Kenny tells FG members to raise budget fears internally


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned his party members to raise their concerns over the forthcoming budget at internal committee meetings rather than in public.

He was speaking after eight Fine Gael TDs, in an article in a national newspaper today, challenged the Government’s position on the Croke Park agreement.

The group said there was a "question mark" over how savings are achieved. The TDs called for the system of pay rises and allowances to be re-examined.

The eight TDs are: Seán Conlan, Paul Connaughton, Pat Deering, Brendan Griffin, Noel Harrington, Seán Kyne, Anthony Lawlor, and Eoghan Murphy.
Their article appeared as it emerged that the troika, which begins a visit to assess progress under the bailout this week, has concerns about the scale of savings being achieved under Croke Park.
Mr Kenny said the Government is already examining what can be achieved through talks with the implementation body overseeing the pay deal.

“But clearly my preference is for deputies to air these matters in the parliamentary party or internal committee meetings,” he added.

Mr Kenny stressed December’s budget is a matter for the Government, but claimed it had not yet discussed any of these matters being raised.

“Next week we will have an economic debate in the Dail,” he said.“Every member will have the opportunity to say their piece on issues that concern them for the budget.

“Ministers will set out the general parameters in which the budget has to be drafted and, as I said last week, I look forward to the contributions of all and sundry, particularly constructive propositions that people may well have to make.”
It is understood that experts from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank are becoming increasingly frustrated with how the Coalition is implementing the bailout by cutting services to the public rather than tackling vested interests in the public service and professions.

While the troika is satisfied that overall targets for deficit reduction are being met, there is concern at the way they are being achieved, according to sources involved in the process. It is also understood that there is concern about the budget overruns in health.

Confirmation by chairman of the implementation body PJ Fitzpatrick to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that increments and allowances are not part of the Croke Park deal has aggravated Fine Gael TDs. The disclosure that departments are calculating savings made through early retirement by adding 80 per cent to salary savings on the basis of non-pay economies has also created problems.

One department, Agriculture, did not claim savings in line with the norm applied by other departments on the basis that they were “excessive, relative to actual costs”.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney confirmed yesterday that his department did not claim these extra savings, saying it was “simply being accurate” by not adding massive non-pay savings.
He said that while the standard calculation method for estimating savings for departing public servants involved adding a substantial non-pay element, that system had not been applied in Agriculture because those savings did not apply immediately.
“I’m not in the business of giving inaccurate figures to the Department of Public Expenditure [and Reform] and that is why my department is being run in a business-like manner and we give actual savings as they are made.”

In a report to the PAC last week Mr Fitzpatrick said that over the first two years of the Croke Park agreement savings of €810 million had been made in the pay bill, along with €678 million in non-pay savings.

Additional reporting: PA

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