Three former lords mayor of Cork have united with the current office holder to urge the Government to make the “brave political decisions” required to deliver the city’s first boundary extension in more than 50 years.
In a joint statement, they said failure to progress with the necessary local government reforms in Cork is now the “biggest single threat” to the wellbeing and growth of the entire region.
The statement is signed by Mayor Tony Fitzgerald and his predecessors, councillors Des Cahill, Chris O’Leary, and Mary Shields, who have worn the chain of office since the review of Cork’s local government arrangements was ordered in 2015.
The 2015 Smiddy report was split three-to-two in favour of the creation of one super-council for Cork.
Its controversial recommendations led to it being shelved and reviewed.
That review, chaired by former chief planner for Scotland, Jim Mackinnon, rejected the Smiddy report, and recommended a city boundary extension to include Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire, Carrigtwohill, and areas around Cork Airport.
It is the fourth report since 2015 to back a boundary extension.
The review recommends the city pay the county an annual €40m compensation package for the next decade, to be reviewed at that point, to compensate for the loss of revenue.
The county council has rejected the findings and warned it will result in a massive reduction in funding,threatening service delivery.
However, in their statement, the mayors said the city’s boundary was last extended in 1965, and that by the 1980s the de facto city had outgrown this boundary and spilled into the county jurisdiction.
They said the need for an extension was recognised by government in the 2012 Putting People First policy document, and by former environment minister Alan Kelly, who set up the Smiddy review in January 2015, and who saw “a clear case for extending the Cork City boundary to encompass a wider metropolitan area”.
The mayors said the Smiddy report also acknowledged the increasing footprint of the city and that following his review of the Smiddy report, Prof Tony Bovaird also recommended a boundary extension.
“We stand at the cusp of opportunity. But our failure to now grasp the nettle would represent a setback for the entire region, and would represent a failure by Cork to play its national role as second city,” the mayoral statement said.
“The Mackinnon report signals the opportunity to turn the rhetoric around Cork’s growth ambitions into reality. And that’s the challenge for us all.”
They said Mackinnon warns of the dangers of complacency as other city-regions position themselves for growth which could potentially challenge Cork’s place as the natural counter-balance to Dublin. “And it is against this background that we call for the brave political decisions to be made quickly and decisively,” they said.
“We are calling on the Government to finally bring certainty to the reform of local government arrangements in Cork. Cork needs these brave decisions to be made now.”
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