The lord mayor of Cork has written to the new minister for local government urging him to start the process of extending the city’s boundary in line with the recommendations of an expert review group.
It comes as the city’s chief executive, Ann Doherty, expressed her disappointment at the “tenor of documents, press releases and public statements from Cork County Council” following publication of the Mackinnon review just over a week ago.
“They have levelled inaccuracies and accusations at Cork City Council that are unfounded,” she said.
She said these issues have been noted and she will raise them in the “appropriate fora”.
Ms Doherty made her comments in a briefing to councillors during a private council meeting on the findings of the Mackinnon advisory group in relation to local government arrangements.
The Mackinnon review rejected the findings of the 2015 Smiddy group, which was split three-to two in favour of a super-council for Cork, to recommend instead an extension of the city boundary to include Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire, Carrigtwohill, and areas around Cork Airport.
The exact boundary extension has yet to be defined but it will result in the loss to the county of a massive revenue base.
The Mackinnon group recommended the city pay the county €40m in annual compensation for 10 years, to be reviewed at that point.
The county council has rejected the findings, and warned they could result in a massive reduction in funding and threaten service delivery.
However, Ms Doherty told city councillors that of the four reports on Cork’s local government arrangements published since the process started over two and a half years ago, three have recommended a boundary extension.
“The repeated failure to extend the city boundary over the past three decades has had profound consequences for economic development, housing, and quality of life in the region,” she said.
“Failure, to demonstrate the vision and capability to implement Mackinnon, is not an option.”
She said it was “gratifying” to see Mackinnon highlighting the need for a unified voice for Cork as opposed to the “flawed concept of a single voice for Cork”.
She also said it is vital that elected members and executives of both councils concentrate their energies to support the implementation of a reform agenda that will help to drive growth and development of the entire southern region.
She said the Mackinnon report should be considered by Cabinet and adopted as government policy quickly if the recommendations are to be implemented by the 2019 local elections.
“Failure to meet the target date will be harmful to bringing about the reforms that are identified as being necessary now for Cork City to play its role as the State’s second city and drive growth in the region,” she said.
The new lord mayor, Tony Fitzgerald, said he will continue to press the case for a boundary extension.
“Relegating the city to a status below that of a former town council would have been a catastrophe,” he said. “The right decisions now, hard as they may be, will copper-fasten a healthy and sustainable future for Cork. This is right, not just for Cork, but for Ireland.”
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