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Civil Service lifts embargo on recruitment and promotion in Northern Ireland

By Lesley Houston

Published 07/04/2016

Dr Malcolm McKibbin
Dr Malcolm McKibbin

A freeze on recruitment and promotion in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) has been lifted more than a year after it was imposed.

It came as a union representing civil servants said the loss of nearly 3,000 personnel with "thousands of years of expertise" under public service reform had placed the organisation under considerable pressure.

Alison Millar, general secretary of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa), is now seeking a meeting with the head of the NICS, Dr Malcolm McKibbin, to discuss what the move means for its members.

Dr McKibbin, who announced the end of the freeze on Monday, explained it had been lifted because of "the impact of the voluntary exit scheme (VES) and departmental restructuring".

He said it was "vital that we are in a position to fill future vacancies as they arise".

Dr McKibbin reminded staff the recruitment and promotion ban had been intended to help departments live within their budgets during restructuring plans in line with public service reform announced at the time of Stormont House Agreement.

The VES scheme has resulted in the shedding of just under 3,000 jobs.

But civil servants hoping for a quick promotion after waiting patiently since November 2014 might not see their dreams come true quite as quickly as they might have hoped.

In his communique to staff, Dr McKibbin said: "I would, however, stress that this decision, whilst very welcome, is unlikely to result in significant numbers of staff being posted quickly from existing lists. Nor is there likely to be an immediate high volume of new recruitment/promotion competitions."

Ms Millar commended the news as a "welcome development", but said that much remained to be clarified.

"Nipsa is acutely aware of the impact VES has had on members, and with almost 3,000 posts out of the system this is having a significant impact on the delivery of service," the general secretary added.

"Members are reminded that this is a health, safety and wellbeing issue and members should not take on additional work because of the impact of VES."

Further elaborating on the union's concerns, Ms Millar said: "There was just short of 3,000 staff who left under the VES since last September, with the rest leaving by June.

"Our argument is that it's unrealistic if there are more than 10% of staff who have exited the service, taking with them thousands of years of experience and expertise."


Approximate number of civil servants to have left under the VES scheme

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