Draft legislation to give effect to the first extension of Cork’s city boundary in more than 50 years has been published.
The 32-page Local Government Bill 2018 contains a raft of detailed legal provisions governing the wide variety of complex issues involved in the process, including land, asset, and staff transfers, the operation of bye-laws, as well as the financial compensation package arrangements.
It makes reference to a ‘transfer day’, yet to be determined, from which the extended Cork city boundary will have legal effect, bringing places such as Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island, and Cork Airport into the city, and expanding the city’s population from 125,000 to around 210,000.
However, sources close to the process are working on the assumption that ‘transfer day’ will coincide with the 2019 local elections in late May or early June, at which time they expect the bill to be signed into law by the President.
The bill now gives officials in both councils the first firm indication of the legal framework underpinning the complex process.
It sets out how staff transfer plans must be agreed by the chief executives of both councils, and how affected staff must be informed within five months of the plans being agreed.
It sets out how both local authorities must agree on a complex compensation package to ensure the county doesn’t lose out financially arising out of the extension.
It sets out how new registers of electors for both administrative areas are due to come into effect on February 15, 2019.
And it provides for by-laws governing a range of areas from parking to the management of cemeteries — nine county cemeteries are set to transfer to the city — to continue to apply for at least 12 months after transfer day, unless the city council passes a resolution stating otherwise.
The bill also contains provisions for the merger of Galway city and county councils, which will include the abolition of the positions of the chief executive of both the city and county councils of Galway, and the establishment of the position of chief executive of the merged entity.
The bill, which was published online before the weekend, is at the first stage and has yet to be discussed by TDs or examined section-by-section at committee stage where possible amendments could be suggested before it is referred to the Seanad for debate and further possible amendments.
The Cork city boundary extension saga has been dragging on for years.
It peaked in 2015 with a High Court threat by the city over the statutory Smiddy report which recommended a merger of the city and county councils.
Over a dozen former lord mayors branded the merger proposal as an attack on democracy and a potential disaster for the city.
It led to the establishment of a review group which went on to recommend the retention of the two local authorities and a city boundary extension that would bring areas such as Ballincollig, Blarney, Cork Airport, and Carrigtwohill into the city.
A compromise boundary extension subsequently emerged, but last summer, legislation was deemed necessary to give effect to the extension after both sides failed to agree on the line.
The compromise extension was formally approved by Government early last month and now the process to legislate is formally underway.