Expert criticises report on merging councils

An international expert in public service reform has backed a shelved statutory report which calls for a major extension of Cork City’s boundary.
Expert criticises report on merging councils

Tony Bovaird, director of independent think-tank Governance International, said the so-called minority report’s proposals are much better substantiated by its arguments as opposed to the controversial majority report published by the government-appointed Cork Local Government Review (CLGR) committee last year which recommended a merger of the city and county councils.

His detailed, unpublished review, which has been obtained by the Irish Examiner, is the first international and independent assessment of the September 2015 merger report which split the five-person CLGR group, sparked a political storm, and triggered an unprecedented legal challenge by City Hall.

The impasse has also prompted the establishment by Local Government Minister Simon Coveney of a new committee to review the process.

The Irish Examiner has learned that Prof Bovaird was commissioned by University College Cork (UCC) to examine and critique the two CLGRreports late last year as it sought to arrive at its own position on the future of Cork’s local government structures.

He examined both under several headings, and assessed them against international evidence. In his conclusion, he said: “I believe the option of separate city and countycouncils, with a significant extension to the city council boundary, is much better substantiated by the arguments presented in the reports and by the international evidence base.”

UCC president Michael Murphy declined to comment. UCC academic Theresa Reidy, who co-authored the minority report, also declined to comment while the CLGR reports and documents are being reviewed again. Prof Bovaird said his report speaks for itself.

However, business consultant Alf Smiddy, who chaired the CLGR group, dismissed Prof Bovaird’s report as a “highly superficial academic essay”.

He said: “It is clear that the academic had only a superficial grasp and understanding of the Smiddy report, and completely failed to understand what was actually being recommended.

“I would describe this as a highly superficial academic essay with little depth or substance, gliding over recommendations with personal unsubstantiated opinions, and which, bizarrely, completely misses many of the key points and recommendations of the Smiddy report.”

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