Details of the long-awaited extension of Cork’s city boundary could emerge within weeks.
The red line on a map, which will define the areas to be transferred from the county council’s jurisdiction to the city council’s administrative area, could be ready by the end of October.
A compensation arrangement will also be prepared to ensure the county council does not lose out financially from the loss of a substantial rates base from the selected areas.
It follows the decision by Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government Eoghan Murphy to appoint an oversight group to press ahead with the implementation of the controversial changes.
The new boundary will be published along with the various other actions which will be required to effect the extension as part of an implementation plan the minister said he would like by the end of October.
It will be the first extension of the city’s boundary in more than 50 years and will take place as part of one of the single biggest reforms of Cork’s local government arrangements in a generation.
News that the government is pressing ahead with the boundary extension marks a significant milestone in a process which started more than two years ago when a statutory committee was set up to review Cork’s local government arrangements.
Chaired by business consultant Alf Smiddy, the committee was split three to two on its 2015 recommendation to merge the city and county councils and create a super-council for Cork.
It triggered a wave of opposition and a judicial review, and led to the establishment by Simon Coveney, the former local government minister, of an expert review group to examine the situation again.
That group, chaired by former chief planner for Scotland, Jim Mckinnon, rejected the Smiddy merger proposal in favour of retaining the two local authorities and extending the city boundary.
Mckinnon suggested that areas including Ballincollig, Blarney, Cork Airport, Little Island, and Carrigtwohill become part of the city, which would see its population increase by some 100,000 people.
Mr Murphy announced on Friday night that he has now established an oversight group to implement the Mckinnon recommendations.
Chaired by John O’Connor, the former chairman of An Bord Pleanála, it will include former Limerick county manager Ned Gleeson and retired department secretary general Brigid McManus.
They will be supported in an advisory capacity by Conn Murray, the chief executive of Limerick City and County Council, and Michael Walsh, the chief executive of Waterford City and County Council.
The chief executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey, and the chief executive of Cork City Council, Ann Doherty, will also participate in an “advisory, support, and reporting capacity”.
The oversight group will have to prepare details of the financial implications for the two local authorities arising from the boundary extension, and outline its impact on services, operations, property, liabilities, and other matters.
Possible staffing transfers, adjustments, or arrangements will also be dealt with.
The group may also be asked to consider the configuration or role of municipal districts in Cork, and the introduction of an area-based approach for a newly configured city council.
Local Labour area representative in Cork, Peter Horgan, said service delivery should be at the heart of any decisions the oversight group makes. “Any changes must outline a service delivery programme that has communities at the centre,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved