Remote Working Hubs Receive More Talk Than Funding By The GovernmentAontú Leader & Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín has criticised the government for being all talk on delivering remote working hubs, following responses to his Parliamentary Questions.
An Teachta Tóibín:
“For the people of Meath and other rural constituencies, the increase in remote working in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was meant to be the welcome solution to the Commuter Hell they have been caught in these past years. Instead, we have gone from a Commuter Crisis to a Broadband Crisis. In a response to a question I tabled to the Minister he said: ‘There is currently no existing dataset which identifies all remote working hubs in Ireland, the number of people working in them, or the funding that they have received.’ This is startling. If a Minister does not know the scale of a issue how in the name of God can the Minister address the issue. There has been oceans of talk about Remote Working Hubs yet the scale of the issue has not even been analysed by the government”.
“The Minister has stated that the government has invested €50 million in government funding on Remote Working Hubs since 2016. That’s only 10 million a year. This is a paltry figure for what could be an enormous opportunity for people living in regional and rural areas. He then promises that €5million will be invested this year. In my own county of Meath the majority of the population leave the county every day to go to work. Over 35,000 people pour onto the roads every morning to spend 3 hours on a round trip commutes. In Westmeath I know of families where parents travel to Dublin on a Monday morning and return on a Friday because the commute is impossible as there is no proper public transport. In the same towns you can play football on the mains streets at midday on Friday such is the lack of economic activity. All this before Covid hit these shores. People are commuting to Dublin from Ulster, Munster and Connacht as half the country has become the commuter belt of Dublin”.
“Covid has shown what can be done. It shows we can get parents working locally beside their homes and families. It shows that we can breath new economic life into towns and villages in provincial Ireland. These Remote Working Hubs can become a locations of enterprise growth in their own right. They can become the sites of cross pollination of ideas. They offer enormous possibilities. Heartbreakingly they are receiving more talk than investment from the government”.
For Written Answer on : 27/01/2021
Question Number: 931 Question Reference: 4455/21
Department: Rural and Community Development
Asked by: Peadar Tóibín T.D.
To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of remote working hubs in Ireland; the number that receive State funding; the number of persons that have been working in these hubs in each of the past five years; and the level of investment that has been made into these hubs by the State in each of the past five years.
The increased shift to remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity for a greater regional distribution of jobs and to support a better quality of life for many people who previously spent many hours in long commutes.
In particular, remote working has the potential to transform rural Ireland, allowing people to build careers in good quality jobs while continuing to live closer to home, or for those that moved away to return to rural Ireland to raise their families.
There is currently no existing dataset which identifies all remote working hubs in Ireland, the number of people working in them, or the funding that they have received. The National Remote Work Strategy, which was published recently by the Government, acknowledges the lack of data currently available on remote working and commits to developing data on the incidence and frequency of remote work in Ireland.
Separately, a Working Group chaired by the Secretary General of my Department was established last October to oversee the development of a National Hub Network. The first phase of this Group’s work is to identify, map, survey and classify the various remote working facilities throughout the country. This exercise will also help to identify those hubs that have received State funding.
This work, which is currently under way, will lead to the establishment of an integrated network of remote working facilities with shared back-office services, and will provide a significant knowledge asset that can inform future investment in remote working facilities. I expect to be in a position to outline the results of this work over the course of the year.
A number of Government Departments and agencies have provided investment for the development of remote working facilities over the last number of year. My own Department has invested over €50 million in these facilities since 2016 through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.
A further €5 million has been allocated to the Town and Village Renewal Scheme this year to support the development of remote working infrastructure throughout the country. I hope to be in a position to announce details of this funding stream shortly.