Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Centralisation of DVO staff to impact on farmer services

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Farmers in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary will have to deal with Department of Agriculture staff in Naas on any veterinary or TB testing queries following the redeployment of personnel away from two district veterinary offices (DVOs).

Twenty-four staff from the Limerick DVO transferred to Revenue this week to work on the introduction of the new property tax, while 23 personnel from Tipperary's DVO are to move to the Garda Vetting Service.

The changes are part of a drive by the Department to centralise clerical services for the DVOs into two centres in Cavan and Portlaoise.

However, problems in Portlaoise at the moment mean the service is being transferred on a temporary basis to the Department's offices in Naas.

The Department said centralising administrative procedures would enable it to reduce the number of administrative staff it required to support veterinary office operations and the cost of providing its services.

A Department spokesman said the changes would not negatively impact on access and services for local customers.

"Department vets, inspectors and technical officers will remain in place at the existing locations to service our clients across all of the schemes that are provided from our regional offices," he said.

However, staff in both Limerick and Tipperary have challenged this assertion and claim that the same level of service will not be available to farmers.

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"Fourteen people in Naas are already dealing with four counties. How are they going to be able to deal with Limerick and Clare immediately and possibly Tipperary later this month," one former Limerick staff member asked.

He said those working in local offices were constantly dealing with farmers on issues ranging from TB test results, contiguous tests and missing cards to cross compliance and the new BVD scheme.

"I see a huge diminution of the service to farmers. Particularly to older farmers who need a lot of help and advice," the former staff member said.

"More progressive farmers will cope fine or they will pay a farm advisor to deal with any problems that arise but that option is not available to many elderly farmers or those who can't afford a farm advisor," he added.

Staff also questioned whether the Department's action plan for Class A diseases was now achievable given the staff reductions that are planned for local offices.

However, the Department insisted that the drive to reduce staff numbers would be extended beyond Limerick and Tipperary.

"The centralisation of administrative functions in other regional offices will be considered in light of the availability of opportunities to redeploy the staff concerned to support other critical public services," a Department statement said.

Meanwhile, the ICMSA has called on the Department to communicate directly with local farmers and inform them whether all existing services are to be retained at their local offices and – if not – what new arrangements are being put in place.

Irish Independent