I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 29, 154, 155, 157 to 159, inclusive, 161 and 163 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.
The medium-term expenditure management process began with the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) exercise in 2011, which was carried out by all Departments to identify ways of reducing expenditure, in line with commitments under the Joint EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland, while minimising the impact on service delivery.
Ministerial expenditure ceilings for 2012 - 2014 were introduced on an administrative basis in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report, published in December 2011. The CRE exercise forms the foundation of these ceilings and is the basis for all subsequent decisions on expenditure. The precise composition of the 2013 budgetary consolidation was set out in the Expenditure Report 2013, published on 5th December, 2012.
As regards the question of incentives to achieve targets and reduce costs, it is relevant to note that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework envisages a new “carryover” facility for Departments that manage their allocations within budget in any year, so that they can use these savings in the following year. Those Departments that are proactive in driving reform, innovation and structural planning will naturally be best-placed to avail of this facility into the future. The consequence on Departments who exceed their current expenditure ceiling in any given year will be the assimilation of an offsetting adjustment in their envelope for the following year, and they will be required to devise appropriate policy measures to live within the reduced allocation. It will be a matter for Ministers and Heads of Department/Office to devise forward-looking plans and policies and to ensure that the Ministerial Expenditure Ceilings are adhered to.
The Implementation Body has reported total savings in the order of €1.5 billion over the first two years of the Agreement, which comprises of approximately €810 million and €680 million in pay and non-pay savings respectively. This is happening in a climate of industrial peace in the Public Service. In addition, I welcome the recent proposals from the Labour Relations Commission agreed pay deal which will help reduce the Public Service pay bill by €1 billion. While good progress has been made on delivering savings and implementing change, it remains a matter for each Minister and their Departments to ensure that the Vote-level allocations are adhered to and at the same time ensure that they continue to provide essential frontline services and respond to increasing demands.