Is Decentralisation about to become one of the hottest political potatoes of the next twelve months?
I think it is and I am suprised that there is no thread devoted to it exclusively - apologies in advance if I am wrong on this.
A few points to consider:
A recent poll was taken within the Department of Finance which has approximately 400 staff, and is earmarked for transfer to Tullamore. A total of nine people said that they would move to Tullamore.
The Trade Unions (whom many Civil Servants believe to be largely responsible for this potential nightmare) estimate that no more than 20% will move willingly. From where I am standing this is hugely wide of the mark. I would estimate 5% tops. And that figure will be made up of "indians" who are happy to get out of Dublin and return to their roots (and a cheaper 3 bed semi), and a handful of "chiefs" who have ambitions to be Assistant Secretarys and Department Secretarys one day, and are willing to move....and move again, in order to secure those promotions.
There are approximately 150,000 civil servants with about the same number of spouses/partners and associated family members/friends. Let's say 300,000 to 500,000. That adds up to a lot of anti-government votes come the next election.
Limerick University's Ed Walsh was interviewed on RTE's Five Seven Live last evening. His main points were that there is no successful precedent for this. We need more joined up government, NOT less. Policy and policy making need to be centralized and concentrated not diluted.
This is a victory for perceived local political gain over national interest. In other words, the continued success of Ireland Inc. is being sacrificed to parish pump politics.
There is no doubt that the goverment parties believe that decentralisation will win the votes of the local publican, shopkeeper, butcher and builder and that this will outweigh any negatives associated with revolting civil servants or damage to Ireland political and administrative infrastructure.
Have the locals in those fifty-odd centres considered the effect that this will have on their economies? Only those "fumbling in the greasy till". Take Clonakilty, which is earmared for Fisheries. Ninety people will be employed there. Think of the effect that ninety, rock solid, salaries will have on local property prices. It, and many towns like it, will become mini-Galways. The children of locals will find it more difficult to buy locally. Will the local school/hospital in Clonakilty be able to cope with ninety additional people and their families?
In an era when most couples double job, what will the non-civil servant spouse/partner do? Has this been considered? Of course it hasn't!
The government is, by some margin, the largest tenant in Dublin. I understand that the Office of Public works has already begun to put on the market some of its office space. I predict that, if decentralisation is carried through in full, the effect on the Dublin property market will be devastating.
Worst of all, from a civil servants point of view, is the prospect of working in the same area for the rest of your working life - as in Fisheries in Clonakilty, or Finance in Tullamore. One of the reasons the CS remains vital and alive is that those with brains and ambition can expect to be presented with new challenges every couple of years. This will atrophy under current proposals - unless one is willing to buy and sell houses every couple years and move one's family. Crazy!
All in all this is a repeat of the Electronic Voting fiasco. It seemed like a no-brainer from a parish pump viewpoint. But, it hasn't been thought through at all. Only when the relevant ministers wake up and smell the coffee - and listen to what heavy hitters like Ed Walsh are saying - will they drop the idea, or, at the very least, massively downscale it.
This is, potentially, one of the biggest mistakes any government has ever made. It is incredible that the opposition have not made it a local election issue. Probably because the locals only see it as a cash cow. How wrong they could be!
I understand that a building has already been leased in Clonakilty for Fisheries. If this is the case all over the country, and if the scheme collapses under the weight of CS lack of interest, then the bill for this fiasco will make the Electronic Voting €52m look like peanuts. Our ability to squander more and more money knows no bounds.
Last week all civil servants received notification of the commencement of the decentralisation process. They have been given eight weeks during which to express their preferred location(s), if any. If they make no submission by July 8, it will be assumed that they do not wish to decentralise. My prediction is that the rejection of this plan will be so overwhelming that it will be abandoned soon afterwards.
There is a Jeannie Johnston born every week.
[Edited on 18/5/2004 by Dinarius]
[Edited on 18/5/2004 by Dinarius]
[Edited on 3/6/2004 by Dinarius]