Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (452)

Robert Dowds

Question:

452. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there will be any recruitment of Fire Service staff in the foreseeable future; and if so, if there will be any age limit placed on such recruitment when it recommences. [10102/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Fire services are provided by the local authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Fire Services Act 1981 and 2003. Under section 10 of the Act, a fire authority is required to make provision for the delivery of fire services in its functional area, including the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of premises.

The embargo on the filling of posts in the Local Government Service was introduced on 24 March 2009 following a Government Decision to implement savings measures across the wider public service.

My Department received a delegated sanction from the Department of Finance in August 2009 for implementation of this general moratorium on the filling of public sector posts across all local authorities.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each County and City Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible. In this regard, it is a matter for County and City managers, in the first instance, to ensure that the reduction in staff numbers is managed so that the appropriate service level is maintained within budgetary and staffing constraints.

Where vacancies arise, local authorities must consider all options for reorganisation and reallocation of work to meet requirements.  Any exceptions to the moratorium require sanction from my Department.

All staffing sanction requests are examined on a case by case basis having due regard to the continued delivery of key services and the need further to reduce overall staffing levels in the local authority sector. My Department works closely with local authorities to ensure that key posts are filled. In this regard, the majority of the sanctions granted are for the filling of posts in front line service areas such as fire and emergency services, water services, roads maintenance, housing, community and enterprise, and in relation to capital projects. Of the 585 requests received in respect of Fire and Emergency service posts since 2009, 480 have been sanctioned, 8 have been withdrawn, 3 have been refused and 94 are pending.

In view of the financial position facing local authorities, and the country as a whole, it is necessary to continue to focus on achieving the greatest possible savings. In this context, my Department and local authorities will continue to make every effort to ensure that further efficiencies and savings are attained by the sector while an appropriate level of service to the public is maintained.

Question No. 453 answered with Question No. 449.