Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mansergh defends 2003 Decentralisation "Plan"

Monday’s Irish Times “Head to Head” debate on the 2003 Decentralisation Plan , between Minister for State Martin Mansergh and AHCPS Dep.Gen.Sec. John Kelleher, provides some interesting insights into Government thinking in this area and its broader understanding of its own Spatial Strategy.

Defending the plan, Martin Mansergh paints an idyllic picture of civil servants decentralised to Tipperary town, informing us that they “are very happy to be within 15 minutes or less commuting distance from home”. The agency in question is the Immigration & Naturalisation Section of the Department of Justice. Minister Mansergh makes no reference to the commuting convenience, or otherwise, of the customers of this agency, whenever this might prove necessary. Customer convenience is clearly not a relevant consideration in Government thinking.
This lack of consideration for customers is confirmed by John Kelleher in his contribution on the topic, in which he illustrates a number of other examples of illogical relocations e.g. the Irish Prison Service to Longford, the Development Aid section of Foreign Affairs to Limerick, the Public Appointments Service to Youghal and the Equality Tribunal to Portarlington.

Minister Mansergh defends the lack of fit between the 2003 Decentralisation “Plan” and the 2002 National Spatial Strategy, explaining that “practically all the hubs and gateways already have civil service buildings, under previous decentralisation programmes.”
Yet a key objective of the 2002 National Spatial Strategy was to concentrate future development in a finite number of identified locations, the gateways and hubs, in order to achieve sufficient scale in those locations to support economic delivery of services and infrastructural investment.
Instead, the 2003 Decentralisation Plan proposes to scatter 10,300 civil servants to 53 locations, most of which are neither gateway nor hub, and Minister Mansergh is clearly happy to defend this “one for everyone in the audience” approach.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has identified reform of the public service and extraction of better value for money as a key political priority. The thinking demonstrated in Minister Mansergh’s contribution, allied to several additional drawbacks outlined by John Kelleher, wouldn’t inspire any great confidence in a happy outcome for either public servants or taxpayers.

Footnote: Published as a letter in The Irish Times.

1 comment:

colliebee said...

It's an interesting piece, but does travel not come into consideration no matter where you place the decentralised offices.
Am i to assume that these offices should only be place in Dublin. Does that not mean that people outside of the capital would have to travel there.
I feel it is slightly blinkered view on that aspect and may need a rethink.
If on the other hand, you are trying to say that there is an ease in having all these offices in one area, in case of needing to attend more than one for the same reason, it is valid.
However, the Gov. over the last number of years has made concerted efforts to make these offices more accesable to people through online and postal services, that the traditonal need for travel is minimised.
I am aware that it is not trtue for all departments, but that is being worked on.
Hence arguing decentralisation, years after it was agreed to seem futile and bitter.
PS, it is a nice drive to Tipperary and wonderful views around the town, not ot be scoffed at. Not from Tipperary