Tuesday 12 December 2017

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City boundary reaction

Thursday, 15th June, 2017 9:33am

“It’s a reverse takeover of the county dressed up as a city boundary extension!”

That’s the sentiment of Alf Smiddy, who chaired the Cork Local Government Review Committee, responding to news that Cork City Council’s boundary will be extended.

Mr Smiddy’s committee had recommended that Cork city and county councils merge, as announced in September 2015. (See panel)

A second group was established in October 2016 – called the Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements – and this week it recommended that Cork City Council be given a boundary extension.

Minister Simon Coveney established the second group and he has agreed with its recommendation. This was confirmed on 9 June.

It has since caused controversy with Cork County Council after indicating that it is not in a position to accept the report in the absence of further information.

Cork County Council convened a meeting of the Corporate Policy Group (CPG) which took place within hours of the report being published.

While acknowledging that there are some positive aspects to the report’s findings, a number of serious concerns were identified by members of council on the CPG.

These include issues with the boundary extension and management structures.

A statement from Cork County Council said: “Firstly, and crucially, the Group makes no reference to the proposals put forward by Cork County Council as part of this process. Given the significance of Cork County Council as a key stakeholder, this is a glaring omission.”

It added that any proposed revised boundary arrangements can only be implemented once the management structure – including staff transfers, financial structures and transitional arrangements – are put in place.

Cork County Council also believes that the proposed boundary extension is “excessive” and involves the city taking in areas which are rural, and not city, areas.

“Rural Cork will inevitably be negatively impacted in the medium to longer term,” said Cork County Council statement.

On Monday, at a Cork City Council meeting, Lord Mayor of Cllr Des Cahill proposed that the council accept the decision, which it did. He said, during his last meeting to chair as the Lord Mayor: “This isn’t an us versus them situation.”

He also said that it was the right thing to do.

Previous to the meeting, he said: “I believe passionately that a boundary extension is the right solution not just for the city, but for the county too, as well as for the southern region, and for Ireland.”

• Cork should continue to have two local authorities – Cork City Council and Cork County Council

• Cork County Council will remain by far the larger of the two local authorities, with a population of approximately 320,000

• Cork City Council should be extended to include Ballincollig, Carrigrohane, Blarney, Glanmire, Carrigtwohill and Cork Airport, involving approximately a population of 225,000. based on 2016 Census figures

• The number of councillors should be revised to reflect a better balance of representation

• A statutory Cork Metropolitan Area Plan should be drawn up, focusing on strategic economic development, housing and infrastructure issues affecting the wider Cork area. Preparation and implementation should be overseen by a board, with equal representation from both the city and county, as well as business representatives.

Other areas of co-operation between the local authorities should be strengthened

• A financial reciprocation payment, based on principles outlined in the report, should be made by Cork City Council to Cork County Council arising from the boundary change, taking into consideration loss of revenue and reduced expenditure on the part of Cork County Council

• A newly-configured Cork City Council should move to area-based decision-making, service provision and operations

• An Implementation Oversight Body should be established to progress arrangements including overseeing the Metropolitan Area Plan.

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