Reform in the public sector – an opportunity not to be missed?
|Pay and pension arrangements cuts – but what next?||Review of local government – time is of the essence|
In his budget speech, the Minister identified two key reform measures: the first is a change to the pay and pension arrangements for the public service, the second is a proposal to undertake a review of local government.
Pay and pension arrangements cuts – but what next?
The most significant reform initiative announced by the Minister was his changes to the pay and pension arrangements of public service employees. While many of the changes were anticipated, the impact on those at the centre of providing services to Irish citizens is significant. Between this and the last budget the public sector has seen pension levies, pay cuts and fewer staff as a result of the number of retirements and the recruitment embargo.
The changes announced in the budget certainly met the expectations of many in terms of reducing the cost of the public service; however details on the wider question of public sector reform were notably absent. Having established the long awaited “bad news” of the budget, the government now needs to deliver the much required “good news” as to how the public service will be reformed or re-organised to maintain or improve service levels with fewer resources.
The opportunity now exists for Government to constructively engage the public sector in the design and development of an innovative and efficient public service. Through this process there is an opportunity for every member of that community to be positively engaged. Reform should bring new and innovative ways of delivering public services. It should provide individual opportunities for growth and development, to learn new skills, and to be part of a modern and efficient organisation, while enhancing the ethos of the sector. It should provide a platform for increased job satisfaction as a result of improvements in the provision of public services, as well as possibilities for career progression and enhanced flexibility.
The announcements in the budget have been mandated by fiscal control requirements and have not paid attention to the requirement to lead the public sector through the changes required to maintain and improve service quality. A unique opportunity lies ahead to radically change how the public sector does business. This calls for a new vision, driven by pragmatic acceptance of the economic constraints, but that is based on ambition and innovation. There is an opportunity for the Government to leverage its mandate for public sector reform and develop this vision, helping our public service to maintain or improve its standing as a quality provider of services.
Review of local government – time is of the essence
The review of local government appears to be a response to the fact that An Bord Snip Nua did not include the local authorities in their review. The purpose of the review, which will be detailed by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, will presumably be to identify inefficiencies in the running of local government, particularly where they create additional costs to local businesses.
Is this review necessary? Yes it is but how should it be carried our? The economic challenges faced by the local government community are well understood by the sector. In fact a number of authorities have already undertaken cost reduction initiatives and can provide the data to allow these initiatives to be repeated across the sector. In addition these authorities already have a view on the opportunity to further reduce costs through better collaboration and sharing of common services.
Instead of undertaking a full review of all local authorities, it is our view that the Minister should consider reviewing the local authorities which have already taken cost savings initiatives which have proven successful, to validate the extent of savings and cost cutting made and to then roll them out across the sector. This will provide a platform to develop and implement opportunities which facilitate cross-authority collaboration and sharing of services where practical and which, in some cases, have already been identified. We believe that this approach is a more constructive and more efficient way of delivering savings in local government.