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Howlin asks for ideas on saving public money

THE Government is to ask the general public for its ideas on how to save €5bn on the State's spending over the next three years.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said he expected public sector workers -- as well as those familiar with the public sector -- to come up with most of the best ideas, but that creative suggestions would be welcome from anywhere.

Bright ideas would be published on the departmental website, with the names of those who had thought them up.

"People who are at the coalface are likely to be the best source for ideas," Mr Howlin said.

"We have already had a great number of useful suggestions. Some of them will be incorporated in the package of spending measures and some will play a major part."

Mr Howlin had his own money-saving idea yesterday, saying he had asked ministers to come to early decisions on major capital investments, so that money was not wasted planning projects which will not be built.

This may force a conclusion on the controversial Metro North project in Dublin. The Railway Procurement Agency is ready to move to the construction phase of the proposed metro and has been told that a final decision will be made after Mr Howlin's spending review is completed in September.


Mr Howlin will be anxious that spending on the metro plan and other large projects is curtailed until decisions are taken and that those decisions come sooner rather than later.

On spending curbs, he said everyone in Government knew what was required.

"The Taoiseach called a meeting of what was effectively every senior civil servant in the country -- perhaps the first time there has been such a meeting -- and told them these spending cuts had to happen," he said.

"Before that, it was underscored to the Cabinet that this is not a normal cost-cutting exercise but a completely fresh look at how money is spent. That has to be done because of the dire straits we are in.

"By asking for ideas, I know we are open to every crank and person with a grudge. But I believe there will be lots of good suggestions.

"Getting out of these dire straits mean implementing hard decisions," Mr Howlin said.

"I think the public is prepared for these hard decisions. But they will have to see that there is proper burden-sharing, with everyone carrying their fair share of the burden."

He added: "That requires a new culture of openness."

As part of that, his department is publishing minutes of the weekly meeting of the minister and his top officials.

Irish Independent