Tuesday 16 January 2018

Early-retirement civil servants get average lump sum of €87,000

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

CIVIL servants who took early retirement this year to avoid cuts in their pension got tax-free lump sums averaging €87,000 each.

And the average pension for the 1,424 civil servants who retired was €29,000.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin had to get approval for €73m extra in his budget to cover the increased pension bill.

But he defended the costs yesterday, saying that the retiring civil servants were getting pensions worth 50pc of their salaries, or less.

"It must be remembered that significant savings in the Government's pay bill will result, especially with the non-replacement of staff and the consequent reductions in numbers," he said.

About 8,000 public servants left last February before the end of a "grace period" which would have seen them hit with an extra 3pc pension cut.

Almost all of the retiring civil servants were aged over 50 -- with just 13 civil servants aged under 50 retiring on health grounds.

The committee heard there were currently 19,945 civil servants receiving pensions -- with 63pc of them getting €10,000 per year or less. Mr Howlin said that 288 people in the scheme died last year.

"Clearly these numbers show that pensions for the huge majority of civil service retirees are relatively modest," he said.

Although the early retirements have increased the pensions bill, Mr Howlin there would still be a €3.3bn saving left over from the €3.8bn reduction in the public sector pay bill over the 2009-2015 period.

He also revealed that a new centre in Dublin to centralise human resources services for all Government departments would cost €5.7m to set up -- but would save €12.1m each year.

Crude

But at the Oireachtas Finance committee, Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald accused Mr Howlin of engaging in "crude mechanism of headcount reduction" instead of real public sector reform.

And Independent TD Stephen Donnelly said that he was not convinced about the policy of bringing down public sector costs by reducing numbers instead of pay.

Mr Howlin said that both methods had been applied, with average cuts of 14pc to public sector salaries in recent years. He said that his ongoing review of 800 public sector allowances would result in some being retained, while others had "run their course". The number of people currently employed in the public service is 292,000.

Labour Clare TD Michael McNamara questioned the lack of information about the €1m estimate for the Secret Service this year. He said that while he knew who was in charge of the CIA and Britain's MI5, there were no such details about our intelligence operations.

"Can we at least know they are not a bunch of retired Department of Justice officials watching James Bond movies in the attic?"

Mr Howlin said the money was given to the gardai and the army -- and that Justice Minister Alan Shatter had responsibility for it.

Irish Independent

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