Govt spend €1m a year renting Laois offices

The government are spending over €1 million a year renting a multitude of offices in Laois, while a site they own in Portlaoise is left for horses to graze.

The government are spending over €1 million a year renting a multitude of offices in Laois, while a site they own in Portlaoise is left for horses to graze.

Laois TD Brian Stanley has slammed the rent costs, caused by decentralisation of government offices, which he says was “haphazard, ill thought out and badly fragmented”.

The Office of Public Works, who procure and manage office space for the government, bought a site on the Mountrath Road, Portlaoise from the IDA several years ago for €1 million, but it has not been developed. Meanwhile government staff are working across seven separate offices in Portlaoise, some of them over public houses.

“We currently have the scandalous situation where civil servants are working in unsuitable private rented accommodation dispersed over numerous locations. For instance the Department of Agriculture is scattered across seven locations in Portlaoise, with some staff working in converted apartments located over pubs and takeaways. This is totally unsuitable for office accommodation and begs the question as to how it was arranged in the first place,” says Dep Stanley.

He slammed the high rent bill paid by the Office of Public Works, released to him earlier this week following a Dáil question. Figures showed that rent and service charges for leased properties in Laois cost over €2 million in 2011 and 2012.

“Meanwhile, a site bought by the OPW on the Mountrath Road for over €1 million lies vacant with horses grazing on it,” he said.

Dep Stanley said he acknowledged that the decentralisation project - shifting government offices and jobs to small towns around Ireland - dated back to the previous government.

“Nevertheless the continued exorbitant cost of renting properties in Laois is no longer affordable. I intend pursuing this and will try to establish if some of these properties are on ‘upward only rent review’ or subject to this. A full 10 years on from Fianna Fáil’s botched decentralisation programme, the project is at best haphazard, ill thought out and badly fragmented. Both the staff and the tax payer deserve better,” he said.

Yesterday the OPW told the Leinster Express they required more time to comment on Dep Stanley’s statement.

According to their website, they manage over 2,000 buildings throughout the country for government use, with more than half of these in leasehold, costing €125 million in 2008.

“Property Management Services actively manages the portfolio to ensure that the State gets best value while meeting the accommodation needs of departments in a manner that enables them to discharge their functions and provide a public service in an efficient and cost effective manner. This includes acquisition of new space, disposal of property no longer suitable for current needs, and consolidation of Departmental staff or Government Services in a particular location,” their website says.