I propose to take Question Nos. 116, 121 and 144 together.
Under the Government decentralisation programme announced recently by my colleague, the Minister for Finance, all sections of my Department currently located in Dublin will move to decentralised locations. The senior management and headquarters of the Department will move to Drogheda and other sections will relocate to Buncrana — 120, Donegal town — 230, Carrick-on-Shannon — 225 and Sligo — 100. The Department's information systems division will also be relocated, although the location has yet to be determined. In addition, the Combat Poverty Agency and Comhairle, agencies under the aegis of my Department, will be relocated to Monaghan and Carrickmacross respectively.
My Department has experience of the issues associated with decentralisation, having previously relocated functions and staff out of Dublin to Sligo, Letterkenny, Longford, Waterford and Dundalk. The new programme of decentralisation will involve major change and a key objective will be to ensure that it is implemented in a planned way and with due regard to the effects on staff and the maintenance of high standards of service. My Department has established a project management structure to manage the decentralisation programme within the organisation.
The structure will support the two phases of the decentralisation programme, that is, the development of an overall departmental strategy and the development and implementation of plans for decentralising individual sections. A detailed project plan covering all aspects of the decentralisation process involved is currently being prepared. This plan will set out: the sequence of each relocation; staff placement and training plans; the estimated resources required to complete the project; the risks associated with the project and the contingency plans to deal with those risks.
In addition to the preparation of this plan, the Office of Public Works is currently in the process of securing suitable accommodation in each of the seven locations. A final date for the completion of the decentralisation programme will not be known until all accommodation and staff recruitment issues are concluded. However, it is expected that the programme will be substantially completed by the end of 2006.
In developing the programme my Department will identify the risks associated with the decentralisation programme under various headings and will incorporate approaches to address these in the plans. As an input to the planning process, a survey of all staff in my Department was conducted to establish initial indications of interest in the new locations. There were 3,046 responses to the survey, which represents 64% of the 4,770 staff in the organisation. The position as regards expressions of interest is: Drogheda — 120 staff; Buncrana — 15 staff; Donegal town — 51 staff; Carrick-on-Shannon — 149 staff; Sligo — 24 staff; Monaghan — four staff and Carrickmacross — 16 staff. In all, 379 indicated a wish to move from their existing location to one of this Department's new decentralised offices and a further 586 wish to move to a decentralised venue in another Department. While the survey provides a useful initial indication of staff preferences, it is recognised that the decisions which people make are likely to change as the implementation of the programme proceeds. To date, staff surveys have not been carried out in either the Combat Poverty Agency or Comhairle.
Plans for all the Departments involved willbe considered by the decentralisation implementation committee which is due to submit an initial report by end March 2004. My Department will report progress on the plan on a regular basis to the implementation committee, which will report in turn to the special Cabinet sub-committee which is overseeing the programme.