Cork losing out on 'major benefits' due to merger delay, says Alf Smiddy

Cork has been unable to capitalise on the “major benefits” that would accrue from a merger of its local authorities, because of the “frenzy of nonsensical politicking” that followed publication of a report in favour of the merger.
Cork losing out on 'major benefits' due to merger delay, says Alf Smiddy

That’s according to business consultant, Alf Smiddy, who chaired the five-person expert committee that produced the report, which has since been shelved.

Mr Smiddy said that since the review was published, Cork had lost “so much valuable time, plus major benefits, by engaging for over 12 months in a frenzy of nonsensical politicking, procrastination, and posturing”.

He also claimed there had been “much misrepresentation of what the Smiddy Report actually recommends — perhaps not surprising, giving that it was an election year”.

The backdrop for his comments is the publication, last week, of a report by an Independent Review Group, in Galway, which plumped for a merger of Galway’s city and county councils by 2019. The review group came down unanimously in favour of a merger.

Mr Smiddy said “five out of five independent reviews have now recommended merger (including four cities), with Limerick, Waterford, and Tipperary successfully up-and-running, and Galway integration kicking off straight away”.

However, the Galway review group published a “deliberation report” to facilitate wider public consultation, before publishing its final recommendations, while the Cork Local Government Review (CLGR) committee did not publish a mid-review report.

The CLGR committee was split three/two in favour of the merger, with the opponents publishing their own minority report. The majority report recommended merging Cork’s city and county councils into a single super-council, with effect from the 2019 local elections. The minority report recommended, inter alia, that the city boundary be extended. However, the city council was unhappy and triggered a judicial review.

In June, the Minister for Local Government, Simon Coveney, announced a review of the controversial merger, in a bid to find a compromise, with a new panel of experts.

The experts have been asked to advise Mr Coveney on how best to address the issues about which the Smiddy group was unable to agree, and to consider new options, and issue a progress report before the end of the year.

“We are now in for another six months of a review, which, despite more delay, will at least keep the matter live, and I wish the review group well, as they work to unlock the political logjam,” Mr Smiddy said.

He added that it was “time to get out of denial, bite the bullet, and put in place the Greater Cork Authority. It is absolutely the optimal solution for local government in Cork, by a long shot”.

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