Irish News

Saturday 26 July 2014

Allowances over €1,500 won't face axe: Howlin

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 12/10/2012|05:00

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PUBLIC sector allowances worth more than €1,500 a year will be protected from Government cuts, while anything under that can be taken from workers.

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Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin admitted anything over €1,500 could not be cut since it is considered a big part of someone's annual pay.

Mr Howlin was speaking at the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after his major U-turn on allowances.

Eighty-eight allowances will get cut after he initially said only one was facing the axe.

Mr Howlin did not provide details of the 88 allowances at the centre of his U-turn, but a list later provided by his department showed those "to be prioritised for early elimination".

And the Irish Independent can reveal several of the amounts involved (see below).

They include underwear and night attire for female personnel in the Defence Forces of €27.40 per year and an exceptional case of a Prison Service tuck-shop allowance of €2,659.

Others include a bicycle allowance for gardai and a bus allowance for members of the Road Safety Authority.

However, Mr Howlin would not detail either the individual or total savings from the cuts.

But he described a €4,000 rent allowance for gardai as a "big chunk" that would not be touched, claiming widespread allowance cuts would cause chaos across the public sector.

Damaged

Every worker who gets an allowance taken off them would be entitled to go to the Labour Court, he added.

Mr Howlin admitted that the saga surrounding allowances has damaged his own standing.

"I took a political hit to be honest, about that," he said.

His spokeswoman later said the list of allowances is not final and could be added to, but would not say if the existing cuts would be taken off the table. Mr Howlin again said the allowances were complicated, and misunderstood by some commentators.

The issue was also discussed at a meeting between Mr Howlin, Enda Kenny and the Croke Park Implementation Body last night. Afterwards a government spokesman said they would be removed through negotiations with the unions.

"This process must be brought to a swift conclusion," the spokesman added.

Also at the PAC, Robert Watt, the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, also said a lot of private sector workers were not willing to take up senior positions in the civil service because of the public and media focus.

"The level of public scrutiny is something that a lot of people are not willing to take on," Mr Watt added.

Irish Independent

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