End to public service staff moratorium announced in Budget

New posts in education and gardaí but Howlin says no resources for unreformed services

The Government is to end its controversial moratorium on recruitment in the public service "in a targeted way" , Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howin has said.

He said the civil service would resume taking on staff from next year while the budget for 2015 would allow for the establishment of more than 1,700 additional new full time posts in the education sector and the recruitment of additional gardaí.

Mr Howlin said that since the onset of the recession, numbers employed across the public service had been cut by 10 per cent.

However he said this process had now ended and there would be no further overall reductions.


Mr Howlin said Government departments and agencies would receive greater autonomy to management their own staffing levels as part of the overall public service reforms . “ From next year I am pleased to announce that Departments will have discretion over staffing levels within an overall pay framework.”

While there has not been an overall ban on recruitment over recent years, there have been very tight controls in place with new staff taken on only in limited areas.

Figures released last year showed the average age of staff in the Civil Service was 46 and would soon close in on 50. Just 4 per cent of personnel were under the age of 30.

The secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Robert Watt told a Dáil committee last year the lack of young blood in the civil service was "not optimal" and "reflects a planning failure".

Meanwhile, Mr Howlin also said that the Government “is not going to allocate resources to services that are unreformed”.

“Public service reform remains at the heart of this Government’s agenda and will focus on ensuring efficiency and improving outcomes for service users,” he said. “Investment in public services will be targeted at priority areas and will be linked closely with reform.”

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said that as part of its current comprehensive review of spending, its expenditure evaluation unit had examined the cost of the public service among a number of other analyses.

The evaluation paper found the cost of the exchequer pay bill had fallen by almost 20 per cent from a peak of €17.4 billion at the onset of the recession to €14.1 billion in 2013. “Counterfactual analysis shows that if successive governments had not intervened the total exchequer cost of public service pay and pensions for 2013 could have been in the order of €24bn – some €7 billion higher than the actual cost,” it said.

Unions welcomed the ending of the recruitment embargo but some were cautio us about the move.

The Civil Public and Services Union, which represents lower-paid civil servants, said: “We welcome the end of the crippling embargo on public sector employment but await the publication of the civil service reform plan with considerable interest. Again we fear this announcement may be meaningless unless significant recruitment and promotion plans are sanctioned for front line staff including administration in central Government .”

Shay Cody, general secretary of Impact, the largest public service union, said: "That there is to be recruitment in some areas will be especialy welcome news to hard pressed staff who have faced the challenege of increased demands on the services they work in. This has built up every year since the moratorium was applied and as numbers continued to fall.

“The announcement of new posts today marks an end to that phase, and hopefully the beginning of a new phase of recruitment which will be vital to the sustainability of services across the public service .”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent