Cork Chamber and Ibec, which, combined, represent over 1,200 businesses and employ more than 120,000 people across the city and county, have warned that political failure to reach an agreement on the region’s local government reform process will impact negatively on all involved.
They made their statement in a joint letter to Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy, and copied to all Oireachtas members in the region, to the heads of the city and county councils, and to the elected members of both local authorities.
“That this is the first joint letter from both organisations highlights the gravity of the need for swift progress in advance of the 2019 election,” state Cork Chamber president Bill O’Connell and Ibec’s Cork region president, Dave Ronayne.
Cork Chamber and Ibec members contribute the bulk of the €194m in annual rates paid to both the city and county councils, representing some 42% of the councils’ funding streams.
A ministerial-appointed implementation group is due to report within weeks on the outcome of its work on the Mackinnon report which recommended retention of the two local authorities and the first extension of Cork’s city boundary since 1965.
Cork City Council, which supports the Mackinnon report, has engaged with the implementation group.
Cork County Council, which is opposed to the scale of the Mackinnon boundary extension, has formally triggered a section 29 process to cede a smaller area of land to the city. That process, which provides for public consultation, could take several months.
Two weeks ago, Mr Murphy said it was important to give the implementation group time to report.
The two business groups say it is time for the minister to proactively engage in the process “to actively encourage, facilitate, and support an urgent resolution”.
They state: “We request that flexibility in the Mackinnon report implementation group terms of reference is clearly established to enable both local authorities to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
“We believe that swift progress is required and that it is essential we see strong cross-party leadership politically to reach a resolution. Failure to reach an agreement will reflect and impact negatively on all involved.”
The lobby groups say while they believe a single, unified, local authority with an enlarged city area is the best solution for the region, they also recognise there is “considerable merit” in many aspects of the Mackinnon report, including proposals for a new economic development and planning board.
They state: “The Mackinnon report provides a very strong framework on which to base an agreed final solution which is good for all Cork.
“An agreed interpretation of boundaries and compensation must provide certainty that the changes are viable and sustainable for both authorities while recognising the importance of enabling Cork City to expand extensively in line with economic and social needs now and into the future.
“Political leadership and support are required to reach a speedy and equitable agreement between Cork’s city and county councils.”