Cork City Council do not intend to negotiate or pursue the recently put forward suggestions from Cork County Council regarding a much reduced boundary extension.
Instead, they have agreed unanimously to press ahead in their engagement with an oversight group to work toward implementing the recommendations of the MacKinnon report.
At a special meeting last night, Chief Executive Ann Doherty presented a report to the City councillors which said entertaining the County proposal “would serve only to deflect focus and thwart progress in bringing a conclusion to the review process of local government arrangements in Cork”.
Ms Doherty said: “It has been made clear by the oversight group (to both Chief Executives) that it cannot accept alternative proposals that run contrary to the proposed broad boundary changes set out in the Report of the Expert Advisory Group.”
The MacKinnon report has recommended a boundary extension which would bring areas including Cork Airport, Douglas, Grange, Rochestown, Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island, and Carrigtwohill into the city.
The County’s proposal is for a much smaller boundary increase which would leave Cork Airport plus Blarney, Ballincollig, Little Island, Carrigtwohill and Monard under the control of the County Council.
Lord Mayor, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald said that the MacKinnon report has been accepted by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, who set up an oversight group to oversee its implementation, and that it cannot be re-written.
He also warned that if Cork City's population isn't allowed to grow to 500,000 as outlined in the MacKinnon report, it would lose competitive advantage and fall substantially behind Dublin and Belfast.
"If we agreed to a more limited boundary extension, Cork City could go from being the second city in this country to possible third or fourth tier status. As it stands, Belfast is defined as a global city. Cork isn't. If we agree to a more limited boundary extension, Cork would end up one-sixth smaller in size than Belfast is now - yet Belfast intends growing its population to 427,000 by 2035.
This shortsightedness on our behalf would seriously undermine the wider Cork region's capacity to compete globally and to attract investment and jobs," he said.
"This very report warns that other city regions in Ireland are making conscious preparations to grow, develop and respond to new opportunities and could potentially challenge Cork's place as the natural counterbalance to Dublin.”
Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill said after the meeting that both Councils had ample time to negotiate and make suggestions and the City were now moving toward implementation.
Asked if they had any interest in reopening negotiations, he said: “No, because it isn’t our place to, nor is it the County’s place to do that now. They won’t consider it from either us or them.
“The minister has accepted the report from the advisory group and he has now appointed an oversight group. The minister’s language isn’t about renegotiating or doing something different from the McKinnon report, it’s about implementing it.”
He suggested it was time for County councillors to accept the boundary as suggested by the expert group.
“I found it strange, some of the County Councillors reactions last week and the week before,” Mr Cahill said.
“Local politicians are there to lead and inform, not necessarily there to set up meeting after a deal has been done and give out about things. They had five or more years to offer changes.
“We have unanimously accepted the report. It is a distinction between us and the county, we have had the same coherent voice for the last five years, they haven’t.”
Ms Doherty warned of consequences for all of Cork if there were further delays.
“This need for urgency is driven by the fact the Local Elections will be held in 2019. Realistically, any delay in the implementation process has the potential to push out the necessary reforms to 2024, creating a degree of uncertainty and instability that would be damaging to both Cork City and County, and indeed beyond.”
Ms Doherty has nominated David Joyce, Director of Services Environment and Recreation, to work with the oversight group and said the City was now working on implementation plans for the next meeting of the oversight group on September 5.