independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

New blow to gardai as €10m cut from Garda overtime budget

GARDAI have been dealt a series of fresh blows in their ability to fight crime at a time when attacks on the elderly and dissident activity are in the public eye.

It has now emerged that the force's overtime budget is to be cut by €10m.

This is the fund management uses to operate special and major investigations.

This massive cut of the revelation that the force has not been given enough money to pay for its intended strength of 13,000 by the end of the year.

And a further series of cuts are on the way after it emerged that another saving of €18.2m must be secured from the garda pay bill by the end of this year.

It will form part of an overall saving of €60m to be docked from the pockets of gardai over the next three years.

The garda pay bill in 2012 was almost €956m, of which basic pay came to €709.5m, shift payments accounted for €113m, non-shift payments totalled €75m, overtime €42.4m, and premium payments €9m.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter refused to comment on the series of financial blows to the garda force

The Irish Independent asked the minister to outline exactly where in the garda budget the fresh savings could be achieved, during a press conference at the end of the two-day EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers meeting at Dublin Castle.

But Mr Shatter replied that he was not going to deal with that question.

His department later said measures to break down the proposed savings would be discussed at pay talks next week and pointed out that the management had not yet put any specific proposals on the table.

The cut to overtime, and anticipated further payroll cuts, are the latest in a line of savings that have thrown the force into financial confusion.

They come at a time when the force is confronted with major challenges by crime gangs and dissident terrorists.

Garda management are already struggling with an apparent shortfall in the allocation to pay staff in 2013.

And the latest blows come as they are confronted with a fresh spate of burglaries.

According to Department of Justice estimates, €44m has been set aside for overtime this year – a drop of €10m on the funding allocated last year.

Mr Shatter had claimed that the overtime budget had actually increased this year by comparing the allocation with the amount ultimately spent on overtime by gardai in 2012, which came to €42.4m. But the Irish Independent has learned a large portion of the remainder of last year's overtime allocation had to be diverted to other areas to cover contingencies.

Mr Shatter promised last month that the closure of 100 garda stations would not impact negatively on the policing service provided by the gardai.

Cuts

Since then, they have been hit with a number of sneaky cuts that were not flagged.

After examining their overall budget in the 2013 estimates, they discovered that there was not enough money to pay the 13,000-strong force that is expected to be in place by the end of the year.

A target of 13,000 was laid down in the national recovery plan – down from 13,400 – but the Irish Independent revealed earlier this month that the financial allocation would only cover the wages of an even smaller force.

It has now emerged that a shortfall also exists in the money set aside for retirements.

The plan to cut garda numbers and funding is starkly at odds with Mr Shatter's policies while in opposition, where he regularly called for increased garda numbers and resources.

Pledges on maintaining and increasing garda numbers were contained in his election literature and Mr Shatter challenged then Justice Minister Dermot Ahern on proposed cuts during a Justice Committee debate in December 2010.

A spokeswoman for Mr Shatter said he had "consistently advocated the provision of sufficient resources for the Garda Siochana but, as everyone knows, the Government has had to reduce expenditure in the public service."

Irish Independent

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