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Thursday 21 August 2014

Public servants' allowances still in place despite pledge

Anne-Marie Walsh, Industry Correspondent

Published 05/05/2014 | 02:30

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Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has only saved €3.5m of the
€75m he aimed to save annually through the review of over 1,100 allowances
Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has only saved €3.5m of the €75m he aimed to save annually through the review of over 1,100 allowances

NO progress has been made on scrapping 88 outdated allowances for public servants, as promised in the Haddington Road deal almost a year ago.

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The allowances shortlisted for elimination include an underwear and night attire allowance, a shredding allowance, footwear allowances, a border duty payment for army personnel and an Aran Islands allowance for gardai.

But the main public service union IMPACT said no proposals have yet been tabled on abolishing the payments for staff.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform wrote to public sector managers almost two years ago asking them to hold talks with unions "immediately" on eliminating or reviewing the payments.

It said allowances paid to existing staff – which amount to thousands of euro in some cases – should be abolished "where no business case exists to pay those allowances to new beneficiaries".

This followed a review of the allowances by Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin, which led to the abolition of just one payment for existing staff.

PENSIONS

This only saved €3.5m of the €75m he aimed to save annually through the review of over 1,100 allowances. But over 100 payments were axed for new recruits and employees who were promoted, including teachers' qualification allowances and a garda rent allowance.

Under the Haddington Road deal, unions agreed to co-operate with a follow-up to the review. They also agreed to talks on compensation for public servants who lost allowances that counted towards their pensions.

A department spokesperson said the outcome of the review of allowances "will be advanced" in each sector during the lifetime of the Haddington Road agreement, which ends in 2016.

The Irish Independent asked the department to detail progress on a range of reforms promised under the Croke Park deal and its successor, the Haddington Road agreement.

Areas where significant progress has been made include a 10pc reduction, or fall of 30,000, in the number of public servants since 2008.

The pay bill last year was just over €15bn, a saving of €3.4bn on the 2009 peak, while pension costs fell by €307m.

A new pension scheme has been introduced for recruits.

The department said 12,388 staff were redeployed to the end of last year, but was unable to say how many had physically relocated – rather than those who came under the remit of a different public sector employer.

It said it anticipated a fall in the cost of sick leave, which amounted to €430m in 2012, due to a new scheme that limits the amount of paid leave staff can take.

A new system to measure the performance of public servants is being rolled out and procurement savings of €500m are targeted over the next three years.

Irish Independent

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