Cork city and county can continue to thrive as joined-up area

The Cork Local Government Review Group has split opinion, but we should wait for the establishment of an implementation group before we decide on the outcomes, says Tim Lucey

AS THE chief executive of Cork County Council and the former chief executive of Cork City Council, it is my experience, working with both teams, that there has always been a genuine sense of enthusiasm for co-operation and support.

Since the publication of the report of the Cork Local Government Review Group, I am however dismayed that some stakeholders have opted to promote a boundary between the people of Cork and have decided the outcome before the establishment of an implementation group, as proposed by Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

Indeed, it is of serious concern to me that recent publicly aired divisions from Cork, and utterances such as threats to relocate business to Dublin, if a merger progresses, are damaging to the international reputation of Cork, to the future opportunities of Cork-based businesses and, to the efforts of many stakeholders in Cork working to attract investment opportunities to Cork.

Let me warn readers that such utterances can hinder effective engagement with national and international decision makers. I for one do not need commentary such as “sure Cork can’t even get its own act together”, when promoting Cork’s case.

In the day-to-day operations of local authority work in Cork, there are some great examples of co-operation and support for the development and implementation of plans that improve and promote Cork as a joined up region.

This co-operation has resulted in some great successes. We continue to attract and hold on to many multinational companies, our indigenous sector, across the entire urban and rural areas of city and county, is the envy of all other regions in Ireland.

There are those who worry that if the city merges with the rest of Cork, it will be lost in the larger grouping. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The report highlighted: “The position of Cork city as the centre of a dynamic city region and an effective counter balance to the growth of Dublin can be advanced more effectively in a unified structure.”

This recognition is supported by my colleagues and I in Cork county. We believe we have a very fine city that we can be proud of and one that plays an important role in the promotion of Cork.

At the same time, all of us must also recognise the superb assets across the remaining county that underpin the attractiveness of the Cork region and provide diverse opportunities for all of us.

Linking both, in an environment where transport and communication technology has increased many-fold, the influence and interdependence of Cork City and Cork county is a must.

Mr Kelly, in supporting the recommendations, has proposed the establishment of an implementation group, so that the appropriate personnel from both local authorities can work on creating a structure that meets the governance, economic, infrastructural development and community needs of Cork.

I can understand the fears associated with this change. However, if we want to replicate the confidence that businesses and citizens of Cork place in Cork, as shown by our continued growth pattern, then we must believe in our own confidence to build a unified local government structure that elevates Cork as the exemplar for the country.

While the review group has highlighted the success of local government reform in the likes of Auckland, we should now move on to position ourselves so that we become the focus of excellence.

Let us seize the opportunity to bring what’s best in the Councils together to create a bespoke, efficient and effective local authority that works for all the people.

We can work together to create a local authority that suits Cork, rather than fixing an outdated system or trying to embed a system taken ‘off the shelf‘ from another country.

By continuing the strong sense of co-operation that currently exists, we can and we will build a better Cork for the people who live and work here.

Nurturing respect for our heritage and our history is important in Cork. The people of Cork City, just like the people of Skibbereen or Bantry, are as important to all of us in the local authority and their place within Cork will be respected in the implementation work.

I urge you and every member of Cork’s diverse community to take time to read the recommendations and work with both Councils as we build a local government that will benefit the people of Cork.

Cork as a city and county has never shied away from challenges.

Our sporting heroes and teams always took on the challenge that lay ahead.

This resilience is something that I have experienced in my work with the men and women in Cork City Council and Cork County Council. As a result we have a great track record in delivering on challenges.

I believe that by tackling the challenge head-on, in the implementation group, both local authorities will win in the challenge to improve Cork.

Don’t second guess the outcome before the work starts.

Tim Lucey is chief executive, Cork County Council


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