DARD move because of NW unemployment
HIGH unemployment and deprivation in the North West were among the reasons Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill decided to move her departmental headquarters to Ballykelly, a move that will see 800 jobs in the Limavady Borough.
Speaking at Stormont, the Sinn Féin Minister gave both a brief outline of the business case for the move and gave an update as to what other sites were considered for the relocation.
She said: “The Department’s headquarters at Dundonald House and Hydebank are no longer fit for purpose. It was against that backdrop that my predecessor, Michelle Gildernew, saw an opportunity to spread high quality public sector jobs across the North and announced her intention to consider relocating the headquarters of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to a rural area. I progressed that further by securing a Programme for Government commitment, and a strategic outline case for the project has been approved.
“In relation to the relocation to Ballykelly, a number of steps were taken before reaching my final decision. The first stage in the process was to develop a long list of potential locations. That list was taken from the new regional development strategy.
“My officials scored each local government district against a defined set of criteria, which included nine socio-economic factors such as unemployment levels, deprivation and earnings levels, as well as practical considerations such as the number of public sector and Civil Service jobs already sited in the area.
“As a result of that analysis, the top two areas indicated were both in the north-west. I made my decision to relocate to Ballykelly based on two further factors, namely the availability of the Executive owned site at Shackleton Barracks, and the availability of buildings on that site that could be converted to office accommodation.
“Use of that site and the buildings available has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of relocation from £26 million, which is the estimated cost of a newbuild.
“I have asked officials to provide me with a business case that outlines the options for relocating the headquarters to Ballykelly. That business case will consider other issues such as value for money and potential savings.”
She added: “ I have said publicly that we have a significant period ahead in which we can work with the trade unions and get everyone talking and planning for the move. We do not expect to be on the site until 2015.
“I recognise that relocation could cause some problems for some of the existing staff. I have given assurances that I do not want to see any existing staff forced to move.
“I will take the time that we have to develop and implement change. That can include looking at more flexible working, and maybe doing things a wee bit differently. I do not expect that existing members of staff will be forced to move, but it may not be possible in all situations.”
She added: “The criteria that were used were based on deprivation, availability of public sector jobs, earnings levels, land availability, unemployment figures and demography. All those things were taken into account and applied to the 26 council areas, as I described in an earlier response. It was a very objective process. The programme board put a lot of time and effort into making sure that it brought forward the best recommendations. I think that it was a very fair process. I would like to make this point: people are concerned about jobs and the amount of jobs. There are actually 800 public sector jobs in that area for people who travel into the Belfast area. There is massive potential there for people to get a better work/home balance.”
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Weather for Londonderry
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 12 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west