All except two of 16 administrative staff at Tullamore’s Department of Agriculture local office are being redeployed from the beginning of next month, the Offaly Independent has learned.
Describing the news as “a bombshell”, Independent local councillor and farmer Johnny Butterfield told the Offaly Independent the moves were confirmed to him earlier this week.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture confirmed that a review of the local office structure in recent years concluded that due to investment in technology and the substantial reduction in disease levels in recent years, significant efficiencies would accrue from the centralisation of administrative functions and would give rise to scope for the redeployment of staff from local offices including Tullamore.
“In line with government policy, the department has actively sought redeployment opportunities for administrative staff in local offices,” the spokesperson said. “In this regard, the department is finalising arrangements to redeploy administrative staff from the Tullamore local office to the Department of Public Expenditure (Shared Payroll Services) in Tullamore with effect from March 1, 2014.”
The Department is to maintain its public office in Tullamore into the future. However Cllr Butterfield insisted this week the “skeleton staff of two” left to man the office from March 1 is not enough.
“The matter is of great concern to farmers, as there were never more rules, regulations, directives and bureaucracy attached to the multitude of schemes that farmers need assistance with while trying to make a living on the land,” he said.
“Farmers need an awful lot of assistance,” he added. “There’s a constant stream of people there all the time. I don’t know how they’re going to deal with it.”