Taoiseach orders special meeting of Croke Park group

Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 01:00

TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny has ordered a specially convened meeting of the Croke Park implementation group in the coming weeks to consider new “accelerated” savings and efficiencies which are to be identified by all 15 Government departments by tomorrow.

The move is an unprecedented one, and it is understood Mr Kenny wants the meeting to take place as soon as possible, perhaps by the end of next week.

It is the first time the Taoiseach has asked for a special meeting of the group. He has attended the group’s meetings on only two occasions before. Both were the end-of-year reviews of the Croke Park process which protects salaries and conditions for public sector workers in return for redundancies and efficiencies.

Sources close to the Taoiseach last night said the move underlined the determination of Mr Kenny to ensure the Croke Park agreement was worked to its fullest extent.

Last week Mr Kenny wrote to Ministers and the top civil servant in each department asking them to contact him by tomorrow with suggestions for new and accelerated savings, efficiencies and cost-cutting measures.

Speaking to reporters at the time, he said the Government wanted to “squeeze the maximum” amount in savings from the Croke Park agreement.

Those savings would minimise the need for deeper cuts in December’s budget which will involve €3.5 billion in adjustments.

A Government spokesman last night said the date for the meeting would be set once the Taoiseach has had a chance to assess the reports back from departments.

“That will be as soon and as imminent a timeline as possible. The Taoiseach will review the submissions on finding efficiencies and cost-cutting measures.

“The meeting will essentially involve the presentation of the outcomes of that process, as well as a strategy to implement them as soon as possible.”

Ministers have been reminded in the past week that this was a priority issue for the Taoiseach, and that accelerated cost-saving measures needed to be identified.

“That has been made very clear, and there is no uncertainty about his intention,” said one source.

It is also understood that the meeting could take place as early as next week.

The move to, as Mr Kenny put it, “squeeze” the Croke Park process occurred after a period when there were mixed messages coming from Fine Gael and Labour Ministers about the Croke Park agreement and its efficacy.

Mr Kenny’s edict to his Cabinet colleagues was seen as a move to assuage concerns among many Fine Gael TDs that the Croke Park agreement was protecting public servants and not delivering the scale of cost savings required.

This week Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin admitted his plan to achieve €75 million in savings from modifying and scrapping allowances in the public sector had been unsuccessful. The exercise saved €3.5 million, with only one of 1,100 allowances fully scrapped.