Wednesday 28 September 2016

Business community deeply divided over merger scheme

Published 17/09/2015 | 02:30

Earnest Cantillon
Earnest Cantillon

Cork business owners have differing hopes and fears about a single council successfully serving the varying needs of Ireland's largest county.

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With more than 200km separating Mitchelstown from Allihies, priorities are radically different.

Two successful Cork businessmen underline the point - Ernest Cantillon, who runs Electric Bistro and Sober Lane in Cork city centre, and Dermot O'Sullivan, who operates O'Sullivan's Bar in Crookhaven in west Cork.

"I am 100pc in support of the announcement to combine the city and county councils," Mr Cantillon said.

"The points made about creating an efficient and effective unitary authority, speaking with one voice, elimination of duplication and the opportunity for devolved services from central government, all made total sense for me and my businesses.

"I am very involved in business starts-ups but find it deeply frustrating to have to go to both councils when I look at where to establish the business.

"It is the very same in planning and housing, with huge anomalies between each council, which are deeply frustrating for citizens; as an employer of over 160 staff, I am in touch with these areas on a daily basis.

"Most importantly to me, in terms of tourism, the city and county are totally fragmented and there are so many vested interests and bureaucracy between the councils that we all just give up. The wasted potential is heartbreaking."

However, 130km to the west on the Mizen Peninsula, an equally successful businessman is deeply worried by the promises of greater efficiency and cost savings.

"The last thing in the world that any business owner in Cork needs is more bureaucracy," Dermot O'Sullivan said.

"I really haven't made up my mind on the idea of a council merger. But I get worried when people start talking about more effective local government.

"I haven't been a great fan of councils. Like other business owners, I pay my rates and there are times I wonder precisely what I get for them.

"Services we once thought were part of the rates regime are now things we have to pay for separately.

"My abiding fear is that we will end up with just another level of bureaucracy. I just don't know about the one-size-fits-all approach."

Irish Independent

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