Laois-Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has called for investment in job creation in Laois and Offaly to off-set the jobs lost as a result of the planned closure of two local decentralised offices.

Commenting on a report recommending the closure of the FÁS office in Birr and the Equality Tribunal Office in Portlaoise, Deputy Cowen said this is a significant loss for Laois-Offaly in terms of job creation and a boost to the economy of the constituency.

 “This new plan makes no sense whatsoever,” said Deputy Cowen. “It will involve breaking the leases on buildings in Birr and Portlaoise, abandoning the sites that have been purchased, disrupting staff further and spending more taxpayers’ money on relocation costs.

“In the case of the FÁS office in Birr, 14 staff are currently in a rented office, with a total of 90 staff who were due to relocate. A site for the completed office has already been purchased at a cost of €1.5 million. All of this will now go to waste.

“The Office of Public Works has admitted that the offices in Birr and Portlaoise may be left vacant for an indefinite period of time while the taxpayer continues to pay for them. Not only is this a waste of public money when we can’t afford it, it is also a waste of prime locations in both towns that could be put to better use. 

“As far as I’m concerned, this is just another example of a series of measures by this Government to cut local services in the Midlands. They are targeting small schools, community garda services and post offices; they are shutting down the VEC in Tullamore at considerable expense, and now they are closing Government offices in Birr and Portlaoise. 

“In light of this development, it is incumbent on the Government to consider other options to invest in job creation in these towns. Fianna Fáil in Government always sought to bolster towns like Birr, and focused efforts on encouraging economic growth in this area. Birr and Portlaoise are big losers in this revised decentralised plan and it is up to the local Fine Gael and Labour Oireachtas members to ensure that this constituency isn’t forgotten altogether.”