Minister Alan Kelly said when the independent group, which has been given wide-ranging terms of reference to review all aspects of local government structures in Cork, reaches their September deadline they may recommend a merger of the city and county councils.
He said he sees a clear case for extending the city boundary to encompass a wider metropolitan area, which if recommended, would affect about 79,000 people.
“But everything is on the table as part of this process — whether it’s the boundary, two local authorities or one, and the whole issue of rates, and every other aspect in between,” Mr Kelly said.
“I didn’t appoint these people to reject their recommendations. I expect by September to be not just taking their recommendations, but starting the process of implementation.”
He was speaking yesterday after meeting the mayors and chief executives of Cork city and county councils to announce the make-up of the five-person review group.
The last extension of Cork’s city boundary was secured in 1965. The city has been seeking a new extension for well over a decade.
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 and Killeens, Monard, Rathpeacon and Rathcooney, Glanmire, Riverstown, Glounthane and Little Island, Curraheen, Waterfall and 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.
In 2012, then environment minister Phil Hogan gave the city and county councils five years to agree an extension or have it decided for them. But an agreement wasn’t forthcoming, triggering this new process.
Lord Mayor Mary Shields welcomed the review announced yesterday. But County Mayor Alan Coleman said he would be concerned if the focus of local government was redirected away from rural areas of the county. “This is about creating an administrative structure locally that can best serve all of the communities.
“Obviously Metropolitan Cork is a great driver of economic activity in the region but we have strong agricultural and tourism regions in the more peripheral areas of the county and it’s important that their future is looked at as well.”
Announced a new Commission this morning to decide on local authority structures and boundaries in Cork city and... http://t.co/p1RNH47FZA— Alan Kelly TD (@alankellylabour) January 15, 2015
Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said everyday life and business activities in Cork have moved beyond an outdated boundary.
“The outcome of this review must deliver reformed structures that will ensure an effective counter-weight to Dublin which will benefit the entire region,” he said.
Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection, Dara Murphy, said the current city boundary “doesn’t work” for people living within 25km of St Patrick’s St.
“Cork is the second most densely populated region in the country, which is not recognised in the population figures for the city, figures which matter in terms of securing, for example, European funding for investment in infrastructure and for investment location decisions.”
Similar reviews in Tipperary, Limerick, and Waterford have resulted in the merger of local authorities.
Former city manager sees both sides of extension argument
From Cork city manager to the chief executive of Cork County Council — Tim Lucey can see both sides of the city’s boundary extension argument.
But he has declined to outline his own favoured solution and said it should not be assumed this process is just about a boundary extension.
The process also includes the potential for the merger of both local authorities, he pointed out.
Devising structures to manage population growth of up to 700,000 by 2050 — with 60%to 70% of the growth in the metropolitan area— and linking it to the rural, tourism, and agricultural areas of the county, with the county’s agri sector poised to get about €1.2bn of investment up to 2020, will be crucial, he said.
“The review group will have to take on board that there are significant assets across the entire county, and whatever the outcome, they will have to be unified and worked with in a manner which continues to position Cork as a key economic driver in the south,” he said.