Over 7,000 civil servants apply for voluntary redundancy
Almost one in three of Northern Ireland's civil servants have have expressed an interest in the Executive's generous redundancy scheme, according to figures released by the Department of Finance & Personnel.
A massive 7,285 people have submitted a formal application to the Voluntary Exit Scheme, introduced earlier this year - three times as many as are needed to reach the 2015/16 civil service job cut target of 2,410.
The applications make up almost a third of the entire Northern Ireland civil service, which has 25,700 staff.
The figure does not reflect the final number of staff who will exit the civil service. The selection process has not yet taken place and those selected still have the opportunity to withdraw their application.
Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said: "Applications closed on Friday 27 March at which point 7,285 individuals had applied to be considered for selection.
"This figure does not reflect the final numbers of staff who will exit the Northern Ireland Civil Service since the process of selection has not yet taken place and those selected have the opportunity to withdraw.
"It does not take account of the number of part-time staff that have applied - there are currently 19% of NICS staff working part-time.The Voluntary Exit Scheme is part of a range of strategic personnel interventions being deployed across the Northern Ireland Civil Service as part of the pay bill reduction strategy.
"The one-year NICS scheme will deliver savings for departments of approximately £26 million in 2015/16 and around £88 million per year thereafter. The process of calculating compensation payments and pay bill savings is now under way and this will inform decisions around selection. All applicants will be notified of the outcome of the selection process."
"Staff who receive a notification with a specific exit date have 10 days to decide whether or not they wish to accept the offer of voluntary exit, and if they accept they will be given three months’ notice."
When the civil service job cut plan was being developed, First Minister Peter Robinson said that he expected people "would be knocked over in the rush" if a voluntary redundancy scheme was established.
NIPSA general secretary Brian Campfield told the BBC that the union did not believe that borrowing up to £700m to fund job cuts was an appropriate use of public funds.
"We do also have a major concern about the pressure that the remaining staff will be under to deliver services," he said.
Trade union spokesman Bumper Graham, of Nipsa, said the civil service redundancy process was being conducted "without rhyme or reason and without any rational business plan".