herald

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Howlin raps Ministers over €10bn cuts target

SOME ministers are not pulling their weight when it comes to spending cuts, Minister Brendan Howlin has admitted.

The Government is seeking €10.5bn in cuts from departmental budgets, including reductions in staff numbers and social welfare, but not all departments are toeing the line, the Minister for Public Spending and Reform has confirmed.

Mr Howlin said in a media interview: "All departments have reported, as they had been expected to. I can't pretend that every department has measured up in the same way."

His spokesman said Mr Howlin would not be naming the departments concerned.



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Mr Howlin has repeatedly "talked up" his involvement in the spending review, but the level of detail in a memo from his department's secretary general, Robert Watt, published in one newspaper today, shows Mr Howlin and his officials have had extensive contacts with his colleagues in the other departments over the past few months, political observers said.

The admission that some departments are not living up to expectation, indicates that Mr Howlin is failing in his task of ensuring his colleagues realise the difficult job facing the Government in bringing in next year's Budget, they added.

Although the Government is due to cut spending by €2.1bn next year, departments are being asked to come up with a menu of cuts five times as big.

Cuts which are not implemented in December's Budget 2012 are expected to feed into reductions to be brought in over the following three years. The instructions are to find 15pc to 20pc of spending, or €1 in every €5 spent, under the Fine Gael and Labour Party review of all departmental funding.

Next year, Budget 2012 will contain a package of €3.6bn in tax hikes and spending cuts -- €1.5bn in tax and €2.1bn in cuts.

In his memo, Mr Watt says each department must come up with savings "by reference to the 'rule of thumb' 15-20pc level." The letter says the overall budget targets are subject to final Government decision.

"You should bear in mind that to afford the Government maximum scope for decisions about prioritising resources in certain areas, we should not be constrained from putting forward a full and comprehensive set of savings options, even where this goes beyond the indicative ceiling," he said in the letter sent two months ago.

See Page 15 mlavery@herald.ie

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