9 June 2017
By Tom Collins
Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney, today (9 June) announced that he will be moving quickly to begin implementing the report of the Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Cork.
Minister Coveney established the group last October to make recommendations on future local government arrangements for Cork. The Group had the task of reviewing the recommendations in both the majority and minority elements of the 2015 report, re-appraising all relevant matters covered in that review, but also identifying and examining a wider range of options than might have been considered previously.
“I am happy to accept the main recommendations in this report, while certain details will need to be firmed up as we move to implementation” said Minister Coveney, who added “I wanted this Group to bring fresh thinking to bear on the issue and help to build consensus towards a positive outcome for Cork. I think they have done a very good job, for which I want to thank and pay tribute to the Group’s Chair, Jim McKinnion, and its other members, John O’Connor, Gillian Keating, and Paul Martin”.
A key question which the Group sought to address is what arrangements would best drive sustainable economic growth and strengthen Cork’s position as Ireland’s second city and an “economic engine” for the South of Ireland with the implications this has for business development, population growth, housing provision and associated infrastructure, particularly sustainable transport.
Having evaluated a range of options, the Group concluded that, on balance, an expanded City Council area offered the best solution, particularly in terms of the structure of local government and a strong focus on the needs and demands of the metropolitan area, while recognising the specific needs of rural areas. This would involve two separate local authorities, with an extension of the City Council boundary which, the Group concludes, would represent the best governance model for Cork.
A summary of the main elements of the report is attached. The following are some of the key recommendations:
- Cork should continue to have two local authorities – Cork City Council and Cork County Council.
- Cork County Council will remain by far the larger of the two local authorities, with a population of approximately 320,000
- Cork City Council should be extended to include Ballincollig, Carrigrohane, Blarney, Glanmire, Carrigtwohill, and Cork airport, involving approximately 225,000 population based on 2016 Census figures
- The number of councillors should be revised to reflect a better balance of representation
- A statutory Cork Metropolitan Area Plan should be drawn up focusing on strategic economic development, housing, and infrastructure issues affecting the wider Cork area. Preparation and implementation should be overseen by a board, with equal representation from both the City and County, as well as business representatives. Other areas of cooperation between the local authorities should be strengthened and developed.
- A financial reciprocation payment, based on principles outlined in the report, should be made by Cork City Council to Cork County Council arising from the boundary change, taking into consideration loss of revenue and reduced expenditure on the part of Cork County Council.
- A newly configured Cork City Council should move to area-based decision-making, service provision and operations.
- An Implementation Oversight Body should be established to progress arrangements including overseeing preparations for the Metropolitan Area Plan.
Commenting on the report, Minister Coveney said “The Group has produced comprehensive and innovative proposals to deal comprehensively with the challenges facing Cork as a result of the growth of the City. This will enable the issues to be dealt with conclusively so that they will not need to be revisited. I now intend to appoint an implementation body, as recommended by the Group, to oversee what will be the largest ever city boundary extension in the State and the other measures recommended in the report.”
The Minister expressed surprise that an office of directly elected mayor is not recommended, but acknowledged that this reflected the views conveyed to the Group by various stakeholders. However, the Group has put forward a model for metropolitan planning in Cork. “I see this as important to achieving coherent and effective approach to governance and planning in Cork City and County. It is also relevant to the National Planning Framework and indeed may offer a governance model for other metropolitan areas”, said the Minister who also indicated, that the issue of metropolitan structures and directly elected mayors is being examined on a wider basis in the context of a report to be submitted to Government under the Programme for a Partnership Government.
The report of the Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Cork is available at http://www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/reform/boundaries/report-expert-advisory-group-local-government-arrangements-cork