Plan says savings can be reinvested in public services

IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody has welcomed a commitment in the Government’s new public service reform plan for 2014-2016, which says resources saved through more efficient service delivery can be reinvested in improved public services. The next stage of the Government’s reform plan was published last week along with the second progress report on the Government’s previous plan, which outlined cost reductions, increased productivity and service improvements achieved since 2011.

The new plan highlights the objective of achieving a ‘reform dividend,’ a phrase first coined last October when public service reform minister Brendan Howlin announced plans for limited new public service recruitment on foot of savings achieved under the Croke Park deal. It says: “There will be an emphasis on saving to invest. This is about freeing up resources by making existing processes more cost effective and efficient, and using the savings to invest in new or improved services.”

IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody said it was significant that the plan says savings can be reinvested in improved public services. “This is a small but significant shift from the approach over the last five years, where all savings have gone to meet troika imposed budget targets. IMPACT will be watching to ensure that this commitment is honoured,” he said.

Mr Cody said unions had been briefed on the plans by department officials and were assured that staff and service protections in the Haddington Road agreement will be observed as plans for further public service reforms are rolled out. He said continued engagement between unions and management would be necessary as changes were implemented.

The programme, which includes specific plans for each public service sector, highlights potential for more shared services and better property management and says €500 million can be saved over the next three years through more centralised procurement. It foresees more open recruitment and mobility and improved performance management. The document also promises improved training and staff development. “The public service will be more rewarding for, and more supportive of, public servants,” it says.

The progress report on recent reforms outlines how public servants have met massive new demand for services despite a 10% staffing reduction since 2008. The population has risen by almost 350,000 since 2006 and the numbers of hospital day cases has increased by over 90% over the last decade. Some 49,000 more children are being taught in our schools compared to 2008 and over half a million more people are in receipt of medical cards. Meanwhile, the numbers receiving social welfare payments has grown by 18%.