Strong concerns about the proposed boundary change between Cork city and county councils were voiced in the Senate, with some of the measures branded “illogical”.
During a sometimes tetchy debate in the Upper House on Wednesday night, Government senators voiced strong concern to their own minister, John Paul Phelan, as to what they saw were “mistakes” contained in the bill.
Some of the loudest concerns were expressed by a number of Fine Gael Senators including Jerry Buttimer, Tim Lombard and Colm Burke over the proposed transfer of staff from the county to the city and the “bizarre” division of some townlands.
The Committee stage debate on the Local Government Bill 2018 was dominated by contributions by the Cork-based senators with opposition senators accusing them of “filibustering” on the Cork issue in a bid to avoid defeat on amendments relating to Galway city and county councils.
“We need to get this right, this is about the future of Cork, the transfer of up to 350 staff is a mammoth task,” said Mr Buttimer. Responding to opposition accusations that he and his colleagues were seeking to delay the bill, Mr Buttimer hit back by saying: “I'll talk for as long as I like on this bill.”
Mr Lombard raised concerns about the transfer of assets from the county to the city council area saying that without a full asset assessment liabilities and debts could be transferred and which could impact on balance sheets.
Mr Phelan said when transfers occur, all debts will transfer across too.
Several senators rose the issue that the debate was coinciding with the deadline day for staff in Cork County council to signal a willingness to transfer over to the City council, but Mr Lombard warned that the numbers willing to do so were “well short”.
The Minister acknowledged that the transfer of up to 85,000 people from one local authority area to another has been the cause of some difficulties locally and that concerns do exist.
Both Mr Lombard and Mr Buttimer expressed grave concerns about proposed divisions of existing townlands between the city and county, saying the division lines appear to have been done extremely crudely.
“We have made a mistake here, some townlands have been split up and we have departed from usual protocols. It is a bizarre and unique situation,” he said.
Mr Buttimer agreed by saying he could not understand why some houses in an area were left in the county and others were brought into the city.
“It doesn't seem to have been logically done,” he said. “We have driven stagecoaches through estates. I wonder do those who have done this realise what they are doing,” he added.