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Government Merging Local Authorities is the Wrong Call for Cork
Last updated on 16 Sep, 2015
The implementation of the Smiddy report’s recommendation to merge Cork City and County Councils could seriously jeopardise investment in the entire South West region.
The report, which was published last week, has come in for severe criticism from many people including, constituents, local businesses’, analysts and politicians.
I have serious concerns about the proposed merger of Cork City and County Councils as recommended by this report. The suggested super structure, which would see the establishment of a Cork Metropolitan Division, a Cork North and East Municipal Division and a Cork West and South Municipal Division is an unnecessary reworking of the existing councils, and has even failed to secure the full support of the 5 member panel set up to examine the proposal.
I find it extraordinary that the panel did not take on board the advice of academics in University College Cork who stated that the recommendations are not feasible. A bullish approach, whereby critical voices were ignored rather than engaged with, appears to have been adopted by some members of the panel. This blinkered attitude has resulted in a seriously flawed document, which has the potential to jeopardise the status of Cork city and the future development of the region.
I believe in a revised boundary arrangement. As cited by Prof. Keogh and Dr. Reidy, Cork City Council would become one of the largest local authorities in the country with a projection population of 230,000 and Cork County Council would be in the top five in the country in terms of size, supporting a population of 290,000. The City and the County are clearly large enough to maintain their own governance structures into the future.
The conclusion of the minority report of Professor Dermot Keogh and Dr. Theresa Reidy puts forward a clear, coherent argument which states that “Cork city needs an independent and autonomous future. It is the second city in the state and it should be empowered to grow and develop in that spirit.” Cork city is integral in driving investment and job creation for the entire region, and the progress that has been made in recent months and years, through the Cork Area Strategic Plan, could be put at risk if the city council is abolished and merged into an overarching authority.
The recommendations contained on the Smiddy report need to be thoroughly examined and debated. The merger model is simply not the right decision for Cork as a whole. The current City and County Council model is not working as it should but Minister Alan Kelly should not rush into pressing ahead with an equally flawed replacement.