Others have taken a hit, now inflated salaries in voluntary sector must go

Opinion: Though they get little credit for it, serving politicians have taken substantial salary cuts

Robert Dowds TD, second from left, making the point that the boards of the CRC and St Vincent’s are unrepresentative and self-perpetuating. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Robert Dowds TD, second from left, making the point that the boards of the CRC and St Vincent’s are unrepresentative and self-perpetuating. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Sat, Jan 25, 2014, 00:01

It is strange that it has taken so long for the focus to fall on the inflated salaries paid to some of the leading personalities in the voluntary sector given the squeeze on public spending over the past five years.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny referred during the week to the “nauseating spectacle” of the recent revelations about the salaries of some prominent figures who work for well-known charities.

Serious hardship has been endured by a wide range of people across Irish society since the economic crisis struck. Those in the private sector who have lost their jobs or seen their pensions disappear down a black hole have been the worst hit.

Public servants have taken serious cuts in salary and, while they have retained job security and generous pension entitlements, the pay and conditions applying to new entrants have changed significantly.

Since 2008 the size of the public service has been cut by 31,500 people, roughly 10 per cent, and the pay bill has been reduced from a peak of €17.5 billion in 2009 to some €13.6 billion this year, according to a reply from Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin to parliamentary questions by Kildare Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan.

In the same period the amount of State funding provided to the voluntary sector has not changed very much, and in 2012, the last year for which figures are available, it was almost €3.5 billion.

The vast bulk of that money goes to fund vital social services but until now little attention has been paid to the salary scales of those who run the myriad of voluntary organisations who draw down these funds provided by the taxpayer.

Neither is there a clear rationale for why some of those organisations are given taxpayers’ money.

The salary of around €240,000 that was paid to the chief executive of the Central Remedial Clinic, Paul Kiely, and his enormous pension pay-off has focused attention on the entire sector.

Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins is now in the frame for refusing to disclose her salary, which is believed to be the same or even more than that paid to Mr Kiely.

Those salaries were put into perspective by a texter to Shane Coleman’s Newstalk radio show last Sunday who pointed out that the new chief executive of the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, Simon Stevens, will be paid an annual salary of £189,000 when he takes up duty in April.

The NHS is the largest public service employer in the entire EU yet the highly qualified Stevens, who served as adviser on health to Tony Blair between 2001 and 2004, is getting a salary less than that paid to the boss of Rehab.

The time has come for a root and branch examination of salaries paid to senior executives across the voluntary sector where any exchequer funding is involved.

State funding
The issue is complicated by the fact that many of the organisations raise some money of their own as well as drawing heavily on State funding.

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