Monday 18 December 2017

Howlin urged to speed up more state agency mergers or closures

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin

Martin Frawley

PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin must cut the number of state agencies "as a matter of urgency", according to the latest progress report on savings achieved under the Croke Park deal.

The Programme for Government contained a commitment to rationalise and/or merge 48 agencies, and critically review a further 46, by the end of 2012.

While some agencies have been merged or abolished, such as the five employment rights bodies being slimmed down to two, the majority of the planned rationalisations are still awaiting approval.

The third and final report by the Implementation Body notes that some progress has been achieved on the rationalisation of state agencies.

But it says that "other key initiatives, which will ultimately result in efficiencies through increased shared services and numbers reduction, should be progressed as a matter of urgency".

The Implementation Body studied the Croke Park public service pay agreement between April and December 2012.

It notes that in the nine-month period under review €331m in total savings were achieved – €161m in pay, and €169m in non-pay savings.

Overall, it notes that pay and non-pay savings under the entire Croke Park deal to date have reached €1.8bn.

Mr Howlin said: "The Haddington Road Agreement will build on, and reaffirm, many of the underlying principles of the Croke Park Agreement, while giving us the scope to deliver further necessary savings of €1bn by 2016."

The report also said that sharing services could achieve significant savings in sectors such as health, education and local government.

On the pay savings of €161m, the report notes that the actual pay savings achieved were €63.3m.

But it says that in the last review, the body noted that some 8,000 staff retired before February 2012.

Since Croke Park was implemented in 2010, total numbers employed in the public service have dropped from 320,000 at their peak in 2008 to 290,500 today – a drop of 29,500.

This has helped cut the public sector paybill from €17.5bn in 2009 to €14.4bn in 2012 – a reduction of €3.1bn, or 17.7pc.

The report notes, however, that the pace of the reduction in number has "slowed significantly" with a cut of just 1,500 in the period under review.

* A senior trade union official has accused Fine Gael of being "embedded" with employers to ensure that new collective bargaining rights as promised in the Programme for Government are never implemented.

Speaking at the ICTU biennial conference in Belfast yesterday, vice-president Patricia King said we had a government of two parts.

"On one side, we have a party working hand in glove with business interests so we won't get the right to collective bargaining. But there are only five ministers in this Government who have any chance of delivering collective bargaining for the trade unions," said Ms King.

Irish Independent

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