The Public Participation Network (PPN) fears rural areas, especially those on the periphery, will suffer serious neglect as the county council will lose nearly €50m a year in revenue from commercial rates and local property tax if the city boundary is extended to include Cork Airport, Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island, and Carrigtwohill.
“At the moment, small communities are struggling for any kind of funding and rural roads are in a bad state of repair,” said PPN convener Finbarr Harrington.
“If the county council loses €50m a year it will only make matters far worse.”
The Mackinnon report, which proposed the extension, suggested that compensation be paid by the city council to the county council for the revenue losses and it be reviewed after five years.
However, Mr Harrington said PPN members were concerned about the city council’s ability to pay.
“We’re worried that the city council won’t be able to take over these areas and fully service them and at the same time pay the compensation,” he said. “I would be very surprised if the city council even manged to pay for the first five years. It is already struggling with its budget, like many other local authorities.”
He said the PPN was one of the few bodies in Cork which met with the Mackinnon report’s authors prior to them making their recommendations to the Government.
“I chaired that two-hour meeting and it was unanimous from our 22-strong secretariat that a major city boundary extension would be an absolute disaster for the county. But [the report authors] totally dismissed what we said,” he said.
PPN has written to all TDs and senators in Cork asking them to meet with it and outline where they stand on the boundary extension issue.
Mr Harrington said some public representatives had written back and stated they would be prepared to meet with PPN representatives. However, a number have yet to respond.
Foreign Minister Simon Coveney and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, both of the Cork South Central constituency, have said they are in favour of the Mackinnon report. A number of other public representatives have yet to publicly declare where they stand.
“We’re trying to put pressure on them to come out and say what they think,” said Mr Harrington. “We’re lobbying all of them. We’re especially calling on all rurally-based TDs to oppose such a major extension as it’s a terrible deal.”
the mayor of County Cork, Declan Hurley, welcomed Mr Coveney’s promise that the implementation group tasked with looking at the detail of the boundary change proposed by Mackinnon will take into account concerns which have been expressed by various organisations such as PPN.
Meanwhile, Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald has accused the county council of spreading “falsehoods” and of “attempts to whip up unnecessary fear in communities”. He said contrary to claims by the county council, the extension of the city “will not stop access to national or EU rural funding streams such as Leader funding in rural areas”.
In fact, he said, it would “likely” mean citizens fared better. “Records show that in 2017 Cork City Council spent €1,363 per citizen on public services, while Cork County Council spent just €717.”
In relation to the recent county offer of a scaled-back boundary extension — offering to cede Frankfield, Grange, Douglas, and Ballyvolane — he said it “offered little other than ceding control of existing defacto suburbs”.
“It cannot be described as generous,” said Mr Fitzgerald. “From our analysis, only 30% of this area is capable of being developed,” he said. The offer was “what Cork City needed in 1980, not in 2017”, he said.