It published the Bovaird review in full on its website yesterday just days after the Irish Examiner revealed how it had identified several flaws in the Cork Local Government Review Group’s (CLGR) 2015 merger report.
The UCC-commissioned Bovaird review said the CLGR’s minority report — authored by two UCC academics and which called for a significant extension of the city boundary — was much better substantiated by its arguments and the evidence.
In its first public comment on the review, UCC president Dr Michael Murphy said the document stands on its own merits and represents the views solely of the author.
“The Bovaird report sets out the merits of the process of the CLGR report, and goes on to add insightful analysis of the economic impacts and opportunities of the two solutions proposed,” it said.
Dr Murphy said following publication of the CLGR report in September 2015, he received “approaches from several directions” to comment on the majority report and the minority report.
The statement said he considered that since there had been no international representative on the CLGR group — “in contrast to the usual review processes at UCC on matters of less public interest” — it would be appropriate to seek international advice from an acknowledged expert on local authority governance.
Mr Murphy then sought advice from Professor Tony Bovaird at the University of Birmingham, the director of Governance International Institute, and invited his opinion of the CLGR process, its outcomes, and recommendations, and any professional guidance. UCC said the Bovaird report was received and acknowledged by the University Management Team earlier this year.
“It is now considered timely to circulate the report publicly, as the matter of configuration of Cork’s local authorities has been revisited by the media,” it said.
UCC published the Bovaird report as the head of the new expert advisory group, established by Local Government Minister Simon Coveney to review the CLGR process, arrived in Cork.
Former chief planner to the Scottish government, Jim Mackinnon, met senior city officials on Wednesday, and is to meet senior county council officials today. Mr Coveney has asked Mr Mackinnon to lead his group in a complete trawl of the CLGR process and documents in a bid to break the impasse over the future of Cork’s local government structures. It is understood that Mr Mackinnon has been furnished with a copy of the Bovaird report.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the merger proposal is now becoming less and less credible. “The Bovaird Report simply takes apart the Smiddy report, it undermines in a detailed way its conclusions and recommendations,” he said.
The Mackinnon group is due to issue a progress report before the end of the year, and make recommendations early next year.