New plan will see city expand by 2019

New plan will see city expand by 2019
An overview of the proposed new city boundary.

CORK’s redrawn border could be in place by 2019, according to Local Government Minister Simon Coveney.

The city could also be left with a bill of €40 million per annum for the next decade to compensate the county for losses in commercial rates and property tax after the land transfer. Mr Coveney said he wants the new city boundary in place for the next local election, bringing the city population to more than 225,000.

The move, which he described as the ‘most ambitious’ revamp in local government structures in the history of the State, is designed to future-proof the Cork region for development, positioning it as a ‘counterweight to Dublin.’ Mr Coveney said the city is struggling to expand.

He said: “This report recognises where the city is and what it needs to get to where it is going. It is confirming Cork’s position as the dominant second city and positioning the region for significant growth and expansion over the coming decades.”

Simon Coveney TD, minister for Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government, speaking at the launch of the Cork Local Government report of the experts advisory group at the Clayton Hotel, Silver Springs, Cork.
Simon Coveney TD, minister for Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government, speaking at the launch of the Cork Local Government report of the experts advisory group at the Clayton Hotel, Silver Springs, Cork.

The report was broadly welcomed by city officials, though it was met with some objection on the county side. Under the proposals, Douglas, Grange, Frankfield, Rochestown, Donnybrook, Glanmire, Tower, Blarney, Ballincollig, Little Island, Glounthaune, and Carrigtwohill are all to be incorporated into the city, though Mr Coveney said that the finished borders are not set in stone. “We haven’t defined the exact boundary,” he said. “That will be for the implementation group to assess and if there are good enough reasons to change something, we will consider it.”

Many of the areas, including Little Island and Cork Airport, rank among the biggest contributors to the local authority’s commercial rates income, as well as a significant portion of its Local Property Tax income.

They generate approximately €86 million per annum for Cork County Council, roughly €46 million of which is reinvested in the same areas. As such, income for other parts of the county would drop by approximately €40 million, a sum which should be compensated by Cork City Council, according to the report.

Initially, this financial adjustment would be put in place for a period of 10 years before being reviewed. Citing his own experience as a Cork County Councillor and county resident, Mr Coveney insisted that the county would not lose out under the arrangement. He said: “I am not going to sign off on anything that will hamper the potential of the county to prosper and grow.”

The role of the Lord Mayor and County Mayor also came under scrutiny, though it remains to be seen what the implications will be in this regard. The report recommended that the roles continue to be elected by their respective local councils, but suggested a five-year term instead of the current one-year role.

It also said that the roles should be given ‘responsibilities over and above the traditional representative and ceremonial roles.’

However, Mr Coveney did not agree.

He said: “We should hold our horses. We are currently doing work in that regard and I would expect a resolution by July which will likely supersede this recommendation. I would not be keen on the idea of five years — maybe two or two and a half years.”

The structure of the councils would also change under the terms of the report.

Cork City Council would see its numbers increase from 31 to 39, while Cork County Council would increase to 56, despite reducing in size. An implementation group including the chief executives of both councils will be established to assess the recommendations and begin the process of making the changes.

While Mr Coveney conceded that there may be some challenges regarding the changes, he said that the 2019 local election is the target.

“We have got to move on from the status quo,” he said.

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