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Minister under pressure over council bosses' jobs guarantee

ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan is under intense pressure over plans to hand council bosses new jobs on the same pay when their contracts end.

The Irish Independent has learned that draft Government proposals mean outgoing county managers can opt for a year's pay worth up to €189,000 -- or else get a job in another position.

But internal documents reveal serious reservations about the plans from within Mr Hogan's own department.

Senior department officials have warned that the proposal to guarantee local authority bosses jobs could be seen as "poor value for money".

An internal letter from the department's personnel section said that under the plans, a manager who recently retired at the age of 53 would have had to be employed at a six-figure salary for another 12 years.

Correspondence also highlights a fear that new jobs for ex-bosses "would undermine the authority of any new manager" in the same council.

Mr Hogan is under pressure to make a decision quickly, because perks for secretaries general have already been axed by his Cabinet colleague, Brendan Howlin, in the wake of public outcry over top civil servant Dermot McCarthy's gold-plated €730,000 retirement package.

But he faces a headache as officials within his own department have now asked for the proposals to be delayed and "fully investigated".


A senior official in the Local Government Personnel section of his department raised serious concerns at the plans in a letter to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

"As you can see there are significant implications for this sector and we would need time to examine the issue in detail," said the dispatch from Barry Quinlan to the Pensions Section of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which drew up the plans.

"I would suggest that a stay be put on the implementation of these provisions until such time as the implications for the sector are fully investigated."

Observations included with the letter said it was "difficult to see how local authority managers could be easily appointed to alternative posts at the end of their tenure".

It said the local authority, which was responsible for appointing managers rather than the minister, could only give them a job in the same authority.

"In this regard, it would seem counterintuitive that a county manager could be appointed to an alternative post within the same council.

"This would undermine the authority of any new manager in the same authority and could be perceived as poor value for money," it said.

It said the plans could also have an impact in attracting the best quality candidates for future posts, as most would expect they could apply for a job in another council when their contract expired.

The letter, sent at the end of October, said this could act as a disincentive to young applicants as the possible period of "uncertain employment" after their time as a manager would be longer.

It also said the cost of the plans could be "very significant" as managers were guaranteed the same pay until retirement, while the plans would require legislative amendment.

In a response, the Department of Public Expenditure said implementation of the plans could be deferred "for a short period".

A spokesman for Mr Hogan declined to comment on his department's concerns.

"Work on the revised arrangements is under way and will be concluded as soon as possible," he said.

Irish Independent