As Cork’s most senior minister warned “it would be a disaster” if the city and county councils did not merge into one local authority, a party colleague yesterday labelled Cork City Council a “failed entity”.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said one strong local authority was required to be able to act as an economic driver to match the Dublin region.
Mr Coveney said joined-up thinking was required as “local governance needs to change” in the region in order for it to progress.
He described the Alf Smiddy report — which recommended the merger —as a “convincing” document.
“Maintaining the status quo would be a disaster,” said Mr Coveney.
Expanding the city boundary was not a solution, he said, and combining the 500,000 population of the city and county under one local authority would prove “a real draw for growth”.
Mr Coveney said while he respected there was divided opinion on the merger, one entity would provide more clout and be able to develop a marketing strategy to benefit the whole region.
Meanwhile, welcoming the proposed merger as significant, Cork North West TD Michael Creed claimed most people in the county would recognise “the city was a failed entity as a local authority which has significantly underachieved”.
Mr Creed said a number of significant projects such as the relocation of the Port of Cork and a docklands development had not got off the ground and the blame must rest at City Hall.
He said there was a combination of reasons both at electoral and local level.
“It is not the entity it should be,” he said. “The future of Cork in the broadest sense is inextricably tied up with a strong city that we do not have. There needs to be less megaphone analysis from the failed entity.
“I share the views expressed by Tim Lucey, the county council’s chief executive, that we could damage ourselves with that megaphone analysis. The merger is not a revolutionary proposal. It is manageable. It must work for everyone in the county.”
It was put to him that Mr Lucey was actually city manager in that “failed entity” for a time before taking over the reins in County Hall.
Mr Creed said Mr Lucey’s tenure was relatively short in that role but “let the cards rest where they will”.
Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer does not share the views of his party colleagues and said there was little evidence to suggest that the recommendations contained in the Smiddy report will deliver improvements for the people of Cork.
“The report recognises the importance of second cities, but then it fails to provide a structure for a second city,” said Mr Buttimer.
“Instead, it relegates Cork to a municipal district. It cites difficulties in moving staff between councils as a reason for amalgamation. Yet it fails to address the hurdles in merging two large organisations.
[timgcap=Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer]JerryButtimerTD_large.jpg[/timg]
“It recognises the importance of local government in supporting communities yet it proposes to move local government in Cork further away from communities.
“Given these shortcomings and that the committee making the recommendation split as close to 50/50 as is possible, the only definitive outcome is that a lot more work is needed before any change is implemented.”
Meanwhile, employers’ body Ibec has called on the Government to act on the recommendations of the Smiddy report.
Its Cork regional executive president, Dave Ronayne, CEO of Irish Mainport Holdings, said Ibec’s Cork members were full square behind “ambitious reform of both the structure and service delivery of local government in Cork”.
He said the status quo was simply not an option for businesses across the Cork region.
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