County battles to keep Blarney from city’s grasp

The battle to extend Cork City Council’s boundary is still not over as the county council has written to Oireachtas members urging them to ensure it retains the Blarney/Tower area.

County battles to keep Blarney from city’s grasp

By Sean O’Riordan

The battle to extend Cork City Council’s boundary is still not over as the county council has written to Oireachtas members urging them to ensure it retains the Blarney/Tower area.

Initially, the city council looked for a massive swathe of territory for its boundary extension, stretching from Ovens to Carrigtwohill and taking in the largest rates generating base in the region at Little Island.

County councillors saw red and held out for a better deal.

Eventually, the Local Government Implementation Oversight Group decided to reduce the area the city wanted to take in Blarney, Cork Airport, Ballincollig, and Glanmire, and parts of Grange, Togher, and Douglas.

County councillors felt that all the areas, bar Blarney and Tower, are already basically joined to the city.

It has emerged that the county council has now written to Cork-based TDs and senators appealing for them to use their influence, especially as they will ultimately vote on the boundary extension legislation, to prevent Blarney and Tower from falling into city council control.

On foot of concerns expressed by a number of councillors, especially those who represent the Blarney/Macroom municipal district, Mayor of County Cork, Patrick Gerard Murphy, decided to write to the Oireachtas members.

Mr Murphy told them the implementation group’s exclusion of Blarney and Tower and adjacent hinterlands from the county jurisdiction “came as a surprise” to the members of council when the revised boundary was confirmed.

Mr Murphy said both areas are “settlements which constitute rural communities, separated geographically from Cork City, which have little in common with the city and its urban-centric focus, and which have no significant transport or infrastructural connectivity with the city”.

Mr Murphy also said a significant expansion of Blarney had been planned at Stoneview by the county council, as well as the new 5,300-house town at Monard, south of the village.

The county council has spent millions of euro devising the plan for Monard.

Final proposal, December 2017
Final proposal, December 2017

The communication to the Oireachtas members also included a revised map of the city boundary, excluding the two areas.

If it is agreed to adopt this map, around 6,357 people who are earmarked to come under city council control would remain in the county council administrative area.

Mr Murphy wrote that if this is acceptable, more than 78,000 additional people would still come under the control of the city council when the boundary is extended.

He said it is worth noting that the changes arising from the county council’s new proposal would provide for an expanded Cork City administrative area which has an approximate population of in excess of 200,000.

He said this should be an acceptable size for an expanded city, which is estimated to grow to 207,000 by 2020.

Meanwhile, uncertainty still remains over whether the city council will pay any sort of compensation to the county council for the significant loss of rates it will suffer from the boundary extension.

While it has been assumed that the city will pay up, there is no legal obligation to do this written into the boundary extension agreement.

County council officials fear they might have to go to court to force the city council to pay up.

They are also concerned that any liabilities for assets transferring to the city will remain with the county council.

250 county council staff may transfer

Talks are going on between Cork City Council and Cork County Council about the number of staff that will be transferred to City Hall as a result of the boundary extension.

The Irish Examiner understands a preliminary figure of 187 transfers has been flagged to staff working in County Hall.

However, some believe the final figure could rise to 250.

A county council spokesman said that staff in County Hall had been briefed about the likelihood of transfers.

The county council director of corporate affairs, Padraig Barrett, declined to comment on the numbers likely to be transferred.

“Our position is that discussions with Cork City Council are still ongoing,” he said.

The county council has also held meetings with the various unions representing staff about the transfers “to set out how this process will pan out”.

Mr Barrett said that the workers that will eventually transfer to City Hall would represent a cross-section of staff ranging from outdoor workers, such as roads and park maintenance, up to senior administration jobs.

“We’re in part of a process and we’re anxious for it to be a success for both the city and county to look forward to successful futures,” said Mr Barrett.

More in this section