The Government is continuing to make good progress on achieving its overall deficit targets and priorities. Since its peak in 2009, Gross Voted Expenditure has been reduced from €63.1 billion in 2009 to a targeted €53 billion in 2014. Staff numbers have been reduced by over 30,000 since 2008, at the same time as demand for public services significantly increased.
In the context of bringing public expenditure back onto a sustainable path, meaningful reform of the Public Service has been essential to ensure that we can maintain and improve services. In November 2011, we set out our programme of reforms in our first Public Service Reform Plan. In January this year, I published a report setting out the progress made under the first Reform Plan. At the same time, I also published the Government's second Public Service Reform Plan, setting out our ambition for the next three years.
As well as enabling services to be maintained in the context of reduced resources and improving services, a number of reforms have delivered, and will deliver, significant cost savings. To give just some examples:
- The Croke Park Agreement delivered €1.8 billion in pay and non-pay savings. The Haddington Road Agreement sets out a number of measures to deliver a further reduction of €1 billion in the Public Service pay and pensions bill by 2016. It also provides for a total of 15 million additional working hours annually across all sectors of the Public Service, which will help to deliver long term and sustainable increases in productivity;
- We have undertaken a major review of public procurement and are now implementing a radical overhaul of our approach, with the new Office of Public Procurement targeting €500 million in savings over the next three years (€127 million this year);
- We are introducing shared services for a range of back-office functions to increase efficiency and integration across organisations. For example, Peoplepoint, the Civil Service HR and Pensions Shared Service Centre, will deliver savings estimated at €12.5 million annually when fully operational. A new single Payroll Shared Service Centre for the Civil Service will deliver an estimated €5.6 million in annual savings and the creation of a new Financial Management Shared Services Centre could deliver estimated annual savings of €14.6 million;
- The use of innovative models of service delivery, greater use of technology and more efficient management of the State's property portfolio will also deliver improved efficiency.
Some of the savings made will be re-invested into public services as a "reform dividend". Public Service Reform will remain an important element of the Government's strategy for economic recovery, with our ambition for reform for the next three years set out in the new Public Service Reform Plan.