Report recommends cost-benefit analysis should take account of natural wastage, cost of increased agency working and temporary consultancy work
Unite Regional Officer, Gareth Scott, who represents the union’s members working in the industrial civil service in Northern Ireland, welcomed the report’s findings and supported the call for a further interrogation of Voluntary Exit Scheme’s benefits:
“Today’s NI Audit Office report demonstrates the limitations of assessing the success of the NI Executive’s Voluntary Exit Scheme in the public sector solely in terms of the reduced payroll cost from reducing staff levels.
“The report confirms a range of negative outcomes including loss of key skills, reduced staff morale, increased customer complaints and decreased productivity. The overall cost of the first year of this scheme will be more than £200 million and has resulted in almost a ten percent reduction in civil service staffing levels; it is not unexpected that this scale of cuts to staffing will have a significant adverse impact on the quality of public services and employee morale.
“Although the NIAO was unable to quantify the unforeseen costs of this scheme, it does confirm that a number of public sector bodies have reported that workers leaving under the initiative have subsequently been re-employed. Unite believes a much bigger issue of concern is the replacement of full-time staffing through employment of, often the same workers, on temporary contracts or through agencies.
“The report calls for further research on the economic additionality of the scheme in order to discount benefit from staff members who would have left their posts in any case through natural wastage.
“The failure to quantify these deductions from the benefit calculation means that the analysis of the VE scheme’s financial benefits is not comprehensive.
“Even if this scheme does generate some financial benefit in the long-term; we have to ask whether reducing employment, impacting the quality of public service delivery and hugely increasing the pressure and strain on the remaining workforce is an acceptable cost. Instead of borrowing large sums to cut the public sector in the hope of rebalancing our economy, Unite is calling for investment to grow the productive side of the economy and sustain adequately staffed world-class public services”, Mr Scott concluded.