Irish News

Thursday 24 July 2014

Asset sales could fund redundancy pay-offs in state sector

Colm Kelpie

Published 16/01/2014|02:30

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SOME of the cash from the sale of state assets could be used to fund public sector redundancy packages, Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has claimed.

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The minister also said last night the €1bn savings that were supposed to come from the Haddington Road agreement with unions won't actually hit state coffers because a share of the "savings" will be used to hire new frontline staff, including gardai, and ease "critical pressures".

Using state assets to fund redundancies would mark a policy shift from the Government's stated aim of using the €3bn raised from the sale to create jobs and pay down debt. However, the idea has not yet been brought to Cabinet, the minister said.

Mr Howlin told the Oireachtas sub-committee on Finance that if there were people within the public service in departments like Health who have no role, it would be better for them to go.

"Money is scarce, but if I thought that we could make significant long-term savings that would improve the demand on the public purse by targeting some money that would come from the sale of state assets to a particular voluntary redundancy scheme, I'd consider that," he said.

Bord Gais's energy division, which was sold last month for €1.12bn to a consortium involving UK energy giant Centrica, and parts of the ESB are among the so-called crown jewel state assets listed to be sold.

Half of the money was to be ploughed back into the economy through investment in job creation programmes, while the other half would be used to pay down debt.

But Mr Howlin's comments at the sub-committee on Finance last night mark a departure from this.

"If we have people on the public payroll drawing down a permanent salary that have no job to do, it is better that they move on," he said. "And if we need to find resources to allow them to move on, I think that would be a good thing."

SUCCESSOR

Mr Howlin also said a portion of the €1bn savings from the Haddington Road agreement, the successor to the Croke Park deal, would be used to bring in more frontline staff to ease "critical pressures".

"We want to redeploy some of that (saving) to supplement frontline staff in the areas, for example, guards, teachers and special needs assistants," he said. "And there may be others when we have a look at it, where there are real, now critical pressures occurring."

The number of staff employed in the public service has been reduced by almost 10pc since 2008, equivalent to about 30,000 people.

The pay bill has been cut from €17.5bn in 2009 to €14.1bn last year.

Irish Independent

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