sharing requiring the county council to give the city council all the information, including personal information, which the city council might require for the purpose of performing functions in the relevant area. For the local financial year 2019, the Bill provides that the relevant area remains part of the rating area of the county council until 31 December 2019 and the county council’s budget and the municipal districts’ schedules of works for 2019 continue to apply for the rest of the year as if the boundary alteration had not happened. The city council will, however, during 2019 set the municipal rate and decide any variation in the local property tax rate for 2020. This means that the basis on which the 2019 budgets were prepared will remain valid for the year.
The Bill provides that the registers of electors to be used by the two Cork authorities for the 2019 elections will be based on the post-boundary alteration position so that the electors in the relevant areas can participate in the election of the councillors who will represent them when the boundary changes take place a week after the election. Interim polling district and polling place arrangements to cater for the new administrative areas are also provided for. It is intended that the development plans, local area plans and also the local economic and community plans relating to the relevant area will continue to apply after the transfer day until such time as Cork City Council makes replacement plans or variations.
When it comes to planning, the Bill provides that the county council will complete any planning enforcement proceedings commenced before the transfer day and conclude any planning application cases already under way at that time, while the city council will be responsible for new enforcement proceedings that arise after the transfer day. The city council’s development contribution schemes will apply to the relevant area and the transferred development contributions applicable to infrastructure projects in the relevant area will continue to be ring-fenced for infrastructure and facilities in that area.
The remainder of this Part provides for the interim continued applicability of any rules, regulations or by-laws applicable to the relevant area, together with a general saver for Acts and instruments done before the transfer day and for arrears of rates, rents and housing loan repayments continuing to be collectible by the county council.
Part 4 deals with amendments to the Local Government Acts of 2001 and 1991 and an amendment to the Valuation Act that will mean the city council will not be able to request a revaluation of the transferred properties on the basis of the boundary alteration. The 2001 Act amendments are consequential to the boundary alteration and the amendments to Part V of the 1991 Act are to provide that future boundary alterations can be effected by ministerial order only where the local authorities concerned are in agreement. This will mean that boundary alterations in future will require to be effected through primary legislation where the change is not something that the two authorities agree should happen. However, where they are in complete agreement about the need for a change to the boundary, the quick and simple procedure for effecting the change by way of an order under the 1991 Act will continue to be available. The Committee Stage amendment providing for joint structures to facilitate local area planning for urban areas that span county boundaries, which I mentioned a number of weeks ago, will provide an alternative way of ensuring the appropriate future development of towns and cities that straddle two local authority areas without changing the local authority boundaries.
Part 5 amends the Local Government Act 2001 by inserting a section to provide for a single chief executive with dual responsibility for Galway City Council and Galway County Council. This will facilitate administrative integration of the two local authorities in advance of the merger recommended by the expert advisory group. Similar dual management arrangements were put in place in Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford ahead of the mergers of councils in those areas and they worked well. This approach, which was recommended by the Galway expert advisory group, will see two separate elected councils being retained for the 2019 local elections and, at the same time, facilitate the decision in principle that has been taken to merge the two authority areas by 2021.
I will, as I mentioned two weeks ago, bring forward several amendments on Committee Stage, which I hope will be taken well in advance of the turn of the year. Chief among these will be amendments related to plebiscites for directly elected mayors and to committees for cross-boundary urban areas. Other Committee Stage amendments that I will propose to sections of the Bill dealing with the boundary alteration mainly arise from the consultation with the Cork oversight group and comments received from the two Cork authorities that I referred to earlier.
I commend the Bill to the House.