The chair of the expert group reviewing Cork’s city boundary and possible merger of the city and county councils has promised full engagement with stakeholders.
Business consultant Alf Smiddy was speaking ahead of the group’s first working meetings this week.
“We are approaching this process with an open mind,” said Mr Smiddy.
“There are two main options on the table under our terms of reference — a boundary extension and a merger or amalgamation of the two councils — as well as other related matters.
“But we want a lot of engagement and we will develop that process over the next 10 days or so. We will open up this process to the range of stakeholders who want a say in this.”
Environment Minister Alan Kelly established the group last Thursday— chaired by Mr Smiddy, it includes Prof Dermot Keogh, John Lucey SC, Dr Theresa Reidy, and Tom Curran — and gave them nine months to review the region’s local government structures.
They will examine the case for the first extension of Cork’s city boundary in 50 years, and a possible merger of city and county councils.
Mr Kelly said he sees a clear case for extending the city boundary, which if recommended, would see about 79,000 people currently living in county areas coming under the city’s administrative area.
Mr Smiddy said the group will examine previous boundary extension proposals, and similar local government structure reviews in Tipperary, Limerick, and Waterford which resulted in the merger of local authorities. Whatever the group recommends, it must put citizens first, he said.
“Uppermost in our minds will be to determine and recommend to Government the local government model which works best for Cork as a whole — the city and county,” he said
It must be a productive, proactive, efficient, effective and innovative model which will be able to deliver services to the public for the next 50 years, he said.
He said he is confident that if the right issues are identified and worked through over the coming months, the group’s recommendations will be fully implementable.
“If we can bring everyone along in this process, hopefully we’ll arrive at a situation where it is the right proposal and the right thing to do for the people of Cork,” said Mr Smiddy.
The group, which held an introductory meeting last Friday, will begin its real work this week.
It expects to begin consulting with stakeholders in February, and Mr Smiddy said he is confident of producing a report by September.
The last extension of Cork’s city boundary was secured in 1965.
Preliminary work on a boundary extension in 2006 included proposals to increase the city’s size from 4,000 hectares to 22,359 hectares and boost its population from 117,000 to 180,000, which would have seen areas in Kerry Pike, Killeens, Monard, Rathpeacon, Rathcooney, Glanmire, Riverstown, Glounthane, Little Island, Curraheen, Waterfall, Ballinora, Ballygarvan, Togher, Doughcloyne, the airport and its business park, Douglas, Donnybrook, Grange, Rochestown, Passage, and Monkstown becoming part of the city.
However, a request for an extension was shelved pending an overhaul of local government.
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