Seanad Éireann - Volume 184 - 04 October, 2006

Decentralisation Programme.

  Mr. Finucane: I will not go into the background of this as I have raised the issue of decentralisation so many times since the then Minister, Mr. Charlie McCreevy, announced Newcastle West was a designated area and was due to get 50 staff from the Revenue Commissioners. I understand the staff have been recruited for quite some time. There was a little disappointment in Newcastle West because we thought the new staff would be trained there, but I understand the training is being carried out in Limerick. Several staff have asked me what has been happening because it is quite some time since the Minister’s colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, had an official photocall to put up a sign outside the original county council offices stating that this site would be part of the decentralisation programme. He had an entourage of Progressive Democrats public representatives from throughout the county to help him put up the sign stating that this site was to be the location of the office but I pass that location frequently and I have not seen any construction activity. Will the Minister of State indicate when construction will commence and when it is likely that office will be opened?

  Mr. Browne: I thank Senator Finucane for raising the issue. The Minister for Finance [1515]announced a decentralisation programme for 10,300 public servants in December 2003, to be implemented on a voluntary basis. The success of the programme can be seen from the fact that decentralisation is now a reality in 12 new locations and that more than 2,000 civil servants will have relocated to 29 locations by the end of 2007. This demonstrates the level of interest in relocating among public servants. It is also an endorsement of the ability of public service managers to effectively manage the staffing, business and property issues arising. Staff are being assigned to decentralised posts and are being trained in advance of their decentralisation to new locations which are being acquired by the OPW.

Included in the Government decision was a requirement for Revenue to decentralise 50 staff to Newcastle West. Following consultation with the Management Advisory Committee and Revenue’s Partnership Committee, the board of the Revenue Commissioners decided that all debt management functions in Dublin would be decentralised, apart from a small number of staff who will be retained on insolvency work, to the greater mid-west area, including Newcastle West.

The Office of Public Works considered a range of options to meet the accommodation needs of Revenue in Newcastle West resulting in a decision to procure new accommodation in Newcastle West on the basis of a design build solution.

I understand from the Office of the Public Works that it has identified a preferred tenderer who will shortly be submitting a planning application in respect of this accommodation. On receipt of satisfactory planning permission, a con[1516]tract for construction of the building will be placed by the OPW. If matters progress according to schedule, it is anticipated that building work should commence early in the new year with completion for 2008.

In the interim, and pending the availability of accommodation in Newcastle West, it was decided that the operation to be relocated to Newcastle West by the Revenue Commissioners would be established on a temporary basis in Limerick. The decision to proceed with a temporary solution in Limerick was taken on the basis that this would be the optimum approach to ensuring that the Newcastle West team could be provided with appropriate training while minimising disruption to the ongoing business of the division.

The decision also had regard to the fact that the majority of staff who had elected to transfer to Newcastle West were currently serving in Limerick and could therefore be brought together in that location without significant disturbance. This approach was approved by the Decentralisation Implementation Group.

The Office of Public Works was requested to identify appropriate temporary accommodation in Limerick. This temporary accommodation has been secured in Estuary House, Limerick. The Newcastle West team was put in place in July 2006 and the debt management functions that are due to be administered from Newcastle West are being undertaken by this team.

The Minister, Deputy Cowen, has been assured by the Revenue Commissioners that as soon as the new accommodation is available in Newcastle West, Revenue will be in a position to commence operations in that office immediately.

  The Seanad adjourned at 7.15 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 11 October 2006.