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Thursday 21 September 2017

Ombudsman warns cost-cutting no excuse for poor services

Brian Hutton, Press Association

Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has warned public servants that cost-cutting is no excuse for poor services.

Launching her last annual report before taking up a new role in Europe, Ms O'Reilly also said austerity cannot be blamed for inequality and denial of rights.

Ms O'Reilly said public services were simply abolished on two occasions during the year after she had highlighted problems with them.

The surprise scrapping of the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant underlined "moral dilemmas" facing watchdogs during times of austerity, she said.

"If they highlight illegality and inequitable treatment of citizens, they risk public services taking the easy option and abolishing the entire scheme, grant, etc for everyone," said Ms O'Reilly.

"Twice in the last year I have faced this dilemma, and on both occasions my worst fears were proven correct."

The ombudsman dealt with 3,412 complaints last year, the largest number relating to the Department of Social Protection.

Just under a third were against local authorities and a fifth were about the Health Services Executive (HSE).

Irish Independent

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