FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan yesterday cut the Oireachtas postal bill in an attempt to save taxpayers' money.
The minister is reducing the number of pre-paid envelopes TDs and senators get every month, which will save the State more than €400,000 a year.
Despite not telling TDs and senators of his plans, Mr Noonan immediately implemented the cut. TDs were entitled to 1,500 pre-paid envelopes a month -- or 18,000 a year -- and senators 1,000 per month, which are supposed to be used to reply to constituents' queries.
The allocation has been cut to 1,250 per month for TDs and 750 for senators.
on Tuesday Mr Noonan told Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty, in response to a parliamentary question, that the envelope allocations were at the original level of 1,500. But all changed the following day when Mr Noonan signed new regulations cutting the number of freebies.
The savings are significant. Each of the 678,000 envelopes cut from the annual allocation yesterday would have cost 54c each to stamp, as An Post gives a discount for bulk mail.
This will lead to a saving of €366,120 a year on postage costs. Each of the envelopes costs 5c, which adds another €33,900 to the overall saving.
This means Mr Noonan has knocked €400,020 off the Oireachtas running costs.
The free envelopes have long been a feature of life in Leinster House, and were only to be used by politicians to keep constituents informed of the important goings-on in the corridors of power.
But last year ethics watchdog the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) sharply rebuked TDs and senators for failing to crack down on the misuse of the free envelopes, which cost taxpayers €2.7m a year.
The criticism came after members of all parties, right up to ministerial level, were caught trying to steal a march on their rivals by using the parliamentary postal system for private political purposes.
SIPO said it was "entirely inappropriate" for members to pass on such facilities to other persons, "such as election candidates" for personal, electoral or party political gain.
This is the second cut in the envelope allowance in two years. Last March the number was reduced by 250 for each TD and senator.