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Redistribution of public servant and government jobs among the DUP/ Tory commitments

DUP leader Arlene Foster with Nigel Dodds (left) and Jeffrey Donaldson leave 10 Downing Street in London after the party agreed a deal to support the minority Conservative government. Picture by Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

THE decentralisation of civil service jobs is an aim many governments strive for, but most fail to deliver.

When the DUP 'confidence and supply' deal with the Conservative Party was revealed yesterday, the issue of redistributing public servant and government jobs was among the commitments that had made the agenda.

It appears that Arlene Foster's party are keen to see more civil service jobs shared across the UK, namely moving more into Northern Ireland.

The deal stated: "The UK government is committed to greater numbers of public servant and government jobs moving out of London and the south East and being distributed across the UK".

But is not an easy issue for politicians to handle with employees in the north among those in recent years who have been forced to deal with the decentralisation of their jobs to other parts of the UK.

One notable example was when the Driver Vehicle Agency in Coleraine was combined with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea in a bid to centralise services.

The changes meant that hundreds of people based in Coleraine lost their jobs, with critics describing the move as a "purely money-saving exercise", which offered "no real advantage to a centralised service".

There are also ongoing plans to relocate the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development headquarters from Belfast to Ballykelly.

In 2012, the then Agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill announced her decision to decentralise hundreds of civil service jobs from outside the city.

DARD is due to leave its existing base at Stormont estate and move to a new site at the former Shackleton army barracks.

In 2003, the Irish government also announced plans for thousands of public servants to move from their posts in Dublin to locations across Ireland as part of a huge decentralisation package.

However, the policy was controversial and the idea met resistance and it was shelved by the coalition soon after it came to power in 2011.

Ulster University economist Esmond Birnie last night said "time will tell" if the DUP/ Conservatives' commitment to distributing jobs across the UK will work.

"We have high profiles moves in the past such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) relocation from London to Newport," he said.

"In principle its do-able, but how much in practice for Northern Ireland over the next five years will it actually come to anything, is the big question.

"It's a rhetorical gesture and time will tell. What it means in practice, remains to be seen."

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