We need to see a more aggressive “dequangoisation” of Ireland, Limerick Fine Gael Deputy Patrick O’Donovan told the Dáil.
“They were left grow out of proportion at every crossroads in the country and they were given made up roles and responsibilities,” he said. “Those organisations debased the real public servants, who are the people at the coalface whose sole responsibility is to deliver a public service to the customers.”
Speaking on a new Public Service Management Bill, he said when we talk about public services, there is a temptation to forget that the service user is actually a customer. He or she pays for the service by way of taxation or by charge. Much effort has been made over the last few years by local authorities to measure how services are being rolled out across communities, but more can be done to communicate how the services are being rolled out and the effectiveness of them.
“My own county of Limerick is a test case for much of what is contained in this Bill in terms of redeployment,” he said. “The role of Shannon Development and Shannon Airport has been changed. Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council are to be merged, we will see changes within the enterprise boards, the development boards are gone and we will probably see changes in LEADER companies as well.”
Some of them are quangos and others are public services, he said. There is a body of work that needs to be done to improve the morale of those organisations and to translate how that work is carried out on the ground.
“When we remove the quangos and layers from the country, we must ensure that we do not add cost to the customer who is a service user, be it a small business, a pensioner or whatever. We must not add costs by virtue of the fact that we are reducing the number of people in there.”
No scope for additional teachers to reduce class sizes – O’Sullivan
There is no scope to give any consideration to the provision of additional teachers in order to reduce class sizes in the Budget and anybody who suggests otherwise is not operating in the real world, Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan told the Upper House.
Replying to Sinn Fein Senator David Cullinane she said while difficult choices had to be made to identify savings across the Department’s budget, the Government will endeavour to protect front-line education services as best as possible.
“However, this must be done within the context of bringing our overall public expenditure into line with what we can afford as a country,” she said. “The challenge will be to ensure that the resources which can be provided are used to maximum effect to achieve the best possible outcome for pupils.”
Government decisions on reductions in resources in any area are not taken lightly nor are they taken in isolation from the likely impact, she said. The key challenge is to do this while also improving outcomes.
“We all have to achieve more with less,” she said. “Within the schools sector we know from international research that although class size is a factor, the quality of teaching is a far more significant factor in determining outcomes. We therefore have to focus on the drivers of good performance. We need to have the right people becoming teachers. We need the right training for them in college and we need to support them with the right professional development throughout their career. To this end we are making significant changes to both the structure and format of initial teacher education so that our colleges and teachers are comparable with the best in the world.”
At school level there is a need to foster and develop a culture of self-evaluation, she said.
“In addition to supporting school self-evaluation, our school inspection system will continue to provide robust external evaluation of schools and promote improvement in quality and standards in teaching and learning,” she said. “This, along with targeted initiatives such as those for improving literacy and numeracy, will help to restore and improve our education system and improve the way it compares with our international competitors.”