Finance Minister announces new regional civil service hubs across Northern Ireland
In a written statement, Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced the establishment of a number of new civil service regional hubs – known as “Connect2 Hubs”, with the Ballymena hub expected to open next year.
For many, if you wanted a job in the Civil Service you had to commute to Belfast. There wasn’t the same opportunities in other locations.
An implementation plan is being rolled out with different locations are at different stages of development.
Connect2 Hubs will launch in Ballykelly and Downpatrick (2021); Craigavon, Omagh and the Antrim/Newtownabbey area (2022), and Londonderry, Enniskillen, Newry and the Bangor/Newtownards area (2023).
Finance Minister Conor Murphy said:
“Providing staff with the flexibility to work remotely is an important part of this Programme. Historically, places of work within the civil service have been concentrated in Belfast. Where people work influences where they spend their money, so assisting people to work throughout the region will promote regional economic balance. Long commutes to work mean added expense, and more time spent travelling rather than in work or at home. In addition, more travel means more traffic congestion and more carbon emissions.
“Enabling people to work closer to home therefore promotes regional economic balance, reduces carbon emissions, and promotes the work-life balance and health and wellbeing of our staff. I am therefore establishing hubs across the region that will allow civil servants to work closer to where they live subject of course to business requirements.”
The Finance Minister also thanked civil service staff who have seen much disruption to their normal working patterns over the last year. He said:
“COVID-19 has seen an unprecedented shift to remote working in the civil service, enabling colleagues to work from home with many public services now being delivered remotely, and I want to give my thanks and pay tribute to all those civil servants who have stepped up in the most amazing way to deliver essential public services across a range of Departments in some of the most challenging circumstances. However, the response to Covid has confirmed that remote working is feasible and productive.
“We now have an opportunity to build on these new ways of working that have the potential in the longer term to deliver savings and improve productivity, while supporting the realisation of many cross-departmental and Programme for Government outcomes.
“While the current level of remote working is not optimum in the long-term, looking to the future it is evident that some business units will have a significant number of staff working outside of the office on a blended model approach. There is an appetite among staff and departments for a blended approach to remote working.”
It is envisaged that the Connect2 hubs will provide strategically located work and collaboration spaces for civil service staff. They will support the new ways of working, allowing staff to work remotely whilst connecting to people, technology and the office.
Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has welcomed the announcement from the Minister for Finance that Ballymena is to become a Connect 2 Hub for civil service staff.
"There are many constituents of mine here in North Antrim employed by the civil service currently working in Belfast. I welcome the announcement today from the Minister that he intends creating 10 hubs at various location across the North which should allow staff to work closer to home.
"This will obviously benefit the staff themselves, their families as well as reducing traffic in and out of Belfast. Whilst the move to Ballymena isn't going to happen this year I am pleased that it has been picked as a location to be part of this project and I will push to ensure this becomes a reality as early in 2022 as possible. I will also be pushing that the Ballymena hub allows as many staff as possible to work from this location.
"This is positive news for Ballymena and North Antrim. Not only will it allow local staff to work in their local area, when implemented, this will contribute to boosting the local economy over the medium and longer term."
Substantial investment is already underway in Derry that will rationalise and modernise our local estate to accommodate the Civil Service within Orchard House.To assist in longer-term regeneration objectives the Programme SRO is in dialogue with the Derry City and Strabane District Council Chief Executive to exploresignificant plans to include potential facilities to promote local economic recovery and urban regeneration over the next five years.
Given the detrimental impact of Covid-19 on local economies it is imperative that the NICS office estate works to reduce revenue pressure within public spending while maximising the local economic and regeneration benefits in the towns and cities across the region.
The establishment of regional hubs is about taking a balanced approach to investment by working with local councils in order to help address regional imbalance, promote economic recovery and reform across departments.
The opening of these new Connect2 Hubs not only promotes exciting new ways of working for the civil service but presents huge opportunities to make a positive impact on the environment and local economiesas well as the health and wellbeing of our staff.
I will keep the Assembly updated as plans for Hubs progress.