Cancellation of the Decentralisation Programme
The Government announced on 17th November, 2011 that the Decentralisation Programme which was introduced in 2003 should be cancelled in the light of the budgetary and staffing outlook:
Projects where there was no permanent accommodation or advance party in place were cancelled. Details of these are at Table 1.
Projects for which permanent accommodation was already provided and to which staffing assignments were substantially completed were left in situ, to be managed in the same way as other regionally based offices and Departments. Details of these are at Table 2.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform undertook a review, in liaison with the OPW and the relevant Departments, on the viability and future prospects of 21 decentralisation projects, having regard to the current budgetary and staffing constraints affecting the public service generally. The Government announced on 14th February, 2012 that it had agreed to implement the recommendations of that Review, which has been published on the Department’s decentralisation website here. A summary of the recommendations in relation to the projects reviewed is at Table 3.
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 on 17th November 2011 in relation to the Decentralisation Programme were 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.
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.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform reviewed, in liaison with the OPW and the relevant Departments, the viability and future prospects of the remainder of the projects. These included 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 took 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.