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'Outdated' payments to public servants facing axe

EXTRA payments given to public servants because they have third level or other qualifications have been singled out for the axe under plans to slash spending.

They are part of a crackdown on a series of public sector allowances -- many described as "outdated" and causing "unnecessary costs and inefficiencies".

The Government has warned department managers they must come up with detailed business plans to justify all payments currently being made.

It is halting any new payments from early next week until the allowances issue is resolved.

Departmental chiefs may find it hard to justify some special allowances based on qualifications, when the worker probably needed the qualifications to get their job in the first place.

This type of allowance often applies to nurses and teachers. For example, the annual allowance paid to a teacher with an honours degree is worth €4,918 -- for those with a doctorate it is €6,140.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has told managers they must submit a business case detailing why they should continue making each extra payment by the end of the month.

The letter sent by the Secretary General of the department, Robert Watt, says a review of all allowances and premium payments made to the 300,000-strong public service workforce will be carried out by the end of February.

It says no new payments will be made to recruits or existing staff who do not already have them from next Tuesday, until a business case for the payment is rubber-stamped.

It acknowledges that allowances and premium payments given to staff for "arduous" work and working unsocial hours are justified.

But it says there are others "which owe their continued existence to custom and practice, or to industrial relations agreements that relate to outdated practices" causing "unnecessary costs and inefficiencies".

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin promised cuts of 5pc in allowances and 10pc in overtime in the Budget, in a bid to reduce the public sector payroll by €400m this year.

A list of allowances paid to civil servants, provided by the Department of Finance, includes a keyholding allowance, paid to officers who open offices after hours. It also includes a mapping allowance, a delegates' allowance, and an IT programmer allowance.

Irish Independent