Charleville Chamber’s Call A Vision for 2021/Pre Election Manifesto 2016

Key Recommendations

Charleville Chamber has identified a number of critical Election 2016 priority areas that will impact upon the future success of our region. As one of the largest business representative organisation North Cork, we believe these must be recognised and addressed satisfactorily by any incoming government.

We outline these priorities under the following categories: Infrastructure and Housing, Investing in our Future, Supporting our Self Employed and SME’s, and Capitalising on County Cork’s Strengths.

Infrastructure and Housing:

Introduce an individual Minister for Housing and Infrastructure and establish greater national policy coherence through the set-up of a single overarching housing body.

Devolve planning powers (infrastructure & services) necessary for Cork City and County Councils to encourage new town and urban development.

Introduce Government backed finance for local authorities to deliver infrastructure such as critical roads, surface-water and public transport links needed to realise new housing developmentin areas with demand.

Address the cost barriers for development, including a review of taxation costs associated with building residential properties targeted at areas with high demand and reducing the onerous impact on costs of needlessly strict building regulations out of line with international normal practices.

Reform planning processes to reduce building delays.

Utilise current opportunities to access low-interest finance to fund infrastructure development.

Investing in our Future:

Progress the M20 Cork to Limerick motorway to planning and proactively seek funding for this key infrastructure piece on financial markets.

Invest in public transport options to improve accessibility to and within the Southern region, with new bus corridors, and a reduction in the rail journey time between Cork and Dublin.

Allocate central Government funding to Local Authorities to fund the implementation of County Cork’s collective tourism strategy and increase funds for the Regional Route Development Fund in support of regional economic growth.

Prioritise the timely roll out of broadband to homes and businesses in rural and urban locations in North Cork & South Limerick.

Address infrastructure deficits needed to enhance County Cork’s ability to attract new FDI.

Increase investment into childcare to 1% of GDP, while also introducing educational standards for the sector, and expanding the availability of after-school services.

Develop a strategic plan to ensure that our education system supports economic development, the skills needs of the economy, and is adequately funded.

Supporting our Self Employed and SME’s:

End tax discrimination of the self-employed by aligning USC and tax credits with that of PAYE workers and introducing social protection.

Simplify personal taxation.

Reduce marginal tax to below 50%.

Maintain a broad tax base.

Maintain the competitiveness of Irish businesses and exercise restraint in advocating increases to the National Minimum Wage.

Ensure that new employment regulation is practicable and does not unduly favour either employee or employer.

Align Capital Gains Tax with that of our competitors to encourage more investment.

Review of local government funding, with a view to reducing the reliance on the local business community as a key funder.

Implement a coordinated programme to support Irish SMEs to export.

Capitalising on County Cork’s Strengths:

Engage with all stakeholders to move the recommendations of the review of local government arrangements in Cork forward to deliver what is best for Cork.

Publish the National Planning Framework with clear commitment to have a Framework working for regions and Ireland as whole in place by the end of 2016.

Introduction

With a regional population of approximately 500,000 (2011 Census), and a predicted city population growth exceeding the predictions of other Irish cities, it is critical that the enablers of future sustainable economic and community development within Cork are pursued by our elected public representatives, integrated within future planning strategies for the State, and acted upon promptly and accordingly. Throughout the last 25 years, Cork has consistently attracted many of the world’s largest companies to locate within the region and is now home to global market leaders in pharmaceuticals, healthcare, ICT, biotechnology, professional services and international financial services complementing our strong indigenous sectors of agri-tourism, energy and business process outsourcing, and our emerging start-up scene. Indeed, it is safe to say that the entire Cork region has grown consistently in strength as a complimentary hub, as an economic driver of national significance, and as a strategic alternative location to Dublin and the Eastern region.

The next five years will prove a crucial time for County Cork and for the Region. Following the deepest recession in modern times, Ireland has once again positioned itself as the fastest growing economy in Europe. For the first time in eight years the future now looks bright. Consumer spending is increasing, businesses have regained confidence, and new jobs are being created. The next Government must above all provide the stability and political leadership required to allow our recent economic performance to continue. Following years of cutbacks to public investment it will also be of vital importance that our incoming Government allocates the resources necessary to ensure that Ireland and County Cork remains able to complete in an increasingly globalised market.

To achieve this, we must invest in our social and physical infrastructure and reform our tax system so it remains conducive to entrepreneurship and business growth. In this manifesto, Charleville Chamber has identified a number of critical Election 2016 priority areas that will impact upon the future success of our town and region. As one of the largest business representative organisation in North Cork, we believe these need to be recognised and addressed satisfactorily by any incoming government.

We outline these priorities under the following categories: Infrastructure and Housing, Investing in our Future, Supporting our Self Employed and SME’s, and Capitalising on County Cork’s Strengths. By targeting key actions under these priorities, we will be in a strong position to future-proof our economy, create a desirable society, and position North Cork as a region of Growth in the South.

 

1.      Infrastructure and Housing

 The lack of supply of housing has now become possibly the single greatest threat to Ireland’s socio economic development and becoming a mayor issue for the North Cork region. Young people cannot afford to raise families while paying excessive rent charges, workers cannot find accommodation within reach of their workplace, and only the very wealthy can afford home ownership. The lack of housing supply is no longer simply a human issue, it is now impacting our overall economic performance: The lack of supply in the private housing market is driving higher wage demands, and making it difficult for companies to find accommodation for their employees, particularly hindering FDI. The consumer spending necessary to support the domestic economy is also being impacted as households spend a disproportionate amount of their income on housing costs. Consequently, the National Competitiveness Council recently recognised supply of housing as a challenge to the continued competitiveness of the Irish economy.

Cork currently faces an acute shortage of housing which presents a major risk to future economic growth in the region. All data regarding the residential property sector in the region points to a scenario of extremely low levels of housing construction, low availability of housing stock for sale or rent, and a growing demand for new units. This lack of supply impacts across all sectors of the market, private and public, with a lack of housing construction in the private sector directly affecting the provision of social housing.

Furthermore, it is now widely acknowledged that the availability of quality residential accommodation is a critical factor in attracting inward investment with many FDI companies querying the availability of suitable accommodation types within the Cork region. Therefore, the availability (or lack) of housing will impact upon the future ability of the Cork region to secure inward investment having a knock-on effect on the economic performance of the region.

Having an adequate supply of housing now and into the future is pivotal to enabling sustainable economic and community development. The ability for developers to construct new housing is, nevertheless, the provision of adequate transport links and infrastructure, as well as having access to finance.

Charleville Chamber calls on parties to commit to:

Introduce an individual Minister for Housing and Infrastructure. There are currently 12 Government agencies involved and having some responsibility for housing. These range from The Central Bank, Various Government Departments to An Bord Pleanála. There are then further peripheral organisations and agencies that have an interest and role in housing policy, adding to a lack of coherence in policy development and a lack of focus on how to resolve the current shortages. The next Government must establish greater policy coherence at a national level through the establishment of a single overarching body which links all these disparate agencies together and which can focus on resolving short term issues and plan for long term housing demands.

Devolve planning powers (infrastructure & services) necessary for Cork City and County Councils to encourage new urban development.

Introduce Government backed finance for local authorities to deliver infrastructure such as critical roads, surface-water and transport links needed to realise new housing developmentin areas with high demand.  

Address the cost barriers for development, including a review of the taxation costs associated with building certain residential properties targeted at areas with high demand, and reducing the onerous impact of needlessly strict building regulations out of line with international normal practices.

Reform planning processes to reduce delays in development.

Utilise current opportunities to access low-interest finance to fund infrastructure and social housing and engage in public-private partnership modes of development.

2.      Investing in Our Future

The level of connectivity and accessibility within and to a region are crucial factors for enabling long term sustainable and regional economic development. Ireland needs the right physical and virtual infrastructure if it is to maintain its international competitiveness. We are competing against the top countries in the OECD for investment and for market access, and letting our infrastructure depreciate is not an option. The infrastructure we build now needs to be future-proof, and capable of adapting to the demands of the industries of the future. Therefore, it is essential that strong policies are developed and pursued by any incoming government to target the effective delivery of both hard and virtual infrastructure, making use of public private partnerships where appropriate. The Government must prioritise strategic projects with strong long-term economic benefits. All investment decisions should reflect the Government’s objectives for Ireland’s economic future.

Charleville Chamber is now calling on parties to outline their commitment to funding for the projects included in the Capital Plan and review of a Regional Roads Programme.

M20 Cork to Limerick Motorway

Charleville Chamber strongly encourages the incoming Government to reconsider the decision not to progress with the development of the M20 motorway to planning stage, as this critical piece of infrastructure will support increased competitiveness and economic growth in Cork, Limerick, the wider Southern Region and the Atlantic Corridor as a whole. As far back as 2007, the Cork to Limerick Route Pre-Feasibility Report concluded that the route between Cork and Limerick suffered from capacity issues and therefore needed to be upgraded to a higher quality.

Not much has changed in the intervening period with the road connecting Ireland’s 2nd and 3rd cities still being comprised of a mixture of dual and single carriageways. As journey times grow ever more critical from a ‘doing business’ and competitiveness perspective, the lack of vision in improving links between Cork and Limerick may greatly hamper anticipated growth since traffic is limited to roads not equipped to serve neither current nor predicted growth.

The 2007 Pre-Feasibility Report also stated that HGV movements along the Cork to Limerick N20 cause a reduction in average traffic speed particularly through the narrower and more sinuous sections where overtaking is not possible. This has many repercussions, not only from a journey time perspective, but also from a road safety perspective. Indeed, the proposed corridor would bypass towns and villages and in doing so separate strategic traffic from local traffic, improve journey times, and increase safety for all road users along the route. The proposed corridor includes connections to each town and is of potential benefit to these towns in easing congestion and also in ensuring an efficient road link to Cork and/or Limerick. It is furthermore expected that the agri, food and dairy sectors in the region will grow in the coming years due to the abolition of milk quotas. Since these sectors are transport heavy industries, their growth will result in increased traffic between Cork and Limerick cities, which in turn will increase pressure on the existing N20 road and the greater Atlantic Corridor reaching to Galway and the West.

Lastly, the Action Plan for Jobs 2015 highlights a number of key ambitions of which building “an indigenous engine of growth that drives up the export market share of Irish companies” and “world-class clusters in key sectors” are deemed of significant strategic importance.  Therefore, the existence of “fit for purpose” road connectivity is essential to realise future aspirations of the South West region and the ability of the South-West and Mid-West to work in partnership.

Charleville Chamber calls for all parties’ commitment to progressing the M20 Cork to Limerick motorway to planning and proactively seek funding for this key infrastructure piece on financial markets.

 Public Transport Investment

The availability of efficient and effective public transport connectivity options is essential to encouraging and maintaining an attractive quality of life for those visiting and working within and throughout North Cork. Public transport investment is thus needed from an economic development perspective as well as from a social inclusion perspective. Greater investment in public transport is moreover needed to provide alternatives to private transport from a climate change and sustainability perspective.

Public transport connections and initiatives will be critical to the growth of Cork. Our public transport network must be mutually dependent and connected via efficient, effective and affordable public transport options.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to prioritise investment in public transport in Cork County and City, new bus corridors, and funding for Irish Rail to reduce the rail journey times.

Growing Tourism

Charleville Chamber welcomed the principle of a ring-fenced fund of €1 million announced in 2015 for co-operative marketing of regional ports and airports outside of Dublin. While the introduction of the Regional Route Development Fund which can be accessed by stakeholders such as Cork Airport, Shannon Airport and the Port of Cork for route development and marketing support is a step in the right direction, it is imperative that this is grown in the coming years and targeted effectively.

The Chamber has engaged extensively with key decision makers at both a national and regional level advocating the need for a fund to support regional interconnectivity over the last number of years and is confident that the fund will bring new tourism opportunities for our regional port and airports if the scale of the fund is enhanced on an incremental basis.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to commit to allocate central Government funding to Local Authorities to fund the implementation of Cork’s collective tourism strategy and increase funding for the Regional Route Development Fund to support regional economic growth.

Virtual Connectivity

Broadband and the availability of broadband region wide is essential to ensuring access to regional, national or international markets. It is imperative that Government policy supports the increased and timely roll out of broadband to homes and businesses across Ireland in rural and urban locations. Such infrastructural connectivity will provide a level playing field for those doing business and will thereby be essential in promoting balanced economic and community development, realising opportunities and the potential economic benefits therein.

Of utmost significance is the opportunity to capitalise on the availability of Tier 1 International connectivity in Cork. Charleville Chamber emphasises the importance of such an enabling piece of infrastructure, its significance to North Cork, and its broader national and international significance. With the commencement of pipe laying works in August 2015, Charleville Chamber highlights the expanded potential of the region that now exists as regards attracting future FDI, job creation, data centres, reducing telecommunications costs and the opportunity to achieve the shortest latency between Ireland/ EU and the U.S.

 The interconnector provided by Hibernia Express will serve as a foundational element to Ireland’s preeminent position in the global cloud infrastructure marketplace, providing data centres and internet exchanges with the connectivity to address the immense bandwidth needs of businesses in North America and Europe. The highly scalable Hibernia Express cable will yield in excess of 10Tbps per fibre pair, which is nearly triple the capacity delivered on current transatlantic systems.

Charleville Chamber is calling on all parties to work with the IDA and regional stakeholders, including Chambers of Commerce, to market the opportunities presented by the availability of Tier 1 Connectivity to strengthen Cork’s position as the Southern Driver of Growth.

FDI in Advanced Manufacturing Sectors

Of crucial significance to the economic development of North Cork, and County Cork as a region is its ability to attract FDI investment. As such, the diminished success rate which has emerged in relation to County Cork attracting new FDI companies in the advanced manufacturing sectors, particularly in the sectors where County Cork would traditionally have been seen as front runners i.e., pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, medical technologies, ICT, engineering and food technology, is increasingly worrying to the overall region and its status as a prime location for FDI investment.

Over the past 6 years IDA Ireland has been successful in attracting a significant number of major new start-up FDI projects from these sectors, particularly from US companies many of whom were planning their first investment in Ireland, or indeed their first major investment outside of the US. Notably, North Cork and the County of Cork region has not been successful in attracting any of these major projects despite the region’s tradition and historical track record in these sectors. It is now eight years since the completion of the last significant IDA supported greenfield project by a new entrant in advanced manufacturing in County Cork. In this period other regions, in particular Dublin, Waterford, Limerick and Galway have been more successful in securing new strategic investment in advanced manufacturing.

Deficiencies in infrastructure that exist at each of County Cork’s strategic locations for industrial development (Ringaskiddy, Carrigtwohill, CSIP Curaheen, Little Island) are fundamental to County Cork’s current lack of success in attracting new FDI. Indeed these and similar constraints in the North Cork Region will continue to impede County Cork’s future success if not addressed in the short to medium term. For multinational companies considering a major investment in Ireland, the issues of ‘project delivery schedule’ and ‘speed to market’ are paramount. Companies are reluctant to select sites where significant 3rd party works and/or statutory processes are required to render the site fully serviced and ‘ready-to-go’. The evidence is clear that FDI companies are selecting locations in other regions where more favourable, better serviced sites are available.

What’s of critical importance now is that every effort is made to expedite the completion of design, planning and, where feasible, delivery of the identified infrastructure deficits associated with the sites zoned for industrial development in North Cork and broader county. A strategic review should be undertaken by the relevant stakeholders (Cork County Council, IDA, utility providers, TII, etc.) to assess the infrastructural deficits that are significantly impacting North Cork’s ability to attract new advanced manufacturing FDI, and develop a strategy to prioritise the sourcing and allocation of resources and funding to address these needs.

Time is of the essence. Many of the projects required to render the current industrial-zoned sites in North Cork as ‘ready-to-go’ will be on a long timeline. As such it is imperative that action is taken now in order to position North Cork strongly for the future. A broader review should also be undertaken to identify other viable sites in North Cork and broader county that could potentially be rendered ready-to-go for greenfield FDI quicker and more economically that the existing industrial zoned lands.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to commit to investing in the infrastructure deficits needed to enhance North Cork’s ability to attract FDI.

Childcare

Charleville Chamber would like to see investment in an effective childcare strategy to support our future economic growth in the short term as well as long term. The cost of childcare in Ireland is over 20% above the OECD average as a percentage of family income. For many families, and particularly lone parents, the cost of childcare is a barrier to employment. One of the ways we can start to make work pay for families is to provide access to affordable, high quality childcare services. Lack of suitable childcare services is a major barrier to parents, particularly women, in returning to work. The benefits to families of affordable childcare are obvious, but the positive economic and social impacts must not be ignored. While improvements were made in Budget 2016 through the extension of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, there is much more that the next Government can do to address this issue.

A significantly higher level of Government investment in early childhood education and care is needed. Unlike spending on primary, secondary and tertiary education, the annual proportion of public expenditure allocated towards early childhood in Ireland is much lower than other European countries. We recommend that the next Government bring annual investment in early childhood education in line with the UNICEF guideline of 1% and introduce educational quality standards for early childhood education

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to increase investment into early childhood education and care to 1% of GDP while also addressing lack of access to after-school services for children. In addition, educational standards for early childhood education should be introduced.

Education

Investment in education is essential for the continuation of our economic development, to attract FDI, and to ensure that Irish people have the necessary range of skills for a future-proof, modern economy. Ireland needs a long term strategy that supports learning and development from early childhood education, to high quality vocational training and tertiary education, through to the ongoing professional development of those in the workforce. Education is essential for Ireland in the face of the challenges posed by population trends, and the skills shortages which are developing as the economy recovers.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are playing an increasing role in the Irish and global economy. By 2020 we want Ireland to be a world leader in STEM education and to have an education system that addresses our future skills needs at all levels. The Government must focus investment in STEM education and give greater incentives for students to engage with STEM subjects at school from an early age.

Charleville Chamber is fully supportive of the recent establishment of the South-West Regional Skills Forum and welcome this initiative as a key vehicle in which industry and all regional stakeholders can work in collaboration to meet the skills needs of the region.

The level of investment per student has, however, experienced significant cutbacks in recent years at a risk of lowering educational quality standards which may have long-term effects on Ireland’s competitiveness, skills levels and innovativeness if not reversed.

The establishment of the Apprenticeship Council was an important step in advancing Ireland’s
educational and skills infrastructure. A developed economy requires a highly skilled workforce, and a vital component of Ireland’s future human capital stock will be workers that have completed high
quality apprenticeships or undertaken vocational education. It is important that apprenticeships and high quality vocational training play an ongoing role in the evolution of Ireland’s education and skills provision system.

As part of the addressing skills mismatches in the economy, the National Training Fund should also be refocused in light of decreasing unemployment figures.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to develop a strategic plan to ensure that the education system supports economic development and future market needs and is adequately funded. In doing so, new apprenticeship programmes that meet industry demands must also be developed.

 Charleville Chamber believes the National Training Fund should be focused on the training of SMEs, which make 97% of Irish businesses and have tremendous potential to scale up and export if given the necessary training and informational support.

3.      Supporting Our Businesses

Government cannot create jobs but it can ensure that the necessary conditions are in place for businesses to create jobs. We need Irish entrepreneurs and businesses to establish new ventures, generate revenue, and importantly, create jobs. The next Government should ensure that Ireland’s economic recovery is driven by a generation of indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses that will provide a solid foundation of jobs and growth throughout the country.

End tax discrimination of the self-employed

SMEs make up 97% of all Irish business, however current Irish tax structures do not incentivise our small business owners and entrepreneurs to take risks, grow or succeed. The attractiveness of our taxation system is essential from an investor perspective, and the anomalies in relation to PAYE and the self-employed need to be addressed.

Self Employed earners pay 3% more in USC than a PAYE worker who earns the same amount. There must be equity in the tax system to support and encourage entrepreneurship and investment. The USC for self-employed earnings over €100,000 should be brought in line with that of PAYE workers.  The tax system further discriminates against the self-employed through the inequitable tax credit system. The self-employed must be allowed to avail of a tax credit similar to that available to the PAYE worker.

 A voluntary opt-in social welfare protection scheme should also be available to all owner-directors to pay additional social contributions into, and entitle them to social protection should their business fail.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to end tax discrimination against the self-employed by aligning the USC burden and tax credits of self-employed with that of PAYE workers, and introducing social protection for entrepreneurs.

Simplify Personal Taxation

The attractiveness of our overall taxation system is essential to Ireland’s competitiveness and ability to attract a highly skilled workforce. Ireland’s industries must be able to draw from a potentially mobile, skilled workforce in order to foster our knowledge economy. Changing the taxation system may be essential to ensuring our highly skilled workforce continues to choose Ireland as a place to work and live. Tax simplification is the cornerstone of tax transparency and tax equity which will also allow employees to easily understand their tax liabilities and how much they are paying. Simplifying personal taxation would furthermore reduce the potential for tax avoidance, which is facilitated by unnecessarily complex systems of rates and bands.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to simplify personal taxation by including the Universal Social Charge in income tax to form a single tax on income.

Reduce the Marginal Rate of Income Tax

At current rates, Ireland is a relatively unattractive location for the highly mobile executives and skilled workers needed to bolster our economy. The high marginal rate also impacts on productivity levels and the willingness of employees to work to their full potential, innovate or act in an entrepreneurial fashion. These are the traits that Ireland should be encouraging amongst our workforce through appropriate tax rates.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to reduce the marginal rate of tax on income to below 50%.

Maintain a Broad Tax Base

A big threat to Ireland’s economic future is the potential to repeat the mistakes of the past by narrowing the tax base. Previous Governments eroded Ireland’s tax base to the point where the Exchequer was almost completely dependent on the revenue of a small number of transactional-type taxes and very high income taxes on relatively a small cohort of workers. This proved unsustainable and the State found itself unable to fund itself when these tax revenues collapsed during the downturn.

The next Government must avoid repeating this mistake. Removing ever greater numbers of workers from the tax net will again concentrate the tax burden on a small number of workers and would create an unacceptably high risk of Ireland’s tax revenues collapsing again in the future. Every worker paying a reasonable amount based on their income is the surest way to maintain equitable and secure tax revenues.

Equally, the incoming Government should expand the charges associated with user-based services, including road tax, local property tax, water charges etc. These charges are generally progressive and contribute to encouraging sustainability and the efficient use of resources. They also provide increased security for the State in that revenue streams are long term and constant.

Charleville Chamber calls on the incoming Government to ensure a broad tax base by expanding user-based taxes and charges.

Maintain the Competitiveness of Irish Businesses

Ireland is a small open economy and our businesses are competing in a global marketplace. Ireland is already a relatively high cost economy, particularly for wage costs, and our companies need to be able to demonstrate value in order to access international markets. This ability to compete internationally is under threat from a recent series of initiatives aimed at increasing the statutory minimum.

Unless there is a clear and compelling case for increases in the National Minimum Wage, restraint should be exercised. This will result in more competitive indigenous businesses, increased likelihood of foreign direct investment, and crucially, more jobs.

The Low Pay Commission’s annual deliberation on the rate of the National Minimum Wage must be free from any political influence, and the issue of National Minimum Wage rate must not be co-opted as a political issue.

Limiting the Regulatory Burden on Businesses

Employment regulations are vital to protect both employees and employers. Some recently proposed regulatory proposals, however, would be hugely damaging to both competitiveness and the effective functioning of the labour market.

To compete internationally, we must avoid introducing increasingly burdensome employment regulations that will increase the cost base of many Irish businesses and reduce their competitiveness.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to commit to ensuring that any proposed employment regulation is responding to an identifiable need for regulation, is practicable in a modern economy, and does not unduly favour either employee or employer.

Reduce Capital Gains Tax

Ireland’s Capital Gains Tax regime must be made more competitive and brought into line with that of our competitor nations. A competitive CGT regime will encourage investment in Irish companies and support entrepreneurs.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to reduce CGT to bring it into line with that of our competitors to encourage more investment.

Local Authority Commercial Rates

Local Authorities provide important and innovative services without which local commerce could not flourish.  However, value for money must be demonstrated in the levying of rates and the corresponding provision of services.

The methodology of calculating and levying commercial rates has long been recognised as an anachronism. The system is archaic and unsuited to the needs of a modern economy. The system as currently constructed is a heavy burden on the business community and can be particularly deleterious to rural and regional economic development. Local Authorities require funding in order to administer local government and the business community will pay its fair share. However, the current system needs to be revised and modernised.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to commit to a carrying out a root and branch review of local government funding, with a view to reducing the reliance on the business community as a funder of local government. Currently the business community in County Cork is a key contributor to local government funding, making up 43% of Cork County Council’s total revenue.

Implement a Coordinated Programme to Support Irish SMEs to Export

Ireland considers itself an exporting nation, and while our balance of trade figures are very positive, much of our exports are confined to multinational companies and the FDI sector. As a small, open economy, this concentration of exports within one cohort of companies poses risks. If a small number of multinationals were to relocate their operations, or if changes to international tax regimes made Ireland a relatively less attractive place from which to export, Ireland would very quickly see a significant drop in export levels.

A concerted effort is required to encourage and support Irish SMEs to become more outward looking, to focus on international markets, and ultimately, to scale up. Ireland must foster the development of a new generation of indigenous companies that are internationally focused and
export-ready.

4.      Capitalising on Cork’s Strengths

National Planning Framework

Charleville Chamber is strongly calling for greater levels of state investment in capital infrastructure, but finance and investment are not enough to ensure the timely delivery and achievement of maximum benefit of infrastructure projects. Ireland needs a robust National Planning Framework to ensure that capital investment and infrastructure plans are implemented through best practice planning. The failure to implement the 2002 National Spatial Strategy led to the announcement in 2013 of a new National Planning Framework. In the absence of a spatial strategy for the country, government investment in regional job strategies, transport, communications and other capital infrastructure projects cannot ensure that economic recovery and development will be balanced or sustainable. The poor planning and investment decisions of the past should not be repeated. A National Planning Framework, with a focus on county regions, would provide a strategic context for the development of regional economic and spatial strategies.

Charleville Chamber calls on all parties to guarantee the publication of the National Planning Framework by the end of 2016. It is important that each party ensures that there is political commitment, nationally and locally, to the implementation of a National Planning Framework that works for the economic development of the regions and for Ireland as a whole.

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