End of decentralisation hits three Mayo towns

Under radical cost-cutting measures within the public service announced yesterday by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, the plan to relocate the Office of Public Works to Claremorris has now been shelved while plans to develop a new build in Charlestown have also been scrapped.

Meanwhile in nearby Tubbercurry where 80 jobs are now under review, calls are being made to move these to Ballina town in Mayo.

The 80 posts — which originally came about in Tubbercurry when staff were moved there under the decentralisation programme — are those in the Environment, Community, and Local Government department in the town. Assurances have however been given that the Road Safety Authority will remain in Ballina.

According to Mayo Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin, staff in Tubbercurry, among whom are included a number of staff from the Department of Social Protection, have been aware for some time that the lease on the building - due to run out in one year - would not be renewed and talks and consultation with staff will continue between now and the closure of the department regarding where these 80 public service jobs will now move to.

“It is up in the air, the lease is going to run out so a decision is going to have to be made but there is a common sense solution to this if the Department of Environment staff based in Tubercurry could be moved to Ballina where permanent Government offices are currently sitting empty.

“The Government offices in Ballina, which were built at considerable expense, have been largely empty since the Road Safety Authority left in 2006.

“In the interest of the staff concerned and with regard to the state of our national finances, I am now calling on the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, to sanction the relocation of these staff to the Government offices in Ballina. I have also called on the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to approve the relocation of staff from her Department.

“Moving these staff to Ballina represents a common sense, local solution to this situation. The staff in Tubbercurry would be able to remain in the local area and would not have to be re-located further afield and the offices in Ballina, which the state has invested significantly in, would be utilised.”

At the press conference in Dublin yesterday, Minister Howlin stated that significant reforms already implemented under the Croke Park Agreement would now be increased further.

To date, his department had reduced public service numbers by more than 22,000; had transferred more than 1,000 staff of the Community Welfare Service from the HSE to the Department of Social Protection; and implemented new redeployment procedures for second level teachers, resulting in the elimination of a ‘surplus’ of some 200 teachers, together with the redeployment of some 850 ‘surplus’ primary school teachers.

Additionally there was ongoing work to transfer some 700 staff from FÁS to the Department of Social Protection and the redeployment of some 750 staff internally within the health sector.

Under yesterday’s announcement Minister Howlin stated the total number of Public Service employees would now be reduced by a further 23,500 by 2015, by which point, the public service pay bill will be reduced by over €2.5 billion, or 15 per cent, since 2008.

Minister Howlin also announced the scrapping of over 40 largely unknown ‘quangos’ yesterday - “and I will be reviewing the position of a further 46 bodies by the end of June next year”, he said.

On the decentralisation programme, he stated the Government had decided it should be cancelled. This will mean that some 40 projects will be cancelled. Thirty two projects - particularly those where permanent accommodation has been provided - will be left in situ and 22 others are being reviewed. The Government will be making a decision on that review shortly.

Mr Howlin paid tribute to the public service for its dedication and commitment, as the country strives to “do better with less”.

Among the public reform changes Minister Howlin also announced that annual leave within the public service is to be standardised between 22 and 32 days per annum and said he had been “shocked to discover that up to now some public servants were entitled to 40 days off”.

 

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