‘Critical vacancies’ at Ilex were identified in report

First Minister Peter D Robinson and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness with other dignateries at the opening of the Peace Bridge back in 2011, one of the projects which Ilex helped deliver for Derry.
First Minister Peter D Robinson and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness with other dignateries at the opening of the Peace Bridge back in 2011, one of the projects which Ilex helped deliver for Derry.

A report into Ilex identified a number of “critical vacancies” in staffing at Ilex which was impacting on the company’s ability to deliver projects.

The warning is contained within a quarterly report on Ilex Urban Regeneration Company ordered by the Office Of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister for the period April 1 to June 30 2015.

These five vacancies are impacting on the company’s ability to fully take forward targets in Business Plan and complete necessary governance procedures, business cases in timely fashion.

Report

The report states that Ilex had asked for approval from its parent department OFMDFM to recruit for several theses posts.

Other documents state that the department officials required Ilex to make a case for filling each of the posts.

The quarterly report said that the “critical vacancies” included two project managers for Ilex, along with two staff officers and an administration support worker.

It concludes: “These five vacancies are impacting on the company’s ability to fully take forward targets in Business Plan and complete necessary governance procedures, business cases in timely fashion.

“Work is being realigned and deadlines extended, project interventions not being completed or not being completed on time and putting significant pressure on staff resources.”

It also states: “Due to budget uncertainty, discretionary expenditure is being reviewed with a view not to enter into new contracts. This will impact on business plans and ability to achieve full Capital spend.”

The report states that sick leave levels at Ilex were no cause for concern, but warned that there was a risk of higher incidence if the number of unfulfilled vacant posts- around 20-25% of the entire staff compliment- was not addressed.

The report authors said Ilex had hit most of its targets in relation to creating 75 additional jobs and employment opportunities; for occupation of buildings at Ebrington; and making 55% of the site ready for investment.

Briefing notes prior to a meeting in June 2015 between OFMDFM and Ilex officials also state that the Ilex Board and Executive team had raised concerns that there were five posts unfilled and said that this was putting the delivery of their business objectives at risk.

In proposing additional staff, Ilex indicated to the department that no additional funding would be needed as they had finances within their budget to cover costs, but the notes make it clear:

“It will be recommended that the budget for any posts which are not approved should be returned to the department and therefore Ilex resource budget should be reduced accordingly.”

The notes also state that Ilex’s staffing plan allows for 28 full time equivalent staff, but adds that there are currently 20 staff in post.

Ilex had requested permission to fill five vacancies - two for the regeneration of Ebrington and three for One Plan duties, along with two maternity covers.

The notes also say that the Strategic Investment Board works on Ilex matters four days a week and have also contracted additional SIB staff on a short term basis to develop business cases.

Meanwhile correspondence from OFMDFM dated 21st September 2015 ahead of a different meeting requested by Ilex Chairman Philip Flynn to discuss recent resignations at Ilex and to take place two days later, it states that two senior directors within Ilex had resigned and would be leaving within weeks.

The notes claim that arrangements were “well advanced” to ensure the departures do not impact on delivery, and that development at Ebrington will be facilitated through the provision of support to Ilex by the Strategic Investment Board.

The notes also state that Ilex Chief Executive Mel Higgins gave notice of his own resignation in September and was planning to leave in November.

In the OFMDFM briefing notes for the meeting under the title ‘Lines to take’ is the statement: “This is clearly a challenging time for Ilex and its staff so we are keen to discuss with you any measures that need to be taken to support Ilex and the remaining staff to ensure the continued development of Ebrington.”

The notes also refer to the importance of a smooth transition of Ilex from its city centre offices at Exchange House to Building 83 at Ebrington “given the upheaval likely to be caused by the departure of the Executive team”.

The same notes state that a figure within the Strategic Investment Board, whose identity is not disclosed, was asked to assess what projects would be deliverable this year.