Government denies savings initiative linked to allowance issue
THE GOVERNMENT has denied that its drive to accelerate savings under the Croke Park agreement was connected to its failed initiative to achieve €75 million in savings in public sector allowances.
A spokesman for Taoiseach Enda Kenny denied that the initiative was connected in any way to the attempt to reduce allowances in the public service.
The Taoiseach recently announced he was writing to each Government department asking for suggestions on accelerated implementation of the Croke Park agreement – which guarantees retention of pay levels in return for redundancies and efficiencies – and also directed Ministers to squeeze the maximum level of savings as quickly as possible.
Mr Kenny said his rationale was that if savings were maximised by this process, it would result in fewer cutbacks in December’s budget.
The move happened in the same week that a report from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin on the 1,100 allowances in the public service first came before Cabinet. The report was published a week later, disclosing that only €3.5 million of the €75 million targeted for savings on these allowances would be achieved in 2013.
The Taoiseach’s spokesman rejected the suggestion that the two actions were connected, although he disclosed that the issue of allowances would “not be precluded” from the exercise.
“The Croke Park agreement has been extremely productive on many levels . . . The Taoiseach’s letter was motivated with savings beyond allowances. The Government needs to secure further savings in the general sense.
“It’s not a response. It’s a proactive initiative by the Taoiseach and it will be followed up,” said the spokesman.
The spokesman also said Mr Kenny and Mr Howlin would brief the Croke Park implementation group on the initiative “shortly” but was not in a position to specify a time in which the savings realised would be made public. Nor would he say if they would form part of the calculations for the budget on December 5th.
Meanwhile, the text of two major pieces of legislation was approved at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
They were: the Electoral Amendment Bill, which gives effect to the decision to reduce the number of TDs in the next Dáil from 166 to 158 and reduce the number of constituencies from 43 to 40; and the Credit Union Bill, which deals with regulation and governance and was one of the three conditions of the memorandum of understanding of the troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
However, a number of other items which were expected to be discussed did not feature at the meeting.
They included the long-awaited legislation for local government reform; as well as an expected report on further reductions in the number of State agencies, or quangos.
Minister for Communications and Energy Pat Rabbitte also announced that he intended to reappoint Brendan Halligan as chairman of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
Mr Halligan, a former Labour Party senator, was appointed to his position by Mr Rabbitte’s predecessor, Eamon Ryan.
He will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications to answer questions from members, in advance of his appointment being officially ratified.