There are also a number of demographic factors within the Public Service that will inform how it is equipped to meet current and future challenges. For example, the median age of staff in the Civil Service is now 48. While this means that there is a wealth of valuable experience and knowledge in the Public Service, it also necessitates workforce planning to replace public servants as they reach retirement age and an effective approach to knowledge management. New recruits will also bring new ideas and approaches to service planning and delivery.
1.1.2 Increased expectations
Increasingly, citizens and business customers expect a Public Service that meets their needs. They expect a service that is responsive, flexible, efficient and innovative. They expect to be able to avail of many services at any time and from any location. In this environment, the Public Service must change how it thinks about the services it provides, how it interacts with service users and how it manages data.
The public are not interested in organisational or sectoral boundaries. They see their relationship with the State in terms of services, irrespective of the back-office processes and the organisations involved. They expect the Public Service to be able to tackle complex, interconnected and sometimes conflicting cross-Public Service policy objectives. At the same time, the public expects the Public Service to provide value for money, to be cost-effective, and to be fair, open and accountable.
1.1.3 Rebuilding trust in government and public services
The Irish economy and Irish society has been through a major crisis in recent years. The reputation of the Public Service has been damaged, in common with many other major institutions. Building structures and a more open culture to deliver greater openness, accountability and improved and transparent decision-making are essential to re-building the relationship between the citizen and the State.
Citizens must be able to clearly see that the Public Service is working efficiently and fairly in its decision making, in implementing public policy and in delivering public services. In this context, the Government Reform programme is delivering on a suite of reforms in this area, the totality of which, when completed, will strengthen public governance and represent a new environment of clarity and openness in how the administrative and political pillars of the State deliver policy and services. This issue is addressed in Section 2.4 of this Plan.
1.1.4 Programme for Government
The Programme for Government 2011-2016
provided the backdrop for many of the reforms set out in the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan of November 2011, including cross-cutting, sectoral and political reforms, as well as operational efficiency measures.
Progress on the implementation of the Programme for Government is reported on an annual basis, with two reports published to date and a third report due in March 2014. Many commitments have already been delivered in full and there are others where substantial work is underway. Other commitments will take longer to deliver and will be implemented over the lifetime of the Government.
1.1.5 Fiscal situation
As a result of the economic and fiscal crisis, a wide range of measures designed to save almost €30 billion have been implemented. Over two-thirds of these adjustments have related to expenditure.
Even as Ireland has exited the troika programme, public expenditure will remain constrained by new EU rules which mean that growth in General Government Expenditure is linked to the potential real growth of the economy and is fixed in line with expenditure ceilings for three years. Expenditure will not be allowed to grow by a rate that is faster than potential economic growth unless compensatory discretionary measures are introduced, for example, through changes to tax policy resulting in increased revenues in a year. This would allow for the Government Expenditure Ceiling to be increased without affecting General Government Balance targets.
Gross voted spending has been reduced from its peak of €63.1 billion in 2009 to €54.6 billion in 2013. This represents a reduction of approximately 13.5%. The Government Expenditure limit for 2014 will be €52.9 billion and the expenditure limits for 2015 and 2016 will be €51.5 billion and €51.9 billion respectively.