I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 37 together.
The Government is making good progress on achieving all of our targets and priorities, as articulated in the Government Programme. We are bringing public expenditure back to a sustainable level and driving forward the public service reform agenda to ensure that efficiencies and reformed work practices play a full part in contributing to the overall budgetary consolidation effort.
In determining fiscal policy, the Government has to take account of a wide range of often competing considerations and policy priorities. The Government decides on the balance between these priorities in setting the broad budgetary parameters, the overall budgetary balance, taxation priorities and the aggregate levels for expenditure. In this context, the aggregate levels of expenditure are split by reference to Ministerial vote group and the detailed disbursement of the resources within their allocation is a matter for each Minister in accordance with overall agreed Government policy. The precise composition of the budgetary consolidation is a matter for Government.
This Government's approach has been clearly set out in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2012-2014 published on 5 December last, the Capital Infrastructure Plan published on 10 November 2011 and the Public Service Reform Plan published on 17 November 2011. The Implementation Body’s Public Service Agreement Progress Report published on 13th June this year found that sustainable pay and non-pay savings have been successfully delivered.
Implementation of the Government's Public Service Reform Plan is being led and coordinated by the Reform and Delivery Office which I established within my Department. The Office is working closely with organisations across the Public Service and good progress continues to be made in the implementation of the Reform Plan. For example, we are:
continuing to reduce Public Service numbers which were around 28,000 lower at end Q1 2012 than they were at end 2008;
expanding the use of eGovernment through the new eGovernment Strategy, the establishment of a CIO Council and rolling out the Public Services Card;
reforming how we are organised by having a strong focus on business process improvement, considering innovative new business models for the delivery of non-core services, increasing the use of aggregated procurement and developing new shared services (for example, I have recently announced plans for the establishment of a Human Resources Shared Service Centre for the Civil Service);
reforming how people are managed through the introduction of new working arrangements, including new rosters, redeployment and workforce planning, a greater emphasis on performance management and development of the Senior Public Service; and
reforming the management of expenditure through the introduction of Performance Budgeting, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the new Value for Money Code.
Ireland is living up to its commitments by delivering on all the conditions and targets in the EU/IMF Programme by the required deadlines. The Government has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to meeting the targets agreed with our European and IMF partners.