Friday 4 November 2011

Councillors to consider 50% cut to levies

CORK’S city councillors are to consider proposals to slash development levies by 50% in an effort to stimulate construction.

They have asked for a full report from the city manager on the implications of the move ahead of a special meeting of the council’s planning committee within the next two weeks.

The issue was discussed at a recent city council meeting during a debate on two motions — one signed by all Fine Gael councillors and the other signed by Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary — which had exactly the same wording.

At the height of the Celtic Tiger’s construction boom, the council raked in millions of euro in development charges — the money paid by developers upon the granting of planning permission for specific projects.

In 2007, it took in €21 million in development charges.

But as the construction industry collapsed, the level of development charges received plummeted, decreasing to €13m in 2008, and to €3.5m in 2009.

City manager Tim Lucey said the council raised just €2m in development charges last year.

"Cork is craneless," Cllr Joe O’Callaghan (FG) said.

"We have thousands of construction workers signing on every week. We must do something to stimulate development."

He suggested cutting the development charges by 50%, or abolishing them completely for a three-year period.

However, Cllr Michael Aherne (Lab) said slashing the charges would hit the council’s already under-pressure income streams.

He said a 50% cut on last year’s total income from development charges would cost the city €1m.

Some councillors said if the reduction was agreed, the council would have to make cuts elsewhere to make up the shortfall.

Socialist Party councillor Mick Barry pointed out the wording of the motions signed by Fine Gael and Sinn Féin councillors was exactly the same, and had come before council following intense lobbying by a developer.

Cllr Denis O’Flynn (Lab) said he was incensed by the motion. "It was developers who brought the country to its knees and these motions are now supporting them."

However, Cllr John Buttimer (FG) said similar motions had been proposed by councillors in other local authorities, and he made no apologies for signing the motion.

City manager Tim Lucey defended the city’s current rate of development charges which at €80 per square metre, compares very favourably with the rates charged by other local authorities.

He is now preparing a report for the planning committee on the implications of a cut in rates.

Irish Examiner

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