Dáil Questions: Public Expenditure and Reform – Public Sector Staff

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Dáil Issues, Oral Questions, Public Expenditure

Clare asked Minister Howlin if he or his Department have ever looked in any detail at the effects on services of cutting public sector numbers by just under 30,000 between 2008 and 2015. The Minister avoided the question, unsurprisingly, which would indicate that they haven’t in fact done any analysis of what effect the cuts have had on service delivery. Maybe they’re just not interested?


DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin)

by Deputy Clare Daly

ORAL ANSWER on 19/11/2015

To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the systemic analysis he has undertaken of the effects on public service delivery of the reduction in public service staff numbers from 320,387 full-time equivalents to 293,811 full-time equivalents between 2008 and end of June 2015; and if he is satisfied that public services can be adequately provided in the face of such reductions.

Staffing levels in the Public Service are increasing, and have been since December 2013. There are more nurses, teachers, Gardaí, and special needs assistants now than at any time since the onset of the economic and fiscal crisis. Public service staff numbers have increased by just under 5,000 in the first nine months of 2015 alone, on foot of Budget decisions taken last year, which also included a removal of the Moratorium on Public Service Recruitment. Last month, as part of the Budget for 2016, I announced further additional 2,260 teachers, up to 600 new Gardai, plus more staff in the Health Sector and for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

As regards the current level of staffing across the Public Service compared to the peak in or around 2009, the changes since then need to be understood and assessed in their proper context.

– In the 5-year period leading up to the end of 2008, public service numbers increased by almost 15%, tracking increases in annual public expenditure levels that have come to define that era. As we know now, this was unsustainable, and it hardly represents a sensible benchmark for public services for the future.

– There was also an unprecedented economic and fiscal crisis which threatened the sustainability of the public finances. This required difficult decisions to reduce public service pay rates and public service numbers, among many other difficuilt decisions. These were delivered in cooperation with the staff unions, under a series of critically important industrial relations agreements and in tandem with specific sectoral reform measures.

– Finally, there has been a wide ranging reform agenda, which I launched in 2011, and it has delivered efficiencies and enhanced the effectiveness of public services. At the heart of the Reform Agenda is a commitment to drive change and continuous improvements to outdated practices and service delivery models in order to protect and enhance key public services. The introduction of shared services, automation of processes across many areas, and changes to work practices means that more is being done with less.

It is on this more secure and refomed foundation that I have been willing and able to increase staffing levels across key sectors, which the Government can be more assured will impact directly on improved service levels for people.