Business consultant Alf Smiddy, who heads the Cork Local Government Review Group, made his comments yesterday after 18 former Lords Mayor of Cork united to oppose a possible merger of the city council and county council.
The group, examining the case for a city boundary extension or a possible merger of the two councils, is due to report back to the environment minister in September.
Mr Smiddy declined to comment on the mayors’ comments but said in a statement the group was on course to finish the report and submit their recommendations next month.
“As I said at the outset, uppermost in our minds will be to determine and recommend to government the local government model which works best for Cork as a whole — the city and county — and one that is a progressive and proactive model that opens up the city to the county and the county to the city, and always puts the people/citizens of the entire region first,” he said.
“Our people must be at the heart of everything we do in local government.”
He said the recommended model should be the most efficient, effective and innovative local government model for the whole of Cork, and be dynamic, energetic, and a force that will transform the city and county.
Eighteen former lords mayor have come out to oppose a merger, describing the proposal as “unworkable”. They said the idea that Cork City should be divested of its essential powers to self-govern, to run its own affairs, to set its own budget, and to strategise for the future is an “extraordinary proposition” for Ireland’s second city.
County mayor John Paul O’Shea said the county council would allow the review group to finish its work before commenting on recommendations it may issue.
Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy defended the chamber’s call for a merger, which the mayors’ statement criticised: “We put significant time into developing our position and consulted widely to determine what is best for Cork. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to put in place a structure fit for purpose for the next 50 years.”
He also called for strong private-sector involvement in local government decision making on economic development issues.
Meanwhile, Cork South Central Labour TD Ciarán Lynch has launched an online survey to gauge public opinion on the review process.
“I am surprised at the lack of awareness among the public about the process,” said Mr Lynch.
“But I’m doing this to try and create the broadest and fullest level of engagement possible with the public possible, and to try and get the widest spectrum of views possible. I hope to have the results in a week or so and present the findings to the review group.”
The public can complete the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/CorkBoundary or read submissions already made to the Smiddy review group at www.corklocalgovernmentreview.ie