Smith can claim credit for Agriculture department savings of €107m

AGRICULTURE Minister Brendan Smith earned kudos going into yesterday’s Budget by claiming genuine savings of almost €107m, compared to his department’s 2009 budget.

Annual salary savings of €6.5m were attributed to staffing reductions of 380 in his department.

There was a saving of €2m due to travel allowances being reduced by 25%. Rationalisation and reorganisation of local offices also contributed to the total savings of €107m, along with under-spending of €82m in the scheme to remove contaminated pigmeat; €4m in the early retirement scheme; €3m in the Bord Iascaigh Mhara grant-in-aid; and €856,000 in legal costs.

“I am satisfied that these are genuine savings and that all current liabilities are being discharged,” Mr Smith told the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

He said the savings had enabled him to double annual funding for the farm improvement scheme, from €15m to €30m.

This will be used to speed up payments to applicants on October 24, 2007; when the scheme was closed, applications reached its funding limit of €79m.

Mr Smith also said REPS 4 payments will begin next week.

* Only 125 of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food’s staff of nearly 4,000 applied to take part in the Government’s incentivised scheme of early retirement.

Of those, 117 have been approved, seven applications have been withdrawn, and one has been refused, said Mr Smith, in the Dáil, replying to a question from Deputy Michael Creed, of Fine Gael.

The 2.9% participation rate in agriculture exceeds the 2.3% overall rate at the end of September, when 815 out of 35,000 civil servants were estimated to be taking part.

The Government had hoped that the incentivised scheme would cut the civil service pay bill significantly, but the scheme was suspended in the Health Service Executive, because of a disagreement with trade unions.

Those leaving the civil service are mainly at the lower end of the pay scale.


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