In an attack on the outcome of the review group, chaired by the former chief planner for Scotland, Jim Mackinnon, business consultant Alf Smiddy said: “The report is presented as a compromise solution but in fact it has all the hallmarks of cobbled together, unstructured reverse takeover of the county by the city.
“What they are recommending is not, in fact, a city boundary extension at all, and actually when you read between the lines it goes well beyond a merger of both councils.
“In business terms, it would be described as a reverse takeover, where the smaller entity moves to take over and out a much bigger entity. But in this instance, the takeover by the much smaller and weaker Cork City Council of the substantially larger Cork County Council is a reverse takeover, and one that is very cleverly disguised.”
Mr Smiddy chaired the five-person Cork Local Government Review group which was split three to two in 2015 in favour of the creation of a single council for Cork. However, the proposal sparked controversy and was ultimately shelved.
The Mackinnon group last Friday, recommended the retention of Cork’s two councils and a city boundary extension to boost its population by around 100,000.
While the extension has yet to be defined, Mackinnon recommends it include Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island, Carrigtwohill and the area around Cork Airport. It also recommends the city pay compensation of around €40m a year to the county for lost revenue base.
Mr Smiddy said the Mackinnon report makes “absolutely no sense”, adding: “Their report is clearly a response to cross party-political shenanigans and cobbles together a solution at a very fragile time for our minority government.” He described its recommendations as “suboptimal and political in every respect”.
“And so when the committee had an opportunity to unite they decided to divide our county; when they had an opportunity to create one voice for Cork they opted for the status quo with the continuation of a fragmented diluted voice; and when they had an opportunity to bring people together they preferred the approach of pitting urban citizens against country folk,” he said.
“They turned a total blind eye to the multimillions of savings that could be achieved, and help to alleviate the huge burden on Cork city and county ratepayers, and just ignored all of the inefficiencies, the duplication of effort and the bureaucracy within local government in Cork, which the dogs on the street know about, but it seems nobody wants to confront.”
He said it’s his belief that the “reverse takeover” will be achieved in two phases.
“Phase 1 is dressed up as a boundary extension which very simply and unashamedly grabs the rich rate base in the suburbs for use in an underinvested Cork city, and phase two is achieved by the city then throwing a welcome lifeline to the remaining, and largely neutered county council after five years, during which communities and citizens in county towns and villages endure huge hardship and despair, and haemorrhage population from lack of focus, and investment.”