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Cancellation of the Decentralisation Programme

Government Decision

The Government today (17th November, 2011) announced that the Decentralisation Programme which was introduced in 2003 should be cancelled in the light of the budgetary and staffing outlook. This will mean the following:

  • Those projects where there is no permanent accommodation or advance party in place are to be cancelled. Details of the cancelled projects are set out at Table 1;
  • Projects for which permanent accommodation has been provided and to which staffing assignments are substantially completed are to be left in situ, to be managed in the same way as other regionally based offices and Departments. Details of these projects are set out at Table 2;
  • The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will review, in liaison with the OPW and the relevant Departments, the viability and future prospects of the remainder of the projects, having regard to the current budgetary and staffing constraints affecting the public service generally. The Minister will bring proposals to Government later this year in relation to these. These projects include those where temporary accommodation has been provided, and some others that have business/operational effectiveness issues that require further consideration – details of these are set out at Table 3.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will discuss with the relevant unions alternative options for those staff still committed to decentralising to those locations where projects are being cancelled.

Background – Decentralisation

  • In the December 2003 Budget Statement, the then Minister for Finance announced the decentralisation of 10,300 civil and public servants from Dublin to 53 locations in 25 counties.
  • About a third of the target numbers – over 3,400 – have decentralised since the commencement of the Programme, the vast majority being civil servants.
  • While the decentralised offices account for less than 10% of serving civil service staff, taken together with the pre-existing regional and district offices of Departments the proportion of civil servants stationed outside Dublin is now just over 50%. 
  • Staff relocation under the programme was accomplished on a voluntary basis, without payment of removal expenses or incentives.  Other costs to the Departments involved were minimised through business planning, gradual transfers of staff and functions and risk management strategies.  
  • In October 2008 implementation of the elements of the programme remaining to be completed at that time was deferred by the previous Government, pending a review in 2011 in light of budgetary developments.

Background to the Decision

  • The decisions announced by Government today (17th November 2011) in relation to the Decentralisation Programme have been taken in the context of the substantial changes in the budgetary and staffing situation since decentralisation was announced. It also had regard to the need to focus on programmes and projects that will best support economic recovery and to identify significant expenditure savings and efficiencies.
  •  The changes to civil service numbers and in public service delivery, together with changes in Ministerial portfolios since the programme commenced, were also taken into consideration.  
  • A policy of promoting decentralisation as a special case is no longer consistent with the policies and measures now being adopted to effect a reduction in the number of staff employed in the public service.

Cancelled Projects

These are projects where no progress had been made in relation to the provision of accommodation or the movement of staff – they were on the list of projects which were deferred in 2008. In the present budgetary situation and taking account of factors such as reductions in overall public service numbers, re-organisation of Departments and State Agencies and the erosion of staff numbers available for individual locations, the projects are not viable and it has been agreed to cancel them.

Projects remaining in situ

Projects for which permanent accommodation has been provided and to which staffing assignments are substantially completed are be left in situ, to be managed in the same way as other regionally based offices. Reversal of these projects is not practicable because it would incur major capital and current expenditure costs which could not be offset with savings on the disposal of the regional premises.  The vast majority of the staff involved are settled in the decentralised locations and a further relocation would result in significant and costly disruption to them and to the business of the offices concerned.

Projects for Review

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is reviewing, in liaison with the OPW and the relevant Departments, the viability and future prospects of the remainder of the projects and the Minister will bring proposals to Government later in the year in relation to these. These projects (Table 3) include:

 

  • those where temporary accommodation has been provided for advance parties of various sizes pending permanent accommodation for the entire project, and 
  • those with permanent accommodation that now face the prospect of significant staffing shortfalls due to the change in staffing outlook and others that have business/operational effectiveness issues that require further consideration.  

The review will take account of

  • property and cost issues;
  • the possibilities for integration with other regional or national offices;
  • staffing and IR issues; and
  • any business, operational effectiveness and related considerations that pertain, including any proposals to curtail and close down programmes and agencies.

Central Decentralisation Unit

17 November 2011.