UCC expert warns against merging city and county councils

An expert in local government has warned against the merging of Cork city and county councils.

UCC expert warns against merging city and county councils

Aodh Quinlivan, a lecturer in UCC’s Department of Government, also said West Cork was now one of the most under-represented regions in the country following the abolition of town councils last year.

He plans to argue for a major extension of the city boundary to encompass a population of between 250,000 and 270,000 to put Cork in a more competitive position and in the company of more appropriate cities and regions in terms of scale.

“The county, with a population of 230,000–250,000, would remain a very large entity in comparison to Ireland’s other counties and should be supported in developing its own strengths,” he said.

Mr Quinlivan also wants a second tier of local government, based on a municipal district framework.

He was speaking at a public forum last night on the review of local government structures in Cork ordered by the environment minister last month.

A city boundary extension and a merger of the councils are being considered by the Smiddy review group, which has set Friday as the deadline for submissions, with recommendations due by September.

But Mr Quinlivan said evidence from more than 400 local government cases worldwide over 40 years shows the ‘big is beautiful’ mantra just doesn’t stack up.

The evidence suggests larger local authorities are associated with higher spending per capita than smaller local units and amalgamations can produce diseconomies of scale, and citizen satisfaction with local services tends to be higher in smaller local authorities, he said.

Since 1898, the country has moved from over 600 local authorities to 114 by the start of last year, when the number was reduced by 73%, to 31.

Mr Quinlivan said the abolition of town councils saw Cork county, with 400,000 people, going from 156 local government representatives to just 55. “The population to representation ratios in the county are higher than in any other part of the country and West Cork, in particular, is hugely under-represented.” he said.

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