Near full backing for metropolitan Cork expansion

There is almost universal support for the creation of a much larger metropolitan Cork region, the consultant overseeing the review of the region’s local government structures has said.

Business consultant Alf Smiddy said his government-appointed committee is now moving to the next phase of the review process which will determine the best local government structures to administer such an entity within the wider county area.

Whether that will be as a much-expanded city council structure, or as a stand-alone division of a new super council formed by the merger of the city and county councils, will not emerge for several months.

Mr Smiddy was speaking after the Irish Examiner reported last week that tensions have emerged between the city and county councils over financial information submitted to the five-person review group appointed last January by Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

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In its latest submission to the Smiddy group, the city claimed it had identified a €5m error in the county council’s figures relating to local property tax, which is linked to the financial impact a possible city boundary extension might have on county finances.

The city also accused the county of refusing, or of not being able to, provide it with certain financial information which would have allowed it to fully answer new questions from the Smiddy committee.

The county rejected the claims, saying the city was using its figures selectively, and insisted it co-operated fully with the committee’s requests for information.

Mr Smiddy moved to ease tensions, urging both sides to work “hand-in-glove” together, and paid tribute to city CEO Ann Doherty and county CEO Tim Lucey for their level of co-operation.

“Regardless of what we recommend, the leadership of both councils need to continue with their great work and collaboration and demonstrate publicly that they can at all times and in all circumstances work together as we create a new and exciting future for Cork,” said Mr Smiddy.

However, he said it is clear that there is “an almost universal desire” in support of the creation of a much larger metropolitan area in Cork to take in a population which could extend to between about 230,000 and 290,000 citizens, and where the entire Cork region could either then be governed by a single unitary regional authority with a number of key divisions, or alternatively, by two separate authorities.

“We will be examining all of this very thoroughly... with a view to recommending to government the best possible local government structure for Cork,” he said. that will stand the entire region and its citizens and local economy in good stead for the next 50 years,” he said.

Almost 100 stakeholders have made submissions to the Smiddy group, which is expected to issue its recommendations in September.

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