Dáil debates

Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Ceisteanna — Questions.

Decentralisation Programme.

3:00 pm

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Question 10: To ask the Taoiseach the number of his Department's staff who have applied for relocation under the Government's decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39777/05]

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Question 11: To ask the Taoiseach the implications of decentralisation for his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1241/06]

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Question 12: To ask the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of the decentralisation programme as it affects his Department. [1864/06]

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Question 13: To ask the Taoiseach if he will report on the Civil Service relocation programme as it affects his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3214/06]

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Question 14: To ask the Taoiseach the number of staff within his Department by grade who have applied for relocation under the decentralisation programme; if an assessment has been carried out of the implications for his Department of the transfer of such staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4185/06]

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 to 14, inclusive, together.

Forty-five staff currently serving in my Department have applied through the central applications facility to relocate under the decentralisation programme. The breakdown by grade is as follows: assistant principal, nine; higher executive officer, four; administrative officer, ten; executive officer, ten; staff officer, two; and clerical officer, ten. Three former members of staff have been assigned to decentralised posts.

Arrangements are in place to ensure that the decentralisation of staff does not impact negatively on the quality of the services provided by the Department. These arrangements include the phased redeployment of some of the remaining staff to the areas of the Department most affected by decentralisation and the provision of training and job profiles or work manuals to new staff, as appropriate. That almost 22% of the staff of the Department have opted to relocate outside Dublin shows the underlying decision to initiate a comprehensive decentralisation programme was correct.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Does the Taoiseach have information on the Departments and locations to which the officials in question have applied to be transferred? The Taoiseach will recall that when the former Minister for Finance announced at the end of December 2003 that the Government intended to pursue a programme of decentralisation, he indicated that 10,300 public servants would be decentralised from Dublin within a three-year period. It seems that the programme is now in deep trouble.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The questions before the House relate to 45 members of staff in the Department of the Taoiseach. I would prefer if we moved on.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Ceann Comhairle waited patiently for 45 seconds before jumping in at the first opportunity.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair does not have any choice in the matter.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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He leapt in as soon as I mentioned the relevance of this issue to anything outside the Department of the Taoiseach.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The questions refer specifically to the Department of the Taoiseach. I understand that similar questions have been tabled to the Minister for Finance.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Ceann Comhairle did not let me finish my question.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am sure the Deputy will have an opportunity to ask supplementary questions on the matter then.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I was not allowed to finish my question.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Perhaps the Taoiseach will refer to the implementation bodies.

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I am sure he will be more exact than the Deputy was in his remark about exports last week.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Does the Taoiseach have information about the locations to which the officials in the Department of the Taoiseach have applied to be decentralised? Do they wish to be transferred to other locations in Dublin or to places outside Dublin? It was originally announced that 10,300 public servants would be relocated to 53 places inside three years, but it is obvious that will not happen now. I would like to find out where the officials in the Department of the Taoiseach, which is quite small, are going. Will they be replaced by new officials who will be assigned to the Department of the Taoiseach?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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As I said, 22% of the staff of the Department of the Taoiseach have opted to relocate outside Dublin. It is obvious that no section of that Department is to be decentralised. It is a question of what individuals across all Departments are doing within the system. Some 10,600 people, or 100 a month, are hoping to transfer to the Departments which are to be decentralised. That is what is going on in the current system.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Does the Taoiseach have the relevant information for the Department of the Taoiseach? Statistics in respect of all Departments were published last week.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That information is available. I do not have information on what individuals are doing. The Deputy can take it that the officials who wish to be transferred have applied to be located in sections which are to be transferred to locations outside Dublin. People in the Department of the Taoiseach are aware that they will not get out over——

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Only one in ten public servants wants to leave Dublin.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot have a debate on the matter now. Two of the oral questions which will be answered shortly by the Minister for Finance, who is responsible for the decentralisation programme, relate to this issue.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I want to know about the Department of the Taoiseach only.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, you are talking about thousands of civil servants.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am not.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are only 45 civil servants involved in that Department.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am asking the Taoiseach whether he has information about the staff in that Department. Will they be replaced by means of other recruitment within the public service?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That is what will happen. Officials in the Department of the Taoiseach are transferring to other Departments, in Dublin or elsewhere, which are to be decentralised. They are doing that because it is the only way they can position themselves for decentralisation, and that is fair enough. The percentage of staff at each grade in the Department of the Taoiseach to have applied is as follows. Some 28% of staff at assistant principal level have applied, as have 17% of staff at higher executive officer level, 53% of staff at administrative officer level, 38% of staff at executive officer level, 14% of staff at staff officer level and 19% of staff at clerical officer level. That is happening across Departments.

While it will take time to go through the system and we will not complete the process in three years, it is patently obvious that there is a demand among people in the Civil Service to move to other locations. It will take time for that to happen because new sites have to be acquired and offices have to be built, and all that is being done. Some 45 officials in the Department of the Taoiseach, or 22% of the total, have put themselves on the list so that they can ultimately be decentralised.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Dúirt an Taoiseach i mí na Samhna seo caite go raibh timpeall 20% dá fhoireann le dílárnú, cé nach bhfuil a Roinn féin le dílárnú. Has the Taoiseach factored in a cost for retraining those who replace his decentralised staff members? Does he even intend to replace such staff members? Does he expect his staff to have moved out before the next general election? Are any members of his staff who volunteered for decentralisation in line for promotion? Has that policy been stopped following the Labour Court decision regarding FÁS? Was there an expectation that promotion would accompany a willingness to decentralise from his Department?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Does the Taoiseach recall that his response to this question the last day was that 42 of his Department's staff had applied for decentralisation? Have a further three staff applied since then? Does he expect that more staff members may seek relocation? Does he recall stating on the same occasion that members of staff in his Department who move to the relocated offices of other Departments must be replaced by civil servants of the same grade? In that regard, has he received a letter from IMPACT on the issue of decentralisation? The Minister for Foreign Affairs indicated that new staff would have to be recruited——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise in questions to the Taoiseach. The Minister for Finance will answer questions later.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Has the Taoiseach responded to the letter from IMPACT? Can he clarify his position on the issue?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Given that less than 10% of civil servants have applied for decentralisation three years after it was first announced, does the Taoiseach have any concerns that we will end up with a parallel Civil Service? Since it is proving difficult to get the appropriate persons in the appropriate Department to transfer, we may end up having a dual system in some Departments, where we will simply recruit the expertise——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The question may only refer to the Taoiseach's Department. The Minister for Finance will answer questions shortly.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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There is ongoing training for staff members who come into the Department or who move from one Department to another. There are now around 10,500 people on the list. What happens before the next general election is relevant to the decentralisation process. The public service is non-political. I was Minister for Finance in the early 1990s when the Government last implemented a decentralisation programme. It was an ambitious programme involving thousands of people. People claimed that it would never happen and that it would not work, but it worked perfectly, even though it took longer than we thought. Industrial relations must be taken into account and these issues must be negotiated. Everyone knows these offices now work successfully and that the services provided are top class. The same will happen with this programme. It takes time to work and it cannot be done other than by negotiation and preparation. Locating sites and designs will take time. We have the support of the public servants and, in particular, the civil servants on this issue.