Government loses vote on restructuring of information services

Administration defeated over move to regionalise Citizens Information outlets

The Government lost by 90 votes to 51 on a Fianna Fáil motion to halt plans to regionalise the services. File photograph: Alan Betson

The Government has been defeated in a vote on a planned restructuring of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) and the Citizens Information services.

The minority administration lost by 90 votes to 51 on a Fianna Fáil motion to halt plans to regionalise the services.

Only Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance and Independent TD Michael Lowry supported the changes which involve abolishing all Mabs and Citizens Information companies and replacing them in each case with eight regional boards.

Labour, Solidarity-PBP, the Social Democrats, the Green party, Independents4Change, the Rural Independents group and all remaining Independents supported Fianna Fáil to prevent the changes.


The vote, while embarrassing, is not binding on the Government but is an expression of the view of the House.

It is the latest vote in which the Government has been defeated, having suffered more than a dozen defeats since the it was formed in May last year.

The motion called for a cost-benefit analysis into the proposed changes. Sinn Féin's John Brady introduced an amendment that there was no need for such an analysis. He said a review had already been carried out by Mabs, which found it would cost €1 million to wind down the current services and a new regionalised model would cost about €2.3 million.

The Sinn Féin amendment was however defeated by 44 to 96 votes.


The Fianna Fáil motion this week was introduced by the party’s social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea who said the Mabs and Citizens Information services were embedded in their local communities.

He said the theory behind the restructuring was that it would give rise to savings in administration and that that money would be redirected back into front-line services. “It is a lovely theory, but unfortunately the facts do not bear it out.”

Mr O’Dea said there was growing concern about the way the restructuring was being undertaken and the potential negative implications of the proposed regional model.

He criticised the lack of proper consultation on the issue with the communities involved and said the changes would fundamentally change the ethos.

“The services are Government-funded but they cannot be, nor can they be perceived to be, Government-run.”

Mr O’Dea added that the UK “has enthusiastically embraced the structure and type of system that we are now trying to jettison”.

During the debate Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said there appeared to be much confusion about the intentions of the Citizens Information Board.

Mr Varadkar stressed it was not a Government decision to restructure the services.

But he said there were 93 companies responsible for provision of Citizens Information services or those of Mabs in their local areas and it was an unwieldy governance structure. “Implementing a more efficient, streamlined model means there will be 16 rather than 93 touch points for the Citizens Information Board with nationwide services; eight for Citizens Information services and eight for Mabs.”

Mr Varadkar pointed to the Mabs company structure and said it was difficult to understand “why there is a need for 450 board members to cover 51 Mabs companies, with an approximate staff compliment of 250”.

“In addition, many board members have been on a board for decades and this is no longer considered best governance practice.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times