This week has seen a renewed public discussion on the outcome of the McKinnon Report into the future of local government in Cork.
With both the County PPN and the Lord Mayor contributing to the discussion ,Cork City PPN wished to reiterate its position on this matter. A full statement is below. Martha Halbert, Coordinator of Cork City PPN will be happy to field queries on this matter.
Cork City Public Participation Network Response to recent press commentary on McKinnon Report
Cork City Public Participation Network, the representative body for community/voluntary, social inclusion and environmental groups in the city, is the designated consultative mechanism for civic and community interests to interact with the local authority on issues of policy. Cork city is the smallest local authority in the country at just 40 square kilometres, yet it has an incredible 120 member organisations. Cork County Council, 186 times the size of Cork city council, is the largest.
Martha Halbert, co-ordinator of Cork City PPN said “In February, we welcomed the opportunity to meet with the McKinnon expert group in relation to future of both local authorities, city and county. In preparation, the network held a secretariat meeting, an emergency plenary meeting and conducted an online survey among our members to formulate our response. Unanimously the Cork City PPN members were in favour of the retention of two autonomous local authorities and, furthermore, the expansion of the boundaries of Cork City to enable the city to grow to a sustainable size, with compensation for the county for the loss of revenue as a result of the expanded boundary.”
Cork City PPN favoured the retention of two local authorities on the grounds of local democracy and its exercise: a super council combining city and county would leave all citizens and residents, whether they resided in the city or county, at a considerable distance from their ‘local’ authority, make it significantly harder to influence decisions or policy and run contrary to local government policy as described in “Putting People First”.
A significant factor influencing Cork City PPN was resources: proportionately much more of Cork City Council’s budget is spent in funding community, social inclusion and environmental initiatives than that expended by Cork County Council and there is a long tradition of community groups and council working collaboratively to build and enhance communities across the city. Because of its compact nature, citizens have a high level of engagement with the council in the city and civic groups through a range of inter-agency committees, supported by elected members and senior management, also enjoy a significant level of access and influence to decision makers in the city. In the arena of difficult or challenging social inclusion issues, the city has responded by naming equality and inclusion as key policy principles and creating, supporting and sustaining a range of interagency initiatives to tackle the most complex of issues including Traveller, New Communities, People with Disabilities and LGBT inclusion and by including and valuing community engagement with inter-agency initiatives such as Cork Healthy Cities, Age Friendly Council, Cork as a City of Sanctuary, Cork Lifelong Learning festival .
Siobhán O’Dowd, a social inclusion secretariat representative on Cork City PPN, said “ I’ve worked on social inclusion and community development in Cork City for over three decades; lived in the city for two of those and in the last decade in the county. I heartily endorse the recommendation of the McKinnon Expert Group to retain two autonomous local authorities. I think both in terms of civic democracy and community development, their decision is the right one. I understand the boundary extension, necessary for the sustainability of the city, is causing anxiety and I would say to all the communities affected, that Cork City Council is cognisant of the unique and distinct identity of communities and has worked to foster and retain that richness of identity across communities of geography and communities of identity. As a community worker and an individual I’ve had direct experience of their involvement and can honestly say they take the lead from communities themselves.”