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Minister meets NIPSA

21 November, 2007

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, has welcomed representatives of NIPSA to Stormont.

Speaking after the meeting, she said:

"This meeting provided NIPSA the opportunity to set out the concerns of their members about reform in my Department. I was able to reassure them that our reform programme will deliver more modern and accessible services to our customers, will lead to higher levels of job satisfaction for our staff, and will be accomplished by transferring staff out of posts that are no longer required to other vacancies."

The Minister thanked NIPSA members for the work they were doing in the Department, particularly in connection with keeping Foot and Mouth, Bluetongue and
Avian Flu at bay.

The Minister went on to emphasise her commitment to reform:

"We in the Executive are committed to reforming public service. DARD's customers want and deserve modern, accessible services. So I have committed us to providing a network of one stop shops to improve access to our services by 2011. Our customers will be able to access all of our services at a single location or by phone or on the web, and when they come into our offices they will be greeted in a professional environment by professional staff with all the facts at their fingertips."

The Minister said that she saw this as good news for staff:

"Our staff will gain more confidence and improved job satisfaction from being given the right skills to deal with customers and the right ICT and other support to allow them to address queries professionally. They will also gain by working in a well designed environment, based around meeting customers' needs."

In common with other departments, DARD is likely to reduce in size over the next three years.

The Minister emphasised however:

"Over the next three years some jobs will no longer be necessary. That may happen because I have committed us to reduce the burden of red tape on farmers and agri food businesses by 25% by 2013. It may also happen because we are investing heavily in improving our human resource, finance and ICT systems. As these jobs become unnecessary, staff will transfer to other work.

"I intend to accomplish reform in a way that respects the rights of staff and does not create stress and minimise the need for them to transfer away from their local areas. I am fully committed to championing the rights of rural dwellers, including those of our staff. It is not my intention to shift jobs from rural areas to Greater Belfast. I intend to work closely with the unions in the time ahead to ensure that proper consultation is conducted with them and all staff as we review our services." ENDS

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