Councillors urge Smiddy to ‘get off the pitch’

Furious city councillors have advised the man who chaired the shelved Cork council merger report to “get off the pitch” and let government get on with extending the city boundary.

Sinn Féin Cllr Chris O’Leary likened business consultant Alf Smiddy to “an annoying wasp” while Fianna Fáil Cllr Terry Shannon called on Mr Smiddy to apologise to the people of Cork City for “disparaging and self-serving remarks” which he said were made in an attempt to “claw back some reputation” after his stewardship of the 2015 review of the region’s local government arrangements.

They made their comments during a debate in City Hall in the wake of a public meeting on the proposed city boundary extension in Carrigtwohill last week — one of several areas earmarked by an independent review of the Smiddy report for inclusion in an expanded city area.

Mr Smiddy chaired the 2015 statutory committee which was split three to two in favour of a single super-council. It sparked controversy, triggered a judicial review, and led to a government-ordered review chaired by the former chief planner for Scotland, Jim Mackinnon.

The Mackinnon report, published last month, recommended the retention of two local authorities, and an expanded city boundary to include Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire and Carrigtwohill. It is the third report on Cork’s local government arrangements in recent years to recommend a boundary extension.

But Mr Smiddy told the public meeting in Carrigtwohill last week, which was called to discuss the Mackinnon findings, that a boundary extension was an attempt by “a weaker city administration” to seize the rates and land of its “more dynamic” county equivalent.

He dismissed the Mackinnon report as “a rambling, cobbled-together report, born out of political expediency” and said it was “tantamount to giving two fingers to Cork County Council”.

During Monday’s city council meeting, several councillors dismissed suggestions of a “land grab” and urged government to get on with implementing the boundary extension.

The city’s acting chief executive, Pat Ledwidge, said the central issue is “not the black line” of a boundary, but governance arrangements for the region to ensure it can make a contribution in terms of service.

He urged also people to read the Mackinnon report, and defended the city council’s ability to cope with service delivery in an expanded area.

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