Thursday, 19 May 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Citizens Information Services
I thank Deputy Matthews for raising this matter and I also thank him for outlining how important the Citizens Information Board is. I know myself when I was starting out in politics how very useful and necessary its advice was in my own local town. The Citizens Information Board is the statutory body with responsibility for the Citizens Information Service, CIS. The CIB provides funding to eight CIS companies that operate a national network of Citizens Information Centres, CICs.
Each CIS is a limited company overseen by a board of directors and makes decisions independently on the delivery of services in their regions. Decisions regarding the delivery of services in Wicklow town are therefore a matter for the board of the south Leinster CIS. In March 2020, the board of south Leinster CIS made the decision to close the Wicklow CIC office as part of its Covid-19 response. Decisions such as these are entirely a matter for the south Leinster CIS board.
In December 2021, I understand that south Leinster CIS made the decision to discontinue services in their Wicklow town office due to health and safety concerns as outlined by the Deputy. The board had undertaken an internal assessment of the premises and identified that they were unsuitable. I understand that the south Leinster board looked to put alternative arrangements in place. A temporary office location was identified in Wicklow town but the board made the decision not to use this office as it looked to procure a longer-term arrangement. An office space in the centre of Wicklow town was considered. However, the premises required substantial financial investment before it could be utilised. Planning permission for the change of use of these premises was granted to the landlord in late 2021 and consequently the costs had not been factored into CIB's 2022 budget allocation estimates process.
CIB provides funding to the various regional CIS companies and funding may be available for projects that are necessary for the effective delivery of service. Any requests for such funding would be assessed in the context of CIB's annual budget allocation and other competing priorities, and also within the normal efficiency and value-for-money obligations that apply to public funding.
In the interim, I understand that CIB has recently asked the board of south Leinster CIS to consider the use of an outreach office for Wicklow town as soon as possible. The board of south Leinster CIS has therefore been asked to develop a proposal which would identify a possible location for an outreach office in order to provide citizen information services directly in Wicklow town. The Citizens Information Board is continuing to engage with south Leinster CIS with a view to progressing its use to meet local needs.