Thursday 19 October 2017

Civil service back-office units set for outskirts

John Moran, Secretary General of the Department of Finance, addressing the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland's annual conference in Chartered Accountant House in Dublin yesterday
John Moran, Secretary General of the Department of Finance, addressing the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland's annual conference in Chartered Accountant House in Dublin yesterday
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

BACK-office functions within the civil service will be transferred to the fringes of Dublin under plans to reduce the State's rent bill.

Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes said he wanted the cost of leasing property to be slashed from €112m this year, to under €100m by 2015. It has already fallen from €131m in 2009.

Mr Hayes, who is also responsible for the OPW, told the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland annual conference that he would shortly bring a property management plan to Government which will review and recommend office locations and fit outs.

"We are getting out of central Dublin and the high rent rolls that are there," he told the Irish Independent.

The junior minister said departments would remain in central Dublin, but that transactional functions, or back-office roles, faced being moved to the outskirts of the capital.

"There is a need for clear long-term policy on which departmental functions and staff need to be exclusively located in central Dublin locations," Mr Hayes said. "I am referring here to Dublin 1, 2 and 4 specifically. Being blunt, there is much greater value on the outskirts of Dublin and if we are serious about saving money, not all functions need to be city-centre based."

Mr Hayes also warned senior civil servants of a shake-up in how offices are fitted out, claiming a higher rank no longer entitled them to their own office.

Entitled

"There are elements of the public sector who believe that they are entitled to cellular offices because they have a certain grade. I think that needs to be challenged," he said.

"I don't think it's good enough in this day and age, where lots of people in the private sector are working in open-plan offices. The same benchmark should be set in the public sector."

The state currently has 2,200 buildings under its control. Of the office accommodation, about 60pc are in the owned estate and the remainder are leased buildings.

Other speakers at the event in central Dublin included the Secretary General in the Department of Finance, John Moran, and Patrick Tuttle, the chief executive of Pepper Group, which recently acquired the Irish mortgage business of GE Capital.

Mr Moran asked for those attending the conference to think how Ireland could become a one-stop shop for international developers wondering who to turn to for experts on managing property portfolios.

"I would love to see some analysis done on what would happen or need to happen for Ireland to step forward to actually become a lock and key solution for developers around the world," he said.

Mr Moran said the next step in the banking sector would be the removal of the banking guarantee. The Irish Independent reported last month that Finance Minister Michael Noonan was looking at plans to scrap the guarantee.

Mr Tuttle said Irish banks need to take some losses to move the economy on. He said a balance needed to be struck between debt forgiveness, bank capital requirements, moral hazard and the need to release borrowers from the "debt prison" of their family homes.

Irish Independent

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