Super council planned for Cork

A ‘supercouncil’ to cover all of Cork looks to be on the cards after the majority of Cork county councillors said they were in favour of such a move.

That was the general view among the 55 county councillors after they left a closed-doors meeting yesterday, with a ministerial-appointed committee set up to look at the future of the city and county councils.

The media was excluded from the meeting in County Hall, which lasted more than two hours and delayed the council’s ordinary meeting.

Several Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors said they believe a full amalgamation was their only viable option out of three scenarios presented to them.

The first was to allow the city to extend its boundary into some suburbs currently under control of the county council.

Fine Gael councillor Derry Canty said there was no way the city would accept such a small increase in territory.

Another scenario would have seen the city take control of Metropolitan Cork, to include the likes of Ringa-skiddy and Little Island — major industrial areas where the county council derives most of its rates.

Mr Canty said the county council could not give up these areas as the impact on its budget would been been too grave.

He said most county councillors were therefore leaning towards the formation of a super authority.

Independent councillor Noel Collins warned colleagues about rushing into “a shotgun wedding”, adding that “marrying at haste” with the city may mean “they could repent at leisure”.

Independent councillor Michael Collins said West Cork could lose funding by being on the periphery of a supercouncil. “We could become the poor relation,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s 10 county council members said they wanted the two local authorities to be retained, but overseen by “a strategic authority” that would control regional strategic planning and economic development.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has appointed a five-person committee to review local government structures in Cork, especially in relation to an extension of the city boundary.

The committee’s chairman, former Beamish & Crawford chief executive Alf Smiddy, said he hoped to present a report on their findings to Mr Kelly by September at the latest.

The committee met with 31 city councillors yesterday evening to get their views on boundary extensions/amalgamations.

Mr Canty said that if there were an amalgamation, the number of city councillors would have to be reduced because the current number would be overproportional to the population they would represent. The population of the city is around 120,000 and the county 380,000.

The Mayor of County Cork, Alan Coleman, said the amalgamation would give the opportunity to create a regional authority that would act as a counter-balance to Dublin.

He said the merger could one day lead to a single, directly elected mayor to represent both the city and county.

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