Gilmore questioned on savings


Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has refused to put a figure on the savings involved in the almost 90 allowances that Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin is seeking to abolish.

Mr Gilmore would only say in the Dáil today that the Croke Park Agreement had achieved overall savings to date in the public sector pay bill of €3.1 billion.

Fianna Fáil Social Protection spokesman Willie O’Dea hit out at Mr Howlin’s failure to achieve targeted savings of €75 million by cutting 1,100 allowances. He said Mr Howlin “announced that he could only find one allowance for existing workers out of the 1,100 that could be cancelled and the savings were €3.5 million only”.

But then “suddenly . . . the Minister could find 90 allowances. A 9,000 per cent improvement in nine days.”

Asking the Tánaiste what the total savings in the allowances would be, Mr O’Dea said “one of those allowances would last year have [saved] the country the grand sum of €2,500 and another less than €20,000”.

He also asked if the Government would abolish the €3,500 annual training allowance to hospital consultants He said it would be “perverse” if the allowance was continued, especially when the "€16.90 a week allowance to lowly paid paramedics is already in the Minister’s sights even though that has been ruled to be part of core pay”.

The Limerick TD asked if it was a genuine attempt at reform or what a Fine Gael backbencher called “a window dressing exercise to take the heat out of the situation”.

But the Tánaiste condemned Fianna Fáil’s approach during its 14 years in office and said that during that time many of those allowances could have been addressed and consolidated into pay.

Fianna Fáil’s approach to dealing with the issue of pay in the public service was “every time there was a problem you invited them in, gave them a wink, talked about public service reform and wrote a cheque”.

Mr Gilmore said the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform had undertaken an “extensive review of allowances across the public sector, the first time it was done”.

Referring to the proposed cuts in allowances, the Tánaiste said “some of those allowances there is no case for. Some of those allowances are perfectly in order. Some of those allowances have effectively become part of core pay. They have to be disaggregated”.

He said: “Minister Howlin has already made clear that 180 allowances are to be discontinued for the future. He has asked departments to look at existing allowances and to pursue those under the terms of the Croke Park agreement, and that is part of an overall strategy to reduce the public sector pay bill.”

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