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Dan White: 10 places where the government's axe must fall

With the Government having ruled out a property tax and ministers needing to cut public spending by €3bn a year, where will the axe fall? While the Government will probably take the soft option and cut spending on new roads, hospitals, schools etc, which we will need if the economy is to ever return to growth, what we really need are cuts in wasteful day-to-day spending. Dan White offers his top ten spending cuts to balance the Government's books.

1 Scrap the Croke Park deal. Under the Croke Park deal the Government has agreed not to cut public sector pay until 2014. It has also agreed not impose compulsory redundancies. Sorry, chaps. With the public sector pay and pensions bill still running at €19bn a year that's no way to run a bureaucracy. If the Government is to balance the books it will have to cut public sector pay further and reduce numbers.

2 Cut social welfare rates. Even after last December's cuts the basic Irish weekly social welfare payment of €196 is almost two-and-a-half times the equivalent UK rate of £67 (€80). That gap isn't sustainable with tens of thousands of Northerners coming south to sign on. With the annual social welfare bill still well over €20bn a year further deep cuts will be needed, no matter how painful.

3 Scrap Irish overseas aid. Despite being mired in the worst fiscal crisis in the history of the independent Irish State we are still shelling out €800m a year on overseas aid. Well with all due respects to the Third World groupies charity begins at home. If they feel so strongly about their assorted causes and hobby-horses let them collect money the old-fashioned way from the public.

4 Cut quangos. We have at least 400 quangos, no one is really sure with some estimates putting the number as high as 1,000 or even more. Brian Lenihan should pledge to scrap every one that can't justify its existence within three months. No one would miss most of them, except perhaps comedian Ed Byrne who seems to have cornered the market in voicing radio advertisements for these unaccountable bodies.

5 Scrap the Government jet(s). Flying ministers here, there and yonder costs at least €30m a year, a figure that is almost certainly an underestimate. There is also the cost of their occasional helicopter jaunts. This sort of extravagance is no longer affordable. If our ministers need to fly somewhere let them join the Ryanair queue like the rest of us.

6Get rid of State cars. The notion that all 15 members of the cabinet plus various assorted worthies such as former Taoisigh and Ministers for Justice should all have "their" own State cars, usually top-of-the-range Mercs, is utterly absurd. Instead there should be a pool of Government cars, no more than six or eight, which ministers could call upon when travelling on official business. If they want to swan about their constituencies like latter-day Lord Mucks let them do it in their own motors.

7Cap public sector pay rates. Even after last year's pension levy and across-the-board pay cuts, Irish public sector pay rates are among the highest in the world. This includes ministers, judges, doctors and senior civil servants. In future public sector pay rates should be capped at €125,000 a year. At almost four times the average industrial wage that's more than enough to be getting on with in these recessionary times.

8Cap public sector pensions. The decision several years ago to link public sector pensions to earnings rather than inflation means that many public sector pensioners are now being paid a multiple of their original salaries. While everyone has a right to a decent standard of living in their retirement enough is enough. Public sector pensions should be capped at €60,000 a year.

9Force the judges to contribute to the pension levy and endure pay cuts like all other public sector workers. The fact that many judges are avoiding paying their fair share, 14 months after the Government introduced the pension levy and seven months after it cut public sector pay is utterly outrageous. Brian Lenihan should force the judges to pay the full amount, including any arrears. If the beaks get stroppy he should introduce a constitutional amendment. It would pass by acclamation.

10Scrap trade union slush funds. As the fallout from Siptu/HSE affair continues it is now clear that other trade unions also had similar arrangements. By some estimates the total amount involved is at least €25m. By the time a thorough audit has been conducted throughout the public sector, the eventual figure will go much higher. Stop these sweet-heart deals immediately and where they weren't entitled to it the first place, force the trade unions to repay the money.


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