Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Decentralisation of CSO.

Ivor Callely

Ceist:

9 Mr. Callely asked the Taoiseach the cost implications of the proposed move of the Central Statistics Office to Cork; if he will give a breakdown of the cost involved in movement of personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The bulk of the cost of decentralising the Central Statistics Office to Cork will be incurred this year. A sum of £2.11 million is provided for this purpose in the 1993 Estimates of expenditure for the office. This breaks down as follows:

Subhead

1993 Estimate

(£000)

A1 Salaries, wages and allowances

225

A2 Travel and subsistence

77

A3 Incidental expenses

22

A4 Postal and telecommunication services

165

A5 Office machinery and other office supplies

498

A6 Office premises expenses

1,108

A8 Collection of statistics

15

Total

2,110

The fixed tenant purchase terms for the new Cork office will be less than the rental rates currently being paid for accommodating the staff in Dublin which are also subject to periodic upward rent reviews and give no ultimate ownership. These payments are made by the Office of Public Works.

I thank the Minister for giving that information. Has there been any difficulties in relation to the transfer of personnel from the Central Statistics Office in Dublin to Cork and what costs are involved?

I am not aware of any difficulties. The method used in recruiting staff for the office in Cork will be, first, to ask for volunteers from within the Central Statistics Office and, second from other Government Departments. Any staff shortfalls arising following that will be filled by promotion competitions and direct recruitment.

Will existing personnel in the Central Statistics Office who do not wish to transfer to Cork be accommodated in an office in Dublin or where will they be deployed?

We will ask for volunteers to transfer to Cork and if there is not a sufficient number we will get people from outside the Central Statistics Office. Any person who does not wish to transfer will have to be redeployed to other Departments.

Will the Minister explain the rationale behind spending £2.11 million to provide for the transfer of jobs from Dublin to Cork? I appreciate that Cork will be pleased to get the spending power of the people transferred, and no doubt the office block owner will be pleased to get the rental, but Dublin is a seriously affected area in regard to unemployment with the highest rate of job losses in any part of the country. There are no new jobs being created with this £2.11 million, therefore, I would like to know the Minister's rationale behind such move.

The second question I wish to ask relates to the office space currently occupied by the Central Statistics Office. What is the status of the leaseholdings currently held by the Minister or the Office of Public Works? The office presumably will be vacated. To what extent will the Office of Public Works be penalised for vacating the offices or what leasehold arrangements exist? What costs will be incurred as a result of vacating the premises, or will they be left lying idle with rent being paid on them, as happened on previous occasions with offices held by the Office of Public Works and other Departments?

The second part of the Deputy's question is a matter for a separate question and I can supply the information to him separately. At present the Central Statistics Office is located in three separate buildings in Dublin: in St. Stephen's Green House, Earlsfort Terrace; Ardee Road, Rathmines and Hume House, Ballsbridge. It is anticipated that when the Central Statistics Office is transferred to Cork the residual Dublin office will be housed in Ardee Road, Rathmines. I will endeavour to get the information in relation to rent and so on for the Deputy. I would be completely out of order in answering the first question asked by the Deputy because it relates to decentralisation, which is worthy of a separate question.

It is a very wide subject.

If I may suggest, Sir, you should not be so indulgent to the Minister because the question relates to the cost implications of the proposed move and for the Minister to pretend this is a wider matter is absolute nonsense. We are talking about the cost implications here. Will the Minister say whether the costs he has given are net or gross costs? That is an important question to be asked in this context. Is the Government going to spend more or less on buildings and equipment for the Central Statistics Office after this move and is it going to employ more people after the move? What, if any, are the short term implications for employment in the Dublin and Cork areas? It seems those are legitimate questions about the cost of this move that the Minister is seeking to avoid.

I quite agree——

I think the Minister would like to answer the question.

The question deals with the implications involved in the move of the Central Statistics Office to Cork and Members may ask questions on that matter, but I must dissuade them from entering into a debate on the whole question of decentralisation.

I am not debating the whole question of decentralisation. I am asking the Minister whether the figures he has given are gross or net figures and if he will break them down by rent, wages and so on?

I am not sure whether the Deputy was in the House when I answered the question but under each of the subheads I gave a breakdown of the cost of the transfer.

No, the Minister did not give such a breakdown and I was here.

Deputy Dukes has been here for half an hour.

I do not understand then why he is asking the question again.

Are the costs gross or net costs? The Minister did not tell us whether the Government is going to spend more or less on office accommodation, machinery and staff after this move.

This question must come to finality.

Is it going to cost the taxpayer more or less after the move?

What the Deputy is asking me to do is to look into a crystal ball to find out whether the Central Statistics Office is going to spend more or less in the future.

Does the Minister mean he made all these plans without knowing what the cost would be?

The Central Statistics Office would spend more money on office machinery, equipment and so on if, in response to what Deputy Bruton suggested earlier, it increased computerisation——

That is not the question.

——but this will not be brought on simply by the fact that it moves to Cork.

Therefore, the Minister has no idea whether the move will cost the State more or less.

I am afraid we have forgotten this is Question Time.

I suggest Deputy Dukes ask the questions on that side and wait until he is on this side to answer them.

The Minister might try answering them.

Let us now deal with questions nominated for priority.

I wish to ask one question. Will the Minister outline the benefits to the general Cork economy of the move of the Central Statistics Office?

And the costs.

Again, that is a separate and detailed question. The basic idea of decentralisation, to which most parties in this House subscribe, is to bring benefits to the local economies——

Would the Minister not transfer the Central Statistics Office to Tallaght? I am in favour of decentralisation to Tallaght.

——and, while I have not stated that, everybody should know it.

We now come to questions nominated for priority for which Standing Orders provide 20 minutes.