Job losses are inevitable as a government department battles to make £5m savings, the Minister in charge admits.
Infrastructure Minister Laurence Skelly said he could not at this stage say how many jobs would go – and confirmed compulsory redundancies could not be ruled out, although they would be very much a last resort.
Outlining the huge scale of the budgetary challenge facing his department, he said the cost savings of £5m made up a half of government’s overall target for 2014-15.
He praised staff for meeting last year’s budget objectives, despite extra costs arising from the severe snow storms and tidal flooding – but warned of more difficult decisions ahead.
Alternative means of service delivery, slimming down the workforce and the introduction of new charges to generate additional income are among the options under review.
Mr Skelly said: ‘We are under no illusions about the size of the task ahead. The challenge of securing savings of £5m, on the back of the significant cost reductions that have already been achieved, is one that will require a bold and innovative response.’
The DoI has saved £3m in staff costs since 2011-12 through a reduction of more than 100 full-time posts but staff costs remain a major area of expenditure.
Mr Skelly said: ‘To meet a savings target of £5m it is inevitable there will be an impact on jobs. Any reductions will be made principally through retirements and voluntary departures, although compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out. We appreciate this is an unsettling time and are continuing to work closely with employees and unions.’
Merging divisions has led to a rationalisation of management structures while work carried out as part of the Scope of Government review has identified the potential for new methods of service delivery, including outsourcing certain functions to the private sector.
The DoI has assumed responsibility for shared services in cleaning, caretaking, fleet management and estates services, and is targeting additional savings in these areas.
It is currently inviting applications from members of staff for voluntary resignation through the Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme.
The department is also looking at introducing new charges to help create extra revenue. A number of options are under review but Mr Skelly said no firm decisions have yet been taken.