The first annual review of the Croke Park Agreement is very welcome and shows that employees in the public service, the trade unions together with management have brought about substantial savings, efficiencies and reform in the running of the public and civil service.
Deputy Seán Fleming, spokesperson on Public Sector Reform, noted that there have been substantial savings on payroll and many non payroll items such as procurement, eliminating duplication, wasteful practices and better organisation of services and staff. The €600m savings to date will continue into the future and further savings will be made due to the ongoing implementation of the agreement.
Many people doubted this agreement would produce savings, efficiencies and reform but they must now accept that these are now being achieved.
However, the main challenge now is to ensure that front-line services are protected and the public is not made to suffer reduced or impaired services. These front-line services are now under threat as a result of the recent announcement by Minister Brendan Howlin that there will be further substantial reductions in the number of people employed across the public service, which goes way beyond the Croke Park Agreement. It is essential that the Minister does not undermine an agreement that is producing results.
The Government must take a hands-on approach to ensure that this is a key priority in the months and years ahead.
Public Bodies face major challenges in continuing to provide a quality service with less staff and less resources. However, this can be achieved through the detailed daily working of the Croke Park Agreement and the Government will be judged on how services are delivered.
Key areas to watch will be hospital waiting lists, A&E queues, special needs facilities in schools, the time taken to process social welfare applications and appeals and the ongoing delivering of services by Local Authorities.
Finally Deputy Fleming said that the first year has been a year of progress for the agreement and this must now be built on by the new Government.