Review calls for merger of Cork city and county councils

Local government group suggests proposal will help area compete with Dublin

Chairman of  review group Alf Smiddy:  report  ‘very comprehensive and thorough’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Chairman of review group Alf Smiddy: report ‘very comprehensive and thorough’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A review of local government structures in Cork, published today, recommends merging Cork City Council and Cork County Council into a single local authority.

The review, by a group under the chairmanship of former Beamish and Crawford managing director Alf Smiddy, will make a number of recommendations on improving local government in Cork.

The Irish Times understands that among them will be a recommendation that the city and county councils be merged, as happened in Limerick and Waterford.

The recommendation is the majority view of three members of the review group: Mr Smiddy, senior counsel John Lucey and former Kerry county manager Tom Curran. It is understood two members of the group, historian Prof Dermot Keogh and political scientist Dr Theresa Reidy, oppose the merger. It is understood both UCC academics favoured keeping two local authorities, with the city being allowed to expand into the county area.

Under the one-authority proposal, Cork City Council would become a division of the new merged local authority.

Mr Smiddy said he strongly believed the report makes the right recommendations for Cork and that it was “very comprehensive and thorough. It is very much evidence-based, and throughout, we have put what is best for Cork and its citizens centre stage.”

The review began last January. It was commissioned by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly to see if Cork city boundary should be extended or the councils merged. The aim was to establish the best model of local government to help drive economic development and help the region counter Dublin.

Cork City Council has seen its population decline and, according to the 2011 census, has 119,230 residents, while Cork County Council area has a population of 399,802. Proponents of a unitary authority argue that the combined population of 519,032 would help the region become a node for economic development.

Some 18 former lord mayors of Cork City are against a merger. The review group received submissions from almost 100 parties.