Belfast Telegraph

Kenny defends allowances U-turn

The Taoiseach has defended a Government U-turn to scrap almost 90 allowances paid to public sector workers.

The cuts will affect gardai, nurses, teachers and other frontline workers, but Enda Kenny claimed they will result in maximum savings from the public sector pay bill.

He stood by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin's decision to slash up to 88 allowances in the cost-cutting exercise.

They have not said how much will be saved and are in talks with the body which oversees the implementation of the Croke Park Agreement on pay to discuss which government departments they can apply pressure on to abolish allowances.

Mr Kenny said: "We know that some allowances that are going to go over the years are part of core pay. There are a whole range of allowances and other areas within Croke Park that I believe can be actioned and progressed to bring about maximum savings."

Mr Kenny said he and Mr Howlin had analysed reports compiled by individual departments identifying increments that should be chopped in a bid to make further cuts from the overall 14 billion euro public sector pay bill. "I propose to give the implementation body the evidence of what we believe can be squeezed from Croke Park in order to maximise savings," he added.

Earlier, Mr Howlin told the Dail's public accounts committee the Government would look into simplifying how gardai, teachers, firefighters and the army are paid to avoid confusion between allowances and core pay. He said there were difficulties in identifying which allowances were eligible for cutting, because they often formed such a large chunk of the individual's overall pay.

"It would neither be practical or reasonable to attempt to take away unilaterally such a large additional element of these public servants' pay - in effect applying an additional pay cut just to those key groups," Mr Howlin said of those on the frontline.

The Department for Public Expenditure and Reform pays out 1,100 allowances a year, at a cost of 1.5 billion euro. But unions have warned that removing allowances from serving public servants is in breach of Croke Park, which took effect in 2010 and will stay in place until next year.

Siptu's Patricia King said a move to cut public service allowances was an attack on low-paid workers. Liam Doran, of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), claimed the payments are an integral part of the core pay of many grades in the health service.

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