Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has raised his concerns after it was revealed that the proposed new DAERA Headquarters at Ballykelly in County Londonderry may include civil servants from a range of other Departments.
Mr Swann said:
“I have major concerns about the proposed relocation of the Agriculture Department’s Headquarters to Ballykelly, especially as it appears previous Sinn Fein Ministers had let their own political ideology flaw their decision making process. Costs for the project are growing significantly, with the recent estimates now in excess of £41 million. Value for money for the project has still never been demonstrated, and officials from several Departments have expressed deep concern. Even the former Finance Minister Sammy Wilson refused to sign off on the project, most likely because only a very basic outline plan was ever produced.
“There is a very obvious solution that would have seen jobs still transfer to the North West, but potentially at a fraction of the price, and that was to utilise the already vacant DVLA buildings in Coleraine. That has inexplicably just never been considered as an option however.
“Over recent days now there have been suggestions that the new headquarters could include staff from other Departments, in effect becoming a new office block for the wider Northern Ireland Civil Service. Some would say this was an inevitable response seeing as so many DAERA staff have said they will refuse to move to the new site. I am concerned however that this new building could see displacement from other civil service buildings in the North West and could be counter-productive to previous Executive agreements to relocate public sector jobs to the old DVLA Offices in Coleraine.
“Both the DAERA and Finance Ministers now need to make their intentions clear in regard to their entire estate management for the North West and where exactly Ballykelly fits in?
“I hope that other Executive Departments are now prepared to pay for their proportion of the costs at Ballykelly, rather than leaving it to DAERA and in effect farmers and rural communities to pay the price for years to come.”