City Hall proposes new city centre ward for future local elections

City Hall proposes new city centre ward for future local elections
One of two proposals put forward by City Hall for the creation of six new city wards under the expanded Cork city boundary, which includes Ballincollig, Douglas, Blarney and Glanmire. The red line marks the current city boundary with the blue lines showing the suggested new wards.

CITY Hall has proposed the most dramatic changes ever seen to the city’s electoral wards.

The sweeping changes, which would create massively expanded ‘super wards’, are a direct result of the decision last year to almost double the size of Cork city. It sets up a major political dogfight at the next local elections between sitting city councillors and county councillors in areas such as Blarney, Ballincollig, Carrigaline and Douglas, which will be subsumed into the expanded city wards.

There are fears, however, that the city will be left with huge, unwieldy electoral areas that split local communities.

The city population is expected to almost double in size but the number of city councillors and electoral wards will not increase, meaning the ratio of representation is set to increase dramatically after the next local election.

Fianna Fail councillor Terry Shannon has criticised the terms of reference for the boundary extension for being ‘too restrictive’ as they call for the establishment of a dedicated city centre ward and impose strict limits on the reach of other areas too.

Currently, Cork City Council is divided into six wards of between four and seven elected members, based on population.

Under the terms of reference issued as part of the local government review into the expanded city boundary, the new wards will have ‘not less than five and not more than seven’ councillors per area.

In preparing a submission to the current review process, City Hall chiefs presented two options to councillors based on the current terms.

The first of the two options includes maintaining five of the six existing wards and merging the north west and north central areas. The new areas, including Blarney, Ballincollig, Douglas and Glanmire would be attached to the existing wards.

The second option includes the establishment of six wards, including a dedicated ‘city centre’ ward. This would stretch from Sunday’s Well to Ballintemple and as far north as Farranree.

In this option, five of the six wards would have five representatives and a population between 33,000 and 34,500, with only the south-centre ward exceeding this. Its proposed population of 42,175 would have six councillors.

Mr Shannon said that while this option meets the terms of reference in the delivery of a city centre ward, it fails on all other counts, creating huge wards that split communities.

“Ballintemple would be split between three wards, Blackrock two, Gurranabraher two, Farranree and Fairhill two,” he said.

“It would be hugely problematic in terms of creating neighbourhoods, communities.”

After the 2014 local elections, Cork city’s population of 119,230 were represented by 31 councillors, working out to 3,846 people per representative. Under the current changes, the new city population would come to 210,000, with the 31 councillors now responsible for 6,774 people each; the fourth highest ratio in the country. The national average is 5,018 people per councillor.

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