Wednesday, 8 February 2006
Question 107: To ask the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the breakdown of the grades of staff within his Department who have expressed a desire to decentralise to the locations chosen by his Department; if he is satisfied that it will be possible to fill all the grades with existing staff from within his Department in the chosen locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4729/06]
My Department is transferring its headquarters to Knock Airport and 13 posts to Na Forbacha. Seven Na Forbacha posts are in place and it is expected that the remaining posts will be filled by the end of 2006. My Department is scheduled to complete its move to Knock Airport by the end of 2007. It is also planned to relocate up to 70 posts in advance of the main move subject, inter alia, to the availability of suitable temporary accommodation in the general area. The Office of Public Works is seeking to source suitable accommodation and I hope that this advance move can take place from mid-2006.
Currently some 26 members of staff have indicated a willingness to transfer to Knock Airport. Additional staff are transferring into my Department from other Dublin Departments for decentralisation. In addition, a large number of applicants who are currently decentralised wish to transfer to my Department. With all of those staff, and with the adoption of appropriate HR and risk management responses, I believe I will have sufficient applicants to fill all posts, both for the advance move and for the next phase of my Department's decentralisation programme, namely, the relocation to the new permanent headquarters building.
The following is a breakdown of staff currently serving in the Department who have committed to decentralise to Knock Airport.
|Sec. Gen.||Asst. Sec.||PO||AP||HEO+AO||EO||SO||CO||Services Officer||Total|
My question relates to the interest within the Minister's current Dublin-based Department staff to decentralise to the chosen locations. He is well aware of the importance of the wealth of expertise within his Department in regard to key areas such as drugs control, community development and so on. Will he agree that he will still need a continuity of this expertise after his Department has decentralised? Can he guarantee to the House that he can make up the numbers of all grades, from clerical officer to principal officer, who make up this expertise? Is he satisfied with the preparation that has been engaged in by his Department, and perhaps other Departments, for the people who will move from Dublin to different parts of the country? Are offices and accommodation available? I understand that a hotel complex, or part of a hotel complex, in the Minister's constituency, has been taken over to facilitate these people who are moving from Dublin to decentralised locations. Is he satisfied that this is the most economical, logical and practical way to deal with the issue, or will he agree that custom-built offices, suitable for their work should be prepared before the move takes place?
I am pleased the Deputy has given me an opportunity to correct an incorrect report in a Sunday newspaper, based more on fiction than on fact, despite the fact that we gave the details, and suggested they should contact the organisation involved, Pobal. In regard to these jobs, they are not civil servants. They are the staff of Pobal, which is a private company that operates under the aegis of the various Government Departments and gets administrative money from my Department.
I would like to put on record what is happening in Clifden. Some 20 new jobs are being created in Pobal to provide services for the rural social scheme and a new community services scheme that was the social economy scheme, which my Department has just taken over. These services are being provided on contract to my Department. The Deputy will be aware that it was agreed there would be decentralisation of ADM staff, now Pobal, to Clifden. It was decided to recruit these new staff for Clifden. We need them now because they must provide the services now. Pobal decided to recruit the staff and sought temporary accommodation in Clifden. The most suitable office accommodation was in the station house, a very large complex, including a hotel, apartments and many other buildings in Clifden. Some ten staff, who are extra employees, will commence work this month, with a further ten later in the year. These people are being recruited currently. Some journalists appear to think we are providing overnight accommodation, which is not the case. We are providing ordinary standard office accommodation.
The cost of the accommodation is €18 per square foot, which is approximately half of what the same accommodation, which would have had to be rented here for extra staff, would have cost. What was the point hiring staff to work in Clifden, bringing them to Dublin for a year or so while seeking permanent accommodation and moving them to Clifden? It would make no sense when they were hired to work permanently in Clifden. The obvious and cheapest way to proceed was to acquire the accommodation in Clifden.
I thank the Deputy for the opportunity to correct an incorrect report in the newspaper. I wrote a short letter to the newspaper to the effect that I hoped the newspaper would win the newspaper award for fiction.
No, it was a bit hard-hitting. It was a short letter stating that I hoped the newspaper would win the award for fiction writers whenever the journalists are presented with awards.
There is a challenge in all of this for the Department. However, many of the senior staff are already in place. Some 187 people in total are seeking to come into the Department, which is more than sufficient, but they do not match grade by grade. The grades in which there are deficiencies currently are HEO, assistant principal and principal officer. For this reason, we need a two year roll-in, in other words, 70 staff will be moved this year and the remainder will move the following year. There are plenty of COs, SOs, EOs and so on offering; the problem is with the three middle grades. However, I have no doubt that in the two year period the deficiencies in these numbers will be made up because people are continuing to apply for the CAF.
While it is a challenge for us this year, I have no doubt as we go through the year, the staff will rise to the challenge. There are already people moving out and moving in, which is good, because it is taking place ahead of the physical decentralisation. People are becoming accustomed to the job. It poses challenges but the Department is determined to ensure this move will take place with as little ripple as possible in terms of customer service. If everyone works together, we can achieve this, and I am determined to ensure it happens.