Garda overtime budget due to run out

THE Garda overtime budget is due to run out in August and the Government has ruled out allocating any more money, a Garda conference was told yesterday.

The chief administrative officer of the force told senior gardaí there was no question of going “cap in hand” to the Government, like last year.

John Leamy told the annual conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) that the force had to “get to grips” with escalating sick leave and said a total of 134,000 sick days were lost in 2007.

“We are in danger of having spent the entire overtime budget by the end of August unless we bring in corrective measures,” Mr Leamy told assembled delegates.

“There have been firm warnings from the Government, the minister and the department that there will be no more money.”

He said that last year the force spent €25 million over budget. “We went cap in hand to the Department of Justice. We got it last year, but we have been warned there will be no further funding this year. Things have changed.”

Mr Leamy, a former boss in the Revenue Commissioners, was appointed to the new civilian post of chief administrative officer in the gardaí six months ago.

He told superintendents that 130,000 sick days were lost in 2006 and 134,000 in 2007. He said he was setting up a new occupational health service to try and address the problem.

He said the Police Service of Northern Ireland had managed to cut sickness absences by 50% and the London Met by 30%.

“A 30% reduction in the Garda Síochána would be the equivalent of 186 gardaí for frontline duty or €10m in savings. We have to try and get to grips with escalating sick leave,” he said.

Speaking to reporters at the conference, Garda commissioner Fachtna Murphy confirmed there would be no budget bail outs.

“There’s not going to be any supplementary budget this year, but as far as I’m concerned we have the budget, we have to manage it.

“I’m allocating €20m for Operation Anvil, I’m quite happy with the budget. There is no cutting back on the budget.”

He assured the public about the latest overtime difficulties: “More gardaí on the street is what I can tell the public. We are increasing the strength of the force in line with the Government’s decision to bring it to 15,000 and we are also bringing in more civilians people,” he said.

Justice Minister Brian Lenihan told delegates the overall Garda budget increased by 11% to €11.6 billion in 2008, including an overtime budget of €100m.

He said this provided for an expanded Operation Anvil and visible policing, giving almost 3.4 million extra Garda hours.

The Garda Representative Association said when the number of sick days were divided by the 14,000 gardaí in the force, it translated to less than 10 days per garda per year.

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