A five-person committee has been given nine months to report to Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly on proposals to extend the Cork city boundary into the county region.
The proposals could mean up to 80,000 voters are affected as a consequence of local government reform.
Mr Kelly identified issues including rates, planning and administration that he says are “holding Cork back” from economic progress.
The move would mean the issue is removed from the Cork city and county council remit and would be a matter for the statutory committee, chaired by former head of Beamish and Crawford, Alf Smiddy. Former UCC Prof of History Dermot Keogh, senior counsel John Lucey, former Kerry county manager Tom Curran and Dr Theresa Reidy, lecturer at UCC’s Department of Government, comprise the committee.
If the group recommends a change to the boundary, it must consider the financial resulting implications, such as rates paid to Cork County Council. The loss of a busy shopping district such as Douglas, a city suburb which lies officially in the jurisdiction of the county council, would present a serious financial blow to the council.
The committee’s terms of reference include arrangements to maximise savings, efficiency and delivery of services, such as best use of municipal buildings in the event of a recommendation that Cork city and county councils should be unified.
"The environs of Cork city which is not part of the Cork City Council area for local government purposes, has a population of 79,000 people so there is a clear need to have an independent overview of local government structures in Cork," said Mr Kelly.
“The option of unifying the city and county structures in Cork should also be considered in view of the potential benefits such as strengthening local government, elimination of administrative duplication, improved service delivery, greater efficiency, economies of scale and more cohesive and effective economic development,” said Mr Kelly
In 2012 under then minister for environment Phil Hogan it was agreed that the boundary of Cork city would be extended out to take in county areas and he gave the local authorities five years to draft an acceptable plan.
In 2006 former city manager Joe Gavin drew up a draft plan for a City Boundary Extension taking in the Poulavone Roundabout east of Ballincollig, travelling north to Kerry Pike and then northwest to the N20 east of Blarney, taking in Monard, Rathpeacon and parts of Glanmire.
Mr Gavin noted that Cork city was “six per cent below its predicted 2006 population level whilst the remainder of Metropolitan Cork is 11 per cent above its predicted level and the outer ring is four per cent above its predicted 2006.”
“An expansion of the city boundary will reduce these problems significantly through having control of these issues in the City Council where urban development policy objectives can be pursued with increased certainty,” he stated in the draft plan.
Mr Gavin proposed the 2006 draft as a means to creating greater socio economic balance through lower transport costs and growing the city’s population from 120,000 to 180,000.
However, the draft proposals were shelved about four years ago and Mr Kelly’s establishment of a boundary committee will mean the two local authorities sidelined in the boundary change process.