Taoiseach meets Ministers in bid to accelerate savings
TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny has begun holding a series of meetings with individual Ministers on their proposals for “reinvigorating” the Croke Park agreement and accelerating the level of savings to be generated under the deal.
Minister for Health James Reilly and Department of Health secretary general Ambrose McLoughlin met the Taoiseach yesterday, his spokesman confirmed last night.
No details of the new proposals put forward by the health service under the provisions of the Croke Park deal have been made known.
However, some health service sources suggested this could include seeking staff to work longer hours.
Earlier this year the Health Service Executive floated the idea of staff working two additional hours per week without pay for two or three years. It believed such a measure could generate significant savings on the cost of using agency personnel and on overtime and premium payments.
It is expected that Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn will meet the Taoiseach on Monday to discuss new proposals under the Croke Park process drawn up by the Department of Education.
A reliable Government source confirmed last night that Mr Kenny has begun a series of bilateral meetings with all departments. The process, which began this week, will continue into next week and it was confirmed the Ministers and secretaries general of all 15 departments will be called in and asked to give the rationale behind the cases they have made.
“The initial focus has been on the high-spending departments,” said the source.
The Taoiseach recently said he was writing to each Government department asking for suggestions on accelerated implementation of the Croke Park agreement 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, it would result in fewer cutbacks in December’s budget.
A report from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin on the 1,100 allowances in the public service came before Cabinet, published a week later, disclosed 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 said the issue of allowances would “not be precluded” from the exercise.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said earlier this week Government departments were asked on September 14th to provide short reports on the potential for accelerating savings through reforms under the Croke Park agreement. It said these had been received and were being assessed by Mr Howlin.