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Only 2 of 11 planned civil service hubs up and running


Finance Minister Conor Murphy

Finance Minister Conor Murphy

Finance Minister Conor Murphy

Only two of 11 planned new ‘hubs’ for civil servants to blend office time with working from home have been opened.

The remaining nine envisaged will only begin to become operational over the next two years.

And a location for the hub for the Antrim and Newtownabbey area has yet to be found.

The so-called Connect2 regional hubs are the result of the Covid-19 pandemic and a growing insistence that civil servants should not return to offices full-time, in the longer term.

Most civil servants are based in Greater Belfast but the idea behind the hubs is to allow staff to work closer to where they live subject to business requirements, boosting their work/life balance and boosting the local economy.

A survey showed almost 98 per cent support for some form of blended or ‘hybrid’ working for the future.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said: “Working from home as a result of Covid-19 has provided many civil servants with an opportunity to achieve a more balanced work/life arrangement.”

A report by his department said it was significant that “so many respondents reported strong positive experiences as a result of having the ability to work flexibly.

“It is important that the NI Civil Service recognises the positive impacts this has had on health and well-being.”

The first two hubs opened earlier last year in Ballykelly and Downpatrick and this year should see others in Ballymena, Craigavon, Omagh and Antrim/ Newtownabbey.

Mr Murphy also admitted in an Assembly answer: “A location has not been finalised for the hub planned in the Antrim/ Newtownabbey area.”

But it will be next year — 2023 — before the hubs in Derry, Enniskillen, Newry and the Bangor/Newtownards area are coming on line.

“They will transform how civil servants work, enable them to be based closer to home, reducing travel time and lowering carbon emissions while importantly promoting regional economic balance,” Mr Murphy said.

“A decision on when to open the completed hubs will be taken with due regard to current public health advice.”

The new hybrid working policy has been agreed with the central trade unions.