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Thursday 22 March 2018

Howlin still hasn't rebuked colleagues over cuts

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

STRUGGLING Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has failed to reprimand colleagues for not coming up with enough potential Budget cuts.

Mr Howlin claims some ministers and their departments are not measuring up in making proposals for cutbacks next year.

But he has failed to say who he is talking about or how individuals are falling short. Nor has he contacted colleagues to tell them they are falling short.

A cabinet minister told the Irish Independent the belief in government circles was that Mr Howlin was speaking generally about every department.

"If he was talking about my department, it was never suggested to me or the civil servants. I think the comments were directed at everybody. I suppose he had every department in mind," the minister said.

The Government is due to bring in a €2.1bn reduction in spending next year, as part of an overall €3.6bn package of tax hikes and spending cuts.

Difficult decisions will have to be taken in health, social welfare and education.


Each of the departments say they are well aware of the need to find cuts and are working with Mr Howlin's department.

The bemusement among other departments about the identity of those not co-operating with Mr Howlin's review of government spending leaves the Labour Party minister isolated.

When contacted by the Irish Independent, none of Mr Howlin's colleagues admitted to failing to make headway or to getting any special attention from his department.

Mr Howlin's admission that some departments are not measuring up is a clear sign he has failed to get the message across to colleagues about the need for innovative thinking in coming up with proposals.

Mr Howlin has told ministers to come up with potential spending cuts of 15-20pc, adding up to €10bn.

Departments forwarded preliminary savings options to Mr Howlin's department at the end of July.

Since then, meetings and contacts have been ongoing, covering the various options.

The process is only halfway complete, officials say.

The final list of proposals will go to the mini-economic cabinet, the Economic Management Council, comprising Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Mr Howlin. From there, the proposals will go to the Cabinet.

Irish Independent

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