Jobs promised in public sector as €400m payroll savings targeted
THE Government has promised new jobs in the public sector for the first time in two years.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said a "limited" number of positions would be filled, but did not say how many.
The Budget announcement may simply be a public acknowledgement of hiring that has been going on behind the scenes since a blanket recruitment ban began two years ago.
Mr Howlin has already signed off on the creation of more than 250 jobs that are exceptions to the ban since the Government took office.
However, he promised the Government would still save €400m in payroll costs next year.
He promised to "overhaul" sick leave, while public servants will face a €40m cut in the amount of overtime available as part of the spending cutbacks.
Allowances will be reviewed and departments will have to make strong business cases to justify paying allowances to new recruits in future, to achieve targeted savings of €75m.
But the measures will not alter the rates paid to serving public servants, as the Government has committed to stand by the Croke Park agreement.
"I am pleased to announce that there will be some limited recruitment in to the public service in early 2012," said Mr Howlin.
"Critically, I want to move towards more targeted recruitment across a range of disciplines to enhance the skills and expertise available to policy makers in the coming years."
Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport Alan Kelly said the recruitment drive would fill shortages among frontline staff.
However, estimates given in the Comprehensive Spending Review reveal staffing numbers will vary considerably next year.
Some sections of the public service will see a sharp drop in numbers while staff numbers will rise in others.
Numbers will increase by more than 13pc in the Department of Finance and 9pc in the Department of the Taoiseach.
But they will drop by 3pc in the HSE, almost 3pc in the Department of Social Protection, and more than 1pc in the gardai.
The largest public sector union, IMPACT, gave the recruitment announcement a "cautious welcome".
It said it was crucial that any recruitment concentrated on "core areas" like healthcare, child protection and social care.
Mr Howlin revealed that the public service payroll bill will fall by €400m next year, an increase on the €309m target for this year.
He said the cost of paying public servants will have fallen by 20pc, or €3.5bn, over the seven years to 2015.
However, the payroll is still a third of expenditure.
The minister repeated the Government's commitment to reduce staff numbers to 282,500 by 2015 by not filling vacant posts.
Of this target, a reduction of 6,000 is expected next year.
Mr Howlin said the Government will "overhaul" sick pay following talks with unions, and "review" allowances and premium payments by consultation with departments.
He said public bodies will have to make savings of 10pc in overtime and 5pc in allowances and premium payments next year.
This is likely to mean fewer hours will be offered to staff -- possibly through roster changes.
There is a wide variety of allowances paid in the public sector. For instance, almost €1bn has been paid in allowances to gardai since 2007, which the McCarthy report said was not in the public interest.
Mr Howlin said the Croke Park deal "simply has to deliver".
"We have made a good start but we have a way to travel yet," he said.