Kenny meets Quinn to discuss savings
TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny yesterday met Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn as part of an ongoing effort to get all Government departments to achieve more savings from the Croke Park agreement.
Mr Kenny and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin last week commenced a series of bilateral meetings with all Government departments to discuss the submissions each has made in relation to the agreement, which protects the salaries of public servants in return for redundancies and greater efficiencies.
So far, they have met Minister for Health James Reilly and Mr Quinn, along with the top civil servants from their respective departments. The Ministers from all 15 departments, and their secretaries general, will be called in over the next two weeks. A source said last night that the initial focus will be on the big-spending departments – Health, Education, Social Protection and Justice.
Last month, Mr Kenny requested all departments to make written submissions to him with suggestions about how they could “accelerate” the workings of the Croke Park deal to maximise savings and speed up efficiencies and reform. The written submissions were received 10 days ago and were assessed by Mr Howlin’s department.
A source suggested there was disappointment at the highest level with the lower than anticipated savings suggested by each department, but that assertion could not be confirmed independently. The Government has said simply that the meeting with Ministers is part of that ongoing process.
The Government has repeatedly rejected the suggestion that the Taoiseach’s initiative to “squeeze” the Croke Park agreement to its fullest extent was prompted by negative reaction to the outcome of the review of allowances in the public service, which recommended that only one of 1,100 allowances be abolished and said annual savings of only €3.5 million (or one-twentieth of the €75m target) could be achieved.
Mr Kenny explained the rationale behind the new initiative by saying if savings were made in the process it would result in fewer cuts in the budget.
The Government has said Mr Kenny and Mr Howlin would brief the Croke Park implementation group on the outcome of the process, but has not yet specified a time.
Government spokespeople have also refused to say when the results of the exercise would be made public.
The agenda for today’s weekly Cabinet meeting is uneventful, according to an informed source. Its main formality will be to approve the appointment of Alex White as Minister of State in the Department of Health.
Tomorrow, the Taoiseach and 11 of his senior Ministers, including Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, will travel to Brussels for briefings with the EU Commission and the EU Council ahead of Ireland taking up the EU presidency from January 1st, 2013.