The object of this Bill is to effect economies in the local services by the making of deductions from remuneration payable during the current local financial year to officers of local authorities. The corresponding Bill which provided for economies in the public services was before the Oireachtas last summer, and passed into law in October last. This Act—the Public Services (Temporary Economies) Act—contemplated the reduction of expenditure on salaries, not only in the public services, but also in salaries of local bodies where a proportion of such salaries was met by grants payable to local bodies. Section 11 of that Act provided for deductions from such grants to such extent as would be determined having regard to the proportion of such grants ordinarily applied towards the payment of salaries. The section, however, goes on to provide that no deduction shall be made from grants to local bodies in respect of services under the control of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health where such bodies have made approved deductions from the salaries of their officers. The intention here was that the local body should make the deduction, and there would accrue a proportionate saving to the Exchequer in respect of all claims made by local bodies for recoupment of expenditure on salaries.
As Senators are aware, a growing proportion of local expenditure is being met by way of grants from State funds and the present Bill is accordingly a necessary implementation of Government policy in connection with the securing of economies by deductions from salaries as set out in the Public Services (Temporary Economies) Act. The Act referred to passed into law, as I have said, in October last, but it was not found possible to complete the preparation of the Bill relating to local salaries until the present year, and accordingly the period of operation of the Bill will be the current local financial year instead of the last financial year to which the Act of 1933 related.
The deductions to be made from salaries of local officers will be in accordance with the scales set out in the Schedule to the Bill. Parts I and II of the Schedule contain different scales of deduction applicable to salaries carrying cost-of-living bonus and to fixed salaries respectively. The salaries which have carried a bonus varying with the cost of living have been subject to regular reduction in recent years in accordance with the fall in the cost of living. The fixed salaries which have not varied with the cost of living have, on the other hand, remained constant over a period of fall in prices. It is, therefore, proposed to make the deductions applicable to the latter type of salaries on scales higher than the scales applicable to the salaries which have in fact been reduced from time to time owing to the gradual fall in the cost of living. Part III of the Schedule will mainly relate to professional men, not being whole-time officers of the local authority, employed at special rates of remuneration for particular works.
In the case of dispensary doctors, a special provision is included in the Bill to the effect that £50 of their annual salary shall not be taken into account in the calculation of the deductions.
Special provision is made for the preservation of pension rights. No deductions made under this Act will affect the amount of salary by reference to which a pension or gratuity is to be computed.
The Bill contains further provisions of an administrative nature as regards the returns to be furnished by officers to the chief executive officers of each local authority by whom they are employed and also as regards the duty of chief executive officers of local authorities who are required to furnish returns of the salaries of each officer in the employment of the local authority.