Thursday 19 January 2017

What he said -- and what it really means

Published 07/12/2011 | 06:00

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin outlined €2.2bn in spending cuts yesterday in his first such address to the Dail -- but many of the toughest cuts were either disguised or left out of his speech completely, writes Michael Brennan.

  • Go To

Public sector reforms

* What he said:

"By any standards, this reduction of 37,500 or 12pc of staff, against 2008 levels, by 2015, is significant and poses an enormous challenge. Proactive workforce planning is also essential to respond to these reduced numbers and to ensure that the right people with the right skills-set are in the right place."

* What it means:

It's going to be a wing-and-a-prayer exercise that frontline services are not hit too hard. Mr Howlin is pinning his hopes on redeploying the workers that are left to the "right place" -- and is offering some "limited recruitment" to cover the worst gaps.

Croke Park Agreement

* What he said:

"The Croke Park Agreement simply has to deliver. We have made a good start but we have a way to travel yet. I expect all public service bodies to address inefficiencies."

* What it means:

The Government is still holding out the Croke Park Agreement 'carrot' of no pay cuts in return for reforms. But the 'stick' is coming in the form of 10pc cuts in overtime and 5pc cuts in allowances and premium payments. And there will be a long overdue move to tighten up on sick leave.

Registration fees

* What he said:

"We have had to increase student contributions in order to protect the higher education sector from what would otherwise have been greater cuts in that area."

* What it means:

Labour has broken its general election promise not to raise third-level registration charges. They will go up by €250 to €2,250.

Child Benefit

* What he said:

"I can confirm today that the Government has decided . . . to protect the universal child payment at a standard rate."

* What it means:

Labour has broken its promise to protect social child benefit from cuts. The 'standard rate' of €140 for the first and second child remains untouched. But the €167 rate for the third child will be cut by €27, and the €177 rate for the fourth child will be cut by €37 over the next two years.

Supporting families

* What he said:

"We have maintained family income supplement, carers' entitlements and disability allowances, our support for special needs assistants in our schools and the pupil-teacher ratio in the primary sector."

* What it means:

Some of this is simply not true. Disability allowance is only being "maintained" if you are over 25 -- it's being cut from €188 by up to €88 per week for those aged 18-24. Yes, the pupil-teacher ratio is being maintained for primary schools but some small schools will lose teachers because of "phased adjustments".

Opposition criticism

What he said:

"This Government is a national Government containing the two largest parties in the State. No government, whatever its numbers, wants to be the bearer of bad news. But, our options are extremely limited. The public knows this. It is wary of those who offer simplistic options."

* What it means:

Mr Howlin tried to claim the maximum amount of legitimacy by pointing to the mandate the "national" Fine Gael-Labour coalition had. And he delivered the time-honoured warning to the public not to believe the opposition's promises -- which attracted the equally predicted jeers from the opposition.

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in Business