Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016

Executive Summary


Public services are essential to the functioning of our economy and our society. A strong and effective Public Service is recognised as a source of competitive advantage for any country. The Irish Public Service has already made a major contribution to national recovery and, as the country now enters a new phase after the conclusion of the troika programme, the Public Service must continue to play a central role in our continued recovery. In this context, Public Service Reform will remain a key element of the strategic response to our ongoing challenges.
Two years since the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan was published, a renewed wave of reform has been developed, building on the progress made on implementing the first Reform Plan and setting out an ambitious new phase in the reform programme.

This new plan outlines the key cross-cutting and sectoral reform initiatives that will be implemented over the next three years. It also addresses the ambition for reform towards 2020. The plan is complemented by a progress report that sets out the strong progress that has been achieved on the implementation of the current Reform Plan in reducing costs, improving productivity, more online delivery of services and greater use of shared services, to name just some areas.

There are four key themes running through this new Reform Plan:

1. Delivery of improved outcomes

The previous phase of reform had a necessarily strong focus on reducing the cost of delivering public services. This next phase of reform will continue that work but it will have a strengthened focus on the delivery of improved outcomes for service users. This will be centred on using alternative models of service delivery, including commissioning for specific outcomes; more digital delivery of services; and service delivery improvements at sectoral and organisational levels.

2. Reform Dividend

There have been major efficiency and productivity gains in the Public Service in recent years, and we will build on these and deliver more. Under the new plan, the reform agenda will be about protecting and improving public services, and over the period of this plan, there will be an emphasis on Saving to Invest. This is about freeing up resources by making existing processes more cost effective and efficient, and using the savings to invest in new or improved services. This is the Reform Dividend and it will underpin and help sustain the reform agenda beyond the current fiscal crisis.

3. Digitalisation / Open Data

Technology is moving at an ever faster pace. The Public Service must embrace this and make maximum use of digitalisation and open data to deliver services and information in innovative ways. A new Government ICT Strategy will be published early in 2014 that will address the use of new and emerging technologies, ensuring that eGovernment is designed around real needs and taking steps to improve the take-up of Digital Government.

4. Openness and Accountability

Citizens must be able to clearly see that the Public Service is working fairly in its decision making, in implementing policy and in delivering public services. In this context, the political reform programme will focus on delivering greater openness, transparency and accountability to strengthen trust in government and public services, and enhance public governance. A particularly important development in this context is the publication of a consultation paper focused on strengthening Civil Service accountability and performance.
This new Public Service Reform Plan also addresses a wide range of other issues. These include, for example, the implementation of shared services models; the evaluation of new business models for the delivery of non-core services; the reform of public procurement; property rationalisation; strengthening leadership; and human resource management reforms.
We need to address the culture of the Public Service to ensure that it adapts to meet the challenges and opportunities that will arise in the coming years.
Many reforms are planned across the Public Service over the coming years that will improve how services are designed and delivered. The reform programme must be dynamic and responsive; this is why the first Reform Plan is now being refreshed. We need to ensure that the culture of the Public Service adapts to meet the challenges and opportunities that will arise in the coming years. This will support a Public Service that is better integrated, responsive, efficient and more focused on strategic goals and on service users.

Structure of the Plan

This plan commences by outlining the context for reform in Section 1. As the Public Service moves into a new phase of reform, public servants will continue to be critical to the success of the change programme and the delivery of better outcomes. These better outcomes will be achieved through a focus on service users, on efficiency and on openness, underpinned by a strong emphasis on leadership, capability and delivery. This approach is set out in Section 2 of this plan. These reforms form part of the vision for a new Public Service out to 2020, with the specific actions to be implemented over the next three years set out in the Appendix. Many of these outcomes will be delivered at sectoral level in areas such as health, education, local government and justice, as set out at a high level in Section 3 of this plan.


There was a commitment in the first Public Service Reform Plan of November 2011 to create a Public Service of which we can all be proud, delivering flexible and responsive services to our customers. This is a journey on which the Public Service has embarked. It is not complete yet but the actions set out in this plan will build on the considerable progress made to date and take us much further along that road.
© 2014 Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Contact