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A number of new Civil Service Regional Hubs throughout the north have been announced today by Stormont Finance Minister, Conor Murphy.  Newry has been named as a location for one of the hubs and it's expected to open in 2023 while others are planned to open in the spring.

Named 'Connect2' the first hubs are expected to open in Ballykelly and Downpatrick in the spring although they will only become operational when appropriate in line with Health advice and Health Protection Regulations.

Kildare Street, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Kildare Street, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

There are plans for additional hubs in Ballymena, Craigavon, Omagh, and the Antrim/Newtownabbey area next year. Projects in Newry, Derry, Enniskillen and the Bangor/Newtownards area are planned for 2023.

Commenting on the economic and environmental benefits, Finance Minister Conor Murphy said:“These regional hubs will transform how civil servants work – enabling them to be based closer to home, reducing travel time and lowering carbon emissions while importantly promoting regional economic balance. 

“COVID-19 has seen an unprecedented shift in how the civil service works with many public services being delivered remotely. We now have an opportunity to build on these new ways of working. 

“These hubs are an exciting development in how the civil service estate operates and present a huge opportunity to make a positive impact on local economies, the environment as well as the health and wellbeing of our staff.” 

“We are working collaboratively with Councils to maximise the local regeneration impact and to establish the hubs as soon as possible. I ask all elected representatives to support us in this work.”

There will continue to be a significant civil service presence within Belfast city centre.

Welcoming the announcement of the ‘Connect2’ project Conor Dowds, Co-Chair of the Cross-Border Workers Coalition (CBWC) said “The creation of these regional hubs will give civil service staff more flexible working arrangements and illustrates a growing trend towards remote work accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. For those living outside Belfast, the opportunity of ‘blended’ working arrangements, where you can work from home one day and go to a co-working space on another, will be very attractive.”

“However, due to restrictive personal tax liability rules in the Republic of Ireland, cross-border workers who live in the Republic and work in NI will be left behind and unable to gain the significant benefits of ‘blended’ working arrangements. If a Donegal-based civil servant, for example, attends a regional hub in Derry four days a week, but works from home on a Friday, under current RoI legislation he/she could be taxed twice on their income.”

“For these regional hubs to fully accommodate the ‘new normal’ of post-pandemic working practices, these restrictive personal tax laws in the Republic must change. On Wednesday 16 February we sent a letter requesting to meet with Irish Finance Minister Donohoe to examine current remote working tax legislation in the Republic. We now ask Finance Minister Murphy to work with his southern counterpart to ensure that cross-border workers are not left behind in this welcome project.”

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