The CBA Has Had A Busy Summer! 

Flood Insurance

Flood insurance or the lack of same has long been a bitter bone of contention for many businesses in Cork city. I have seen at first hand the devastation that flooding can cause to premises and the stress and worry it causes to the operators who in many cases didn't have and couldn't get flood insurance cover. This problem is, of course, not unique to Cork city and is indeed a national issue. Hence the reason several years ago the CBA formed a strategic alliance with the Irish National Flood Forum. Our objective was and is to ensure locations which have seen Flood Defences installed to the 1 in 100-year standard by the OPW, must subsequently be offered affordable Flood Insurance cover. This regrettably is not happening and I can refer to Fermoy, Clonmel, & Mallow as examples where the state has invested close to €130 million on flood defences yet businesses and indeed many private residences are refused flood insurance cover.

In April this year, the Cork Business Association along with the INFF met with Insurance Ireland and challenged them on why they were not offering flood insurance cover particularly in the newly defended areas. Their main argument was the use of demountable defences and the lack of agreed protocols for their deployment. This position to pardon a pun does not hold water, demountable defences are an integral part of most flood schemes and Insurance Ireland has failed to work with any of the key stakeholders to agree on such protocols. Simply put it suits them for the status quo to remain and they can use this lack of agreed procedures relating to demountable defences as an excuse not to offer flood insurance cover.

In July this year again on the issue of Flood Insurance, the CBA & INFF met with the Central Bank where we expressed our concern at the lack of flood insurance cover specifically in areas where the OPW have spent hundreds of millions of Euro on completing world-class flood protection schemes in 18 towns across Ireland. The issue of non-independent data being collected by the government on the penetration of flood insurance in towns that have had a flood scheme delivered was highlighted. The Director of Consumer Affairs with the Central Bank did believe the information we presented warranted further investigation. The Central Bank position was they needed to reassess the situation and revert with their findings.

 It is the view of the Cork Business Association & the Irish National Flood Forum that legislation is the only method that will resolve the issue of affordable flood insurance cover. In this respect, we have been most fortunate to have the support and advice of Michael McGrath T.D. who has tabled a private member's Flood Insurance Bill 2016. This bill is currently before Dáil Eireann, Third Stage better known as committee stage. The next phase is to get the bill out of the committee stage into the report stage / final report stage and thence to the Seanad. This, of course, will not be a straight forward journey and there are powerful interest groups who don't want to see this happen. The Cork Business Association is committed to achieving this objective for property owners both local & national and will continue to support the INFF in this endeavour.

Delegation who met with representatives of the Irish Central Bank:

  • Cathal O Donovan Director INFF
  • Jer Buckley PRO INFF
  • Paul Kavanagh MD McCarthy Insurance Brokers
  • Michael Tully Balinasloe Flood Alleviation
  • Lawrence Owens CEO Cork Business Association
  • Eamon Downey – Development Director Owens McCarthy Loss Adjusters ( not in picture also attended )

Street Performers / Busking Bye-Laws

Street performing will always be an integral part of what our city offers. It greatly adds to the atmosphere and vibrancy of our wonderful city. I don't think many would argue with that position and neither would the CBA. However, whilst most street performers take into account their surroundings and what is the appropriate volume for the area, there are unfortunately a few who feel whatever volume they decide on is acceptable. This over-amplification, sometimes to absolutely ridiculous levels, is unreasonable.

We have received many complaints from businesses in the city on this issue particularly on the level of amplification being used which is impacting on our members who are trying to conduct their business. What we are proposing is to regulate the art of street performers, particularly when it comes to the volume that some performers choose to use. The current situation is that Cork City has no bye-laws in place to regulate street performers and we are seeking to have this situation corrected. We have met with Councillor Joe Kavanagh, Fine Gael, on this issue and asked him that this matter be brought before city council to enact bye-laws that will give the Gardaí power of enforcement in this area. In essence, it’s all about balance.

VAT: Hospitality & Services Sector Competitiveness

Many of our members have expressed to us their serious concern that the change in the Vat rate from 9% back to 13.5% in the 2018 Budget is having on their business. In our view, no commercial logic was applied to this decision a 50% increase and in one budget. No consideration was given to adjusting this rate over several budgets to allow businesses to cope, instead, it was applied in full at 13.5%.

In the Tourism sector alone VAT increase from 9% to 13.5% has meant an additional tax burden of €466 million on the tourism industry this year. Ireland now has a higher VAT rate than 27 countries in Europe, to improve competitiveness Ireland’s tourism VAT rate needs to be urgently reviewed so that it is line with European peers.

Submissions for the 2019 Budget are now being made by various sectors across the country. In partnership with the Irish Hotel Federation, (IHF) Cork Vintners Federation (CFI), Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) & representatives from the services sector.

The Cork Business Association facilitated a number of meetings with key politicians to convey to them the seriousness of the issue and the urgent need for the vat rate to be adjusted back to 9.5%, particularly as the uncertainty that Brexit and the fall in the value of sterling is bringing to the tourism & hospitality sector.

We met with Michael McGrath Fianna Fáil spokesperson on finance on Thursday, September 5th & An Tánaiste & Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney later on the same day.

Following these meeting, the below Press Release was issued:

Business Leaders Meet with Key Politicians in relation to Budget 2020

The Cork Business Association in alliance with representatives of the Hospitality, Services & Tourism sectors held separate meetings last Thursday 05th September at the CBA offices at no. 5 South Mall, with Michael McGrath, Fianna Fail spokesperson on finance, and later with An Tánaiste, Simon Coveney.

The meetings focused on the upcoming Budget for 2020 as well as the measures that need to be enacted to stop the erosion of the sector's competitiveness, viability and the long-term sustainability of Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and biggest regional employer.

The meetings were frank and open and the serious concerns of the representative organisations who attended were conveyed. The consensus was that the existing VAT rate of 13.5% needs to be restored to 9% in the forthcoming budget in order that these vital sectors future, and the significant levels of employment they maintain, is secured.

In attendance at the meetings were An Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, Michael McGrath, Fianna Fail spokesman on Finance, Lawrence Owens, Chief Executive CBA, Philip Gillivan, CBA President and owner of The Shelbourne Bar, Aaron Mansworth, Managing Director of the Trigon Hotel Group, Mike Ryan owner of the Cornstore & Coqbull restaurants and representing the RAI, Sean McCarthy publican & restauranteur and treasurer of the CVF, Neil Grant, General Manager of The Celtic Ross Hotel and representing as branch chairman of the IHF, Kathleen Healy, Darcy's Hair Salon representing the services sector, Claire Nash, owner of Nash 19, Michael Magner, owner of the Vienna Woods Hotel.

L-R - Lawrence Owens, Mike Ryan, Michael Magner, Neil Grant, Philip Gillivan, An Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Claire Nash, Aaron Mansworth, Sean McCarthy, Kathleen Healy, Sarah Bennett

L-R - Lawrence Owens, Michael Magner, Mike Ryan, Michael McGrath, Neil Grant, Claire Nash, Kathleen Healy, Sean McCarthy

Retail Initiatives / Review

The retail committee of the Cork Business Association has had several highly positive and constructive meetings with members of Retail Excellence Ireland. Looking at a range of innovative initiatives to improve the retail offer in Cork city. This is very much a work in progress and of course must include all the other key stakeholders in our city such as the Cork Chamber of Commerce, Cork City Council and others. International experience tells us that cities that work together in collaboration and partnership do best. Progressive retailers are embracing technology and driving an omni-channel approach within their stores for the benefit of us, the customers. Physical stores are part of our culture and investment in technology is being used to deliver a customer-centric retail experience, through click-and-collect, electronic shelf labels, real-time pricing, digital receipts/mobile vouchers, in-store virtual dressing rooms, etc. However, the core of the customer experience remains the physical store, and these innovations merely augment and add to the experience. The reality is that the retail landscape is forever changing, but while trends and preferences are cyclical, the delivery of a consistent, excellent customer experience remains at the core of all successful businesses. Cork in this respect through innovative initiatives such as the Customer service charter is well placed to deliver the consistent excellence in service that is needed. To keep our customers coming into town going into shops and interacting with people as opposed to shopping online.

Better Building Awards 2019

The search has begun for Cork's best designed and maintained buildings.

Entries for the 2019 Cork Better Buildings Awards 2019 are arriving in their droves with business owners and building occupants right across the greater Cork area keen to show off the exterior of their establishment.

The Cork Better Building Awards congratulate staff, managers, property owners, developers, architects and designers for high standards in design, conservation and creativity, and also salute the window cleaners, painters and maintenance staff on their good practice in the presentation and upkeep of the buildings. This significantly contributes to a positive public perception of the city as a vibrant and dynamic place to live, visit, invest and do business in.   

This year in particular, we want to recognise the huge amount of expansion and planning in Cork. To acknowledge this, we are delighted to announce that the 2019 Cork’s Better Building Awards are open to any building in the greater Cork area. Whether the building you consider worthy of nomination is in Ballincollig, Glanmire, Blarney, Douglas or in the City Centre the CBA welcomes your nomination and is urging every business owner, heritage building owner, architect or conservationist to apply before the September 23rd deadline. You do not need to be a member of the CBA to enter these awards.

The beauty of Cork’s Better Building Awards is that the public can also get involved and nominate a building that they admire and believe is a stand-up feature in Cork City. You do not have to own or operate the building itself to enter it in the Cork’s Better Building Awards so please, share with us some of your favourite Cork buildings.

The Cork Better Building Awards are supported by Cork City Council and our media partners, The Echo.

For more information on these awards or to enter today please visit www.corkbusiness.ie.

Cork's longest running business association and the Irish Management Institute partner to "equip leaders to build the future" in Cork.

At the beginning of July Cork Business Association was delighted to announce our new partnership with the Irish Management Institute (IMI) to continue our mission to support businesses of all sizes in Cork.

Founded by business leaders for business leaders, the Irish Management Institute (IMI) has been empowering world-class executives for over sixty years. This year, IMI was officially ranked as one of the top 50 executive education institutes in the world by the Financial Times. Through sharing the latest information on upcoming executive development programmes running in Cork, we will be in a position to provide our members access to world-class professional development.

We, the CBA, are extremely keen to continue to work closely with the IMI to provide our members in the Cork region with the highest level of speakers and panelists that will both educate and inspire attendees to propel their business forward through their own personal development. 

The Insurance crisis affecting SMEs
A Cork Business Association event

Businesses in the retail, hospitality, tourism and events sectors are facing significant challenges in procuring sustainable insurance premiums. Some are facing closure due to insurance issues. Industry representative bodies are working hard to bring about change through extensive lobbying of government and through the media, however, SMEs affected by these issues need to take action in their own businesses now.

The Cork Business Association is hosting an insurance event for businesses in Cork city on 17 September at 5.30pm in the Metropole Hotel with a number of industry experts.

Peter Boland heads up the lobby group Alliance for Insurance Reform which enjoys a very broad base involving over 35,000 members seriously concerned about the insurance crisis in Ireland, who are immensely frustrated at the slow pace of reform. Peter will discuss the insurance crisis, the impact for retailers and the hospitality trade, and what they are doing to bring about insurance reform. 

Bill Cremin, MD of Cool Running Events Ltd., who runs iceskating.ie (including Cork on Ice) and is a partner of The Nightmare Realm, will give insights into insurance for festivals and events.  Bill’s company deals with claims every year. Despite this they manage to maintain sustainable insurance cover for their business.  Bill will provide insight about how his company manages risk and continues to thrive in a challenging insurance environment.

Brendan O Connell, Partner at Ronan Daly Jermyn, acts for some of Ireland’s leading retailers and he will provide insight on strategies to employ in determining when a case is worthwhile defending/settling.

Clara O Neill from Total Planning Solutions and Chair of the CBA infrastructure committee will speak about Cork's proposed Flood Defences and their effect on the availability of flood insurance for businesses in the city.

The takeaways for attendees will be among the following;

  • Learn about the insurance crisis in Ireland and how you can lobby.
  • Insights on how to manages claims to ensure sustainable renewal premiums in risky business
  • Practical advice on how to identify and manage risk in your business.
  • How to position your business to secure sustainable insurance premiums.
  • Flood Defences for Cork and how they may impact on the availability of flood insurance

Date:  Tuesday 17th Sept

Time:  Registration from 5.30pm, Presentations from 6-7.30pm, followed by a Q&A. 

Venue:  The Metropole Hotel Cork

Cost:  Free for CBA members, €15 for non-members

Purple Flag

The Cork Business Association has been working closely with the Cork City Council, An Gardaí Siochanna, Cork Chamber of Commerce and various other stakeholder, over the summer months in order to retain Cork’s Purple Flag status. The international accreditation, awarded by the Association of Cities and Towns Management, celebrates areas of excellence in the night-time economy and has to be renewed every two years.

The ‘vibrant Victorian Quarter’ and the success of the public bike scheme were some of the reasons given for Cork retaining its coveted Purple Flag status back in 2017. We are confident that Cork will meet, and even surpass, the necessary criteria required to retain our Purple Flag status this year.

Members of the 'Athlone A Capella' ladies barbershop chorus celebrating the purple flag renewal award of Cork city centre, as part of International Purple Flag weekend, before taking part in the barbershop convention in City Hall, Cork. Picture: David Keane.

Q-Park Rewards App

At the beginning of the summer the CBA met with representatives from Q-Park on order to discuss the introduction of the new parking rewards app which they had previously launched in Dublin and the UK.

The Q-Park Rewards app is an innovative card linked app which works with Q-Park and Retail Partners. Customers can earn cashback rewards from spending on parking and retail spend, simply by registering the bank card in the secure app. Following in-depth discussions into the processes and benefits of using this app, what we found most interesting about this parking initiative is that the individual business essentially controls what level of discount they offer and they can make it appropriate to their business model. The app is totally independent of Cork City Council as it only applies to Q-Park locations.

We were happy to welcome Cork City business owners into the CBA office for a briefing session with members of the Q-Park team allowing them to share the information about their new app and begin to build relationships between the retailers and Q-Park.

CBA Meeting with Garda Superintendent

In July President Philip Gillivan & I, Lawrence Owens, met with Superintendent Colm O’Sullivan who is in charge of Governance and operates from Anglesea Street. We had a long and detailed discussion on the lack of Garda resources for Cork City. We stressed our concern and that of the many businesses who have raised, and continue to raise, this issue with us.

We advised the Superintendent that we have written to the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, & Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin all on the same issue of Garda resources for Cork City.

Our request is very straight forward we want to see Gardaí on the streets of our city, not in patrol cars but essentially boots on the ground. We received a commitment from Superintendent O’Sullivan that he would revert to the CBA in September on this matter. We look forward to his response and will keep you updated on developments regarding this vitally important issue.

Events Centre

Where does one begin on this project which we all fully agree is so critical to the future prosperity of the city, as it will have such a positive impact on so many sectors.

During the summer the CBA, in partnership with the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI), and the Cork Vintners Association (CVA), held a number of meetings with all the key players involved with the Events Centre; Ann Doherty CEO Cork City Council, Theo Cullinane, CEO BAM Ireland and An Tánaiste Simon Coveney TD.

The objective was to try and understand where the delays were in moving this project forward and what our organisations could do to assist in the matter. It was during this consultation process that, in late July, we learnt as you all did that BAM was given notice that it must supply a Natural Impact Statement on the impact to the Cork Harbour Protected Area (SPA) and the Great Island Area of Conservation (SAC). Furthermore, they had been given six months to provide this report.

To say we, along with most interested observers, were baffled is an understatement. Since the sod was turned on the site back in February 2016 this project has been dogged by set back after set back. However, I now believe the requested information has been supplied to Cork City Council planning department. We now await planning permission and of course, await the objections to same which I'm pretty sure will follow. Why does An Taisce suddenly come to mind?

Then the last elephant in the room must be addressed; that of the finance for this project which has yet to be resolved. However, despite the chequered history of this project, I am still confident it will happen, I just can't say when.