Govt fails to meet €75m allowances-cuts target

The Government has failed in its target to save €75m in a slash-and-burn of public sector pay bonuses.

Instead, a definite saving of just €3.5m will be made. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said he hoped the rest of the savings could be made from cutting premium pay through talks under the Croke Park Agreement.

Mr Howlin said his officials looked at more than 1,100 allowances and more than 800 business cases for retaining the payouts as they are, or in modified form.

Public servants will continue to recieve payments such as the Garda boot allowance, the Prison Officers Tuck Shop payment and the allowance for local authority workers who cannot eat lunch at their desks.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Jobs Dara Calleary has said the announcement "that premium payments and allowances in the public services are to be kept virtually untouched is another stunning example of the Government litany of broken promises".

He added: "Far from saving €75m from reform of allowances and premium payments as promised, the government now expects to save in the order of €3.5m.

"The fact that just one allowance out of over 1,100 detailed to Minister Howlin is being cut for existing public servants shows that this Government is prepared only to talk about taking difficult decisions and has no intention of actually taking any."

Mr Howlin put the failure to reach the €75m target down to the sheer size and scale of the review.

“This will not impact however, on the achievement of the pay bill budget for the year which will be fully realised,” a statement from his department said.

But the minister listed a series of changes to the public sector bonus and allowance schemes which will be curtailed:

:: Travel and expenses claims for officials going overseas to represent Ireland will be abolished altogether.

:: New entrants to state jobs will not be paid certain allowances. The current bill for these is €475m.

:: Another set of allowances valued at €245m will be modified.

At present an estimated 30% of Government spending goes on pay – almost €15.4bn.

In 2011, about €1.8bn of that related to allowances and overtime, with health €252m in overtime and €616m in allowances; education with zero overtime and €488m in allowances; and the Garda with €90m on overtime including the €24m spent policing the year’s state visits and €218m on overtime.

The review is part of wider steps to reduce the pay-related cost of the public sector by €3.8bn from 2009-2015 – a cut of one fifth.

Mr Howlin said where changes are needed on other allowances, management will open talks with unions to make use of the Croke Park agreement.

Some of the pay bonuses and salary top-ups to be abolished by the department for new entrants include qualification allowances for teachers; cash handling allowances for university staff; radio, bicycle and transport allowances for gardaí; shoe and clothing allowance for DIT caretaking staff; special HSE rates for working bank holiday weekends; and underwear and nightwear allowance for defence employees, among dozens of others.

Others which may be modified for new entrants are uniform expenses in the civil service; supervision and substitution costs in education; diving call-out and allowances for the defence staff; taxi allowances for the National Gallery; on call and flexibility allowances for the Garda Ombudsman’s office; benefit in kind mileage allowance for social protection staff; early/late allowance at the National Library; unsocial hours in the Inland Fisheries; overseas weekend allowance for Enterprise Ireland.

Sunday premium, and an unsocial hours premium across the civil service will be retained.

The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland said the allowance cuts was the third attack on teachers' pay since 2010 and was vicious and unwarranted.

General secretary Pat King said: “What the government is doing is establishing a two-tiered teaching profession.

“A system which serves to demoralise and demotivate young teachers by giving them inferior terms and conditions will inevitably impact negatively on our young people’s education.”

Public service numbers going down

Mr Howlin said that the ongoing reduction in public service numbers is now expected to be 292,000 by the end of this year, 2,000 ahead of target.

He also said the overall spend on overtime has fallen by €150m since 2010.

The top 10 allowances by value before the review were:

In education

:: An honours degree qualification €169m

:: For supervision and substitution €118m

:: The principal’s allowance €63m

:: Special duties teacher €62m

:: The assistant principal’s allowance €45m

:: For a master’s qualification €41m

:: For a pass honours degree €33m

:: The deputy principal’s allowance €31m

An Garda Siochana

:: Rent allowance €56m

In the Defence Forces

:: Military service €52m

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