THE controversial renting of properties across Laois for use by the Department of Agriculture at a cost of €1million a year could soon be at an end, with news that plans for a new headquarters have been shelved in favour of expanding the department’s building on the Abbeyleix Road in Portlaoise to bring the 480 local staff members under one roof.
A site was previously purchased for use as the department headquarters at the IDA park in Portlaoise, at a cost of over €1million, but this has lain idle and undeveloped as government staff were deployed across seven separate rented offices in the town as part of the decentralisation of services. Of the 480 staff, 317 of these moved here as part of decentralisation with a total of 600 due to relocate, the biggest single relocation of staff out of Dublin.
Raising the issue in the Seanad recently, Senator John Whelan said that decentralisation was a good concept which had been appallingly thought out.
“Its implementation and roll-out was even poorer and, in some cases, it ended up being a fiasco,” he said.
Senator Whelan went on to say that the dispersion of staff across rented offices was not an effective and efficient use of the offices, pointing out that one office is over a pub and a fish and chip shop and is remote from the central office.
Responding to the senator’s remarks, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Tom Hayes agreed that the spreading of single functions over several locations seriously impairs efficiency.
“The department and the Office of Public Works are examining the possibility of the construction of an extension to Government offices on Old Abbeyleix Road,” he said, adding that it would take at least two years to deliver the new building, which would result in all of the department’s staff being accommodated at that one location. He said a detailed proposal is being finalised and this will be submitted to the department for its consideration.