A TOTAL OF 65 Forest Service jobs jobs will come to Fermanagh by June 2015 it has been confirmed, but one local MLA remains unconvinced on where the new staff will be accomodated.
Last week in Stormont Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill confirmed the proposed move of 65 jobs to Inishkeen House in Enniskillen was on track.
The issue of descentralisation within the Forest Service has been on the table for over two years and it remains the basis of much contention In February of this year local MLA Tom Elliott hit out at the ‘failure’ of the the Agricultural Department to relocate staff to Inishkeen House after the numbers scheduled for the move were scaled down by almost half from over 100.
He remains concerned by the process.
“Obviously I’m still very frustrated on two counts. The first one is that only 65 jobs are coming instead of the 100 meant to be coming. The second is how slow the process is. I think it is three years in May since it was announced first and still there is no significant progress. I’m not aware of them having secured any property either.
“I obviously welcome the news they’re going to come here and the jobs, but I think there needs to be more urgency, I think the department have dragged their heels on the matter.”
Mr Elliott also questioned the viability of Inishkeen House as the location for a further 65 positions and took issue with the Minister’s comment that the building can ‘potentially accommodate more staff’.
“Either it can or it can’t. Are they going to have it in Inishkeen House or not? I honestly don’t think they can accomodate more staff, Inishkeen House is fairly up to capacity in my mind unless you’re going to shed jobs somewhere else. It is very, very uncertain.”
Last week in Stormont local Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan asked the minister for information on the date of the move and confirmation on the number of staff.
She confirmed: “The first phase of that work is complete, and it has been confirmed that Inishkeen House can potentially accommodate more staff. The indications are that, with an internal redesign, Forest Service headquarters staff could be accommodated there. I am very pleased with that, and I assure the member that we are on target and working very hard to be able to deliver the project and for staff to be there by June next year.”
“It is good to get good news here the odd time,” remarked Mr Flanagan.
The Minister said the move was ‘on target’ and added: “It is about making sure that staff feel comfortable with all the moves, so we have a significant lead-in time to allow all that to happen. It is all very positive stuff.”
Local UUP councillor Alex Baird, a retired civil servant, welcomed the possibility of further jobs being brought to Fermanagh.
“I certainly welcome the descentralisation of positions in the civil service and especially jobs coming to Fermanagh, particularly with the loss of jobs in the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency. As a retired civil servant I realise the benefits of people living in the county and working in the county.”