Tuesday 27 September 2016

Government faces Dáil revolt over proposal for Cork 'super council'

Published 17/09/2015 | 02:30

Dermot O'Sullivan pictured outside his family pub O'Sullivan's at Crookhaven, West Cork
Dermot O'Sullivan pictured outside his family pub O'Sullivan's at Crookhaven, West Cork

Veteran Labour TD Ciarán Lynch says he will vote against the plan to merge Cork City and County Councils.

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Mr Lynch, the chairman of the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry, said he believed the proposed creation of a €440m Cork 'super council' offered both authorities "the worst of both worlds."

"I cannot support it on the floor of the Dáil," he told the Irish Independent.

"I believe the Environment Minister (Alan Kelly) was premature in his endorsement (of the plan). He should have taken more time to consider its findings."

Mr Lynch, a Cork South Central TD, said he disagreed with the conclusions of the report prepared by an expert group chaired by former Beamish & Crawford boss, Alf Smiddy.

"It will create a bureaucracy that will completely undermine the clear strategic focus for the Cork city region.

"The only reasoning I can see for this is that maybe the process was captured by the department.

"What I mean is that the Department of the Environment has a long track record of withholding the empowerment of local government across the country.

"Reduction (in the number of councils) does not equal reform," he warned.

"The minister now has to go back to the drawing board on this issue. The people of Cork need to be put first and properly consulted about the best form of local government."

The Smiddy report, which recommended a council merger on a narrow three-two vote, has sparked controversy, with Cork City Council now threatening to take a High Court judicial review to veto the proposal.

Those who support the merger include the Chamber of Commerce and former Cork County Mayor Alan Coleman.

Cllr Coleman said it offered the prospect of a council with the financial muscle to drive development.

However, just one in five Cork residents support the creation of a 'super council', according to a new poll.

The first poll was published yesterday on Cork householder opinions on the future development of local government in Ireland's largest county.

Mr Lynch himself commissioned the study, which was conducted among 244 households, many spanning 'border areas' on the boundary between the two councils.

Boundary

The opinion poll on the proposed boundary review found an overwhelming majority in favour of a straightforward extension of the city council's area.

It found that 59pc supported a greater city council area, while only 21.3pc supported a city and county council merger.

Meanwhile, 71.3pc of people said they considered themselves to be city residents, even if they live in a county council area.

An overwhelming 94.3pc said they were aware of proposed local government reforms and the implications for them.

Mr Lynch said the Smiddy report now needed to be parked pending greater consultation and expert submissions.

"My fear is that this is the wrong option for Cork and could have lasting negative consequences for both the city and county," he said.

"I would be very concerned about any further advancement of this report. I think it is vitally important that greater consultation is taken and that the views of experts are taken."

Cork city growth key to the row

The escalating row over a Cork 'super council' has its roots in the fact that Ireland's largest county has not had a boundary review for 50 years.

Cork city has dramatically expanded since the 1970s with major city suburbs still under county council control.

Cork City Council has been pressing for a boundary extension for 20 years to allow it control its own suburbs and facilitate even greater expansion.

Its targets include areas such as Glanmire, Little Island, Douglas and parts of Cork harbour.

However, Cork County Council is concerned as the areas it controls around Cork city generate a substantial amount of its annual income.

Even Cork Airport is within the Cork County Council rates zone.

Irish Independent

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