What is the future of Local Government in Cork?

15 February 2015
By Elaine Murphy
elaine@TheCork.ie

Cork City Council will host a breakfast seminar from 7.30am tomorrow, Tuesday February 17th, in the Clarion Hotel, the purpose of which is to inform and stimulate the debate around the future of local governance in Cork.

The stimulation of debate around the best mechanism for local governance of Cork following a long awaited extension of the city boundary will inform stakeholders in advance of the deadline for submissions to the Cork Local Government Review Committee established by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly TD to consider the matter.

“The more informed people are about the facts and experiences from existing merger exercises in Ireland and internationally, the better the quality of submission in the Cork context. There are valuable lessons to be learned”, says Chief Executive Ann Doherty. “It is crucial to do the right thing for Cork and its future as the second largest urban area in the state, both for its citizens and for the contribution Cork makes to the national economy. This is the real purpose of the seminar. Cork City Council has a duty to facilitate such discussion among stakeholders who interact with the city daily, and will do so into the future, particularly as we develop our role in community and economic development. Having strong governance structures for a metropolitan area and for the diversities of the largest county in Ireland is critical for balance across services and economic and social development”.

The speakers on Tuesday morning are Mr. William Brady, Centre for Planning, Education and Research at UCC, and Dr. Aodh Quinlivan, Department of Government at UCC, and a question and answer session will follow the presentations.

“There is a perception around mergers that they equate automatically with efficiencies and savings”, says Cork’s Lord Mayor, Cllr. Mary Shields. “Views must be grounded in empirical evidence and must also be balanced, particularly in the context of such a defining moment in Cork’s history, and one which could stay with it, for better or for worse, for a generation or more to come. It is important to get this decision right – we owe it to Cork’s future”.

In his terms of reference to the recently established Cork Local Government Committee, Minister Alan Kelly refers to “the need to maximise the capacity of the Cork Metropolitan Area, in particular, to act as a strong and dynamic focus and generator for growth for the wider hinterland, and that of other urban and rural areas to contribute in that regard in the context of balanced development”. This advances the position on Cork articulated in the Government’s Putting People First policy, and the need to create a new governance entity, seems to be accepted. How a newly defined city and county area will be effectively managed into the future is the real topic at issue in this review process, achieving parity of focus for all Cork citizens.

“Cork City Council welcomes this review, particularly in its openness to finally address the requirement to extend the City boundary, not least for reasons of attracting further investment into the future. The City has, of necessity, long operated outside this invisible line, but the population and development potential quoted within the boundary is not helpful for the region. And it certainly doesn’t reflect the reality of our operations, nor the reality of the people who live, work and commute across that line every day. Our partnership with the County Council has served us very well in the past in delivering beyond the boundary in the environs of the city. I am amazed at the innovation of public servants who have contributed to the development of Cork despite such a limitation”, says Ann Doherty.

The seminar is expected to address perceptions and questions which have arisen since the Review Committee was established. Cork City Council is very aware that the recommendations of the Committee could define Cork’s future for many years to come – it is more than fifty years since the city boundary was last reviewed. As Cork competes internationally, it is vital that its governance meets the highest international standards.

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