D’Arcy emphasises the need for innovation and efficiency, not blanket agreements in the public sector
This government faces unprecedented challenges. Whilst restoring order to our public finances and regaining our economic sovereignty, we must also protect the welfare of all our society. Our public spending policy must strike a balance between all interests. For this ambitious goal the government must be capable of exercising all necessary powers. Following discussions in relation to potential cutbacks for services in education and health, I believe that the Croke Park deal must be re-examined. Currently in health, only 30% can be reviewed with 70% ring fenced; in education the imbalance is even more pronounced, with 80% ring fenced leaving only 20% available to be reduced.
The extent of cuts in the remaining areas, health 30% and education 20%, are so extreme and deep for budget 2012 that I just don’t believe it is possible for another round of cutbacks in the same areas in 2013.
As well as ring fencing funding and substantially reducing the measures which can be introduced, I also believe that the Croke Park Agreement as it currently stands serves neither the interests of the public sector employee or the public at large.
Public service is a critical part of the functioning of a modern society. We have a public sector that we can be very proud of. The sector as a whole has already made significant contributions to our budget rebalancing. The previous government sought to create divisions between the public and private sectors, divisions which are incredibly foolish. Our public servants take great pride in their contribution to our nationhood and we should be thankful for that. I want to see a public sector where excellence, commitment and hard work are rewarded. Instead of blanket cuts or blanket protections, we should seek to encourage innovation in public service delivery by rewarding excellence.
I believe that we have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that our public services are delivered with maximum efficiency to serve all our people, if we are brave enough to commence a national conversation about the future of the sector. This will deliver better, more efficient public services, which will doubtless garner significant savings also.
While it is easier to sit down when everybody else is already sitting down, I don’t intend to do so. I am calling for the conversation to be started now. If the conversation is held and better structures and agreements are put in place, everybody will gain. Circumstances have changed for the entire country, not just some.