Big cuts in Garda overtime ordered by Drew Harris to reduce costs

Commissioner says he has cut both discretionary and administrative overtime

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris earlier this month in Templemore, Co Tipperary. “Regrettably, An Garda Síochána will significantly exceed the budget this year,” he said on Thursday. Photograph: Don Moloney/Press 22

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris earlier this month in Templemore, Co Tipperary. “Regrettably, An Garda Síochána will significantly exceed the budget this year,” he said on Thursday. Photograph: Don Moloney/Press 22

 

Spending in An Garda Síochána is too high and overtime and other forms of discretionary spending have been cut for the remainder of the year, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.

While some overtime will still be available it will only be for essential crime and security tasks and it must be applied for and approved in advance by Garda Headquarters.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has reacted with concern and surprise, saying it was an “extraordinary development”.

The association, which represents more than 10,000 rank and file gardaí, questioned what “signal” was being sent to the criminal fraternity. It was very concerned efforts to tackle organised crime gangs in Dublin would be undermined.

However, in response to queries from The Irish Times Mr Harris said it was not possible for the Garda to continue overspending. The Garda must work within its budget and this has been stressed continually to Garda management at all levels thought this year.

“Regrettably, An Garda Síochána will significantly exceed the budget this year. This is not a sustainable position,” he said.

“To minimise the impact on policing and security activity, while reducing the excess spend before the end of the year, I have cut discretionary overtime and administrative overtime.

Specific operations

“Overtime will still be available for specific policing [and] security operations, but only with the approval of the relevant Assistant Commissioner following discussion with the Deputy Commissioner [in charge of] policing and security.”

In some parts of the country local Garda management has imposed a ban on overtime for Sunday policing or administrative work.

GRA communications director John O’Keeffe said overtime was necessary for policing all over the world. It was not an Irish phenomenon.

“Overtime is essential if our members are to provide an effective policing service to the general public in Dublin and across the country,” he said.

“Overtime must now be reinstated if we are to keep our streets safe in the lead-up to Christmas,” Mr O’Keeffe said, calling for talks between the Government and Mr Harris.

Overtime bill

Last year overtime was cancelled for a week at the start of December when the Government refused to give the Garda the full supplementary budget it needed to cover the full-year overspend.

In the period before those cuts and also since the start of this year, the Government has repeatedly said the overtime bill, which ran to just over €130 million last year, needed to be brought back under control.

Spending in the Garda was on course to be almost €30 million over budget by the end of the year if expenditure witnessed in the first half of the year continued.