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Thursday 17 October 2019

Garda chief bans nearly all overtime until 2020

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Garda overtime spending has been halted from midnight last night - except for urgent operations.

A directive has been issued by Commissioner Drew Harris to all chief superintendents to curtail their spending for the rest of the year.

It will affect every division across the country, including the six in Dublin.

But divisional officers have been told that resources will be made available in exceptional circumstances for ongoing operations.

The clampdown has been ordered as a result of a shortfall in the Garda budget, with some of the divisions having exhausted their annual overtime allocation earlier in the year because of operational demands.

The visits of US President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence also added to the pressures on budgets.

It is estimated that the cost of providing security and policing for the Trump visit will be between €10m and €12m, while the Pence visit will be a further €3m-€5m.

Traditionally, the Government has made available a supplementary budget at this time of the year to offset the overrun in overtime spending.

However, the Irish Independent revealed earlier this week that Commissioner Harris had been told that all expenditure in 2019 must be managed within the allocation provided within the Government estimates, published almost a year ago.

The commissioner has now moved swiftly to curb the spending and rural chiefs have been joined by their urban counterparts in the capital to express concerns at the likely impact on the service provided to communities because of the severity of the cuts.

According to Mr Harris, the overall financial position of the Garda at the end of July showed a total net expenditure of €946.8m, which was €4.8m more than expected.

And if savings in some areas were excluded, the gross year-to-date overspend amounted to €29m.

Massive

The expenditure on overtime up to the end of July was €62.5m, which was €10.25m more than the profiled budget.

Garda management is already deferring spending on some capital projects to try to reduce the shortfall and avoid a massive impact on operational and frontline budgets.

In a separate development, new figures show that the Defence Forces have a current turnover rate of personnel of over 10pc, which means it will never reach its targeted official strength of 9,500 unless the trend is reversed.

The strength of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps combined has now plummeted to little over 8,600, which is a record low for the military.

According to Raco, the representative association for officers, this has been a turbulent year with little tangible effort to address the "dysfunctional turnover cycle" in the Defence Forces.

There were 558 discharges in the first eight months of the year.

Irish Independent

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