Workers will be paid to move to rural towns in bold new plan to decentralise Ireland

Workers will be paid to move to rural towns in bold new plan to decentralise Ireland

The major new strategy being launched online today (March 29, 2021) will encourage workers to relocate from Ireland's cities to rural areas. See links at the foot of this article. File picture

Workers are to be offered sweeteners potentially worth thousands of euro to relocate from big cities to rural towns.

While a large majority of workers are already working from home because of Covid-19, the 'Our Rural Future' plan, to be unveiled by the Government later today, will also see a major “de-centralisation” of more than 68,000 public workers (20%) from main offices on a permanent basis by the end of the year.

The strategy, seen by the Irish Examiner, commits to examining the tax arrangements for remote workers ahead of October’s budget.

Spearheaded by social protection minister Heather Humphreys, the bold initiative will seek to “introduce specific incentives to attract remote workers and mobile talent to live in rural towns”.

Remote working

To avail of the scheme, workers will have to provide proof from their employer that they are able to work remotely, and that they are moving to a rural town, it is understood.

The details are being announced today at a press event at Croke Park attended by Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Heather Humphreys, the rural and community development minister, and social protection minister, is spearheading the bold initiative to encourage employees to move from the cities to Ireland's rural towns. 	Picture: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie
Heather Humphreys, the rural and community development minister, and social protection minister, is spearheading the bold initiative to encourage employees to move from the cities to Ireland's rural towns. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

According to sources, the Government is examining the approach adopted in regions in the United States where such sweeteners are given to workers who are willing to move out of large cities to live and work in rural areas.

One example cited by Government sources is the city of Savannah, Georgia, where the local Economic Development Authority gave workers $2,000 (€1,700) each when they successfully relocated.

As part of the Irish plan, it is envisaged that a network of over 400 remote working hubs will be established nationwide to enable more people to live and work in rural communities.

Included in the plan is a proposed pilot scheme to allow co-working and hot-desking hubs for public servants in existing State buildings in regional towns.

'People, not buildings'

Addressing concerns that this could end up being another botched process — as was the case with the one announced by then finance minister Charlie McCreevy — senior Government sources say this is a movement of people, not buildings.

The plan also commits to examining the establishment of a community ownership fund to help local groups and social enterprises buy or take over local community assets, such as post offices at risk of being lost.

The plan also commits to funding the repurposing of vacant buildings in town centres into remote working hubs. Sources have pointed to the 88 soon-to-be-vacated Bank of Ireland branches in the Republic as potential venues for such hubs.

Broadband rollout

A focus on broadband rollout will bring new opportunities in areas such as eHealth, remote learning, online trading, and new technologies — and the five-year strategy will be underpinned by the updated National Development Plan.

“There will also be funding provided to local authorities to run campaigns to attract remote workers to their county and the plan also commits to a review of the tax arrangements for remote working for both employers and employees as part of Budget 2022,” the plan states.

The Government will also examine the introduction of financial supports to incentivise residential occupancy in rural towns as part of the budget.

Living over the shop

The plan will also exempt over-the-shop type spaces from requiring planning permission for change of use for residential purposes, and will enhance the powers of local authorities to offer commercial rates-based incentives targeting vacant commercial units.

Councils in more rural counties will provide funding for the enhancement and upgrade of shopfronts and street facades.

The plan also commits to the introduction of ‘meanwhile use’ legislation, so that empty buildings and shops on main streets can be brought back into use on a short-term basis as pop-up shops, street markets and exhibition spaces.

The new five-year strategy, Our Rural Future, will be launched this afternoon, Monday, March 29, 2021, and the public is invited to follow the event live on Twitter at @merrionstreet or on the hashtag #OurRuralFuture.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.