54. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the decision to cancel Garda overtime in the Dublin metropolitan region for the remainder of 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51693/17]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): At the outset, can I say that the allocation and management of the overtime budget is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner having due regard to the available resources and his operational needs.
In this context, I would inform the House that I presented a supplementary estimate to the Select Committee last Thursday which provides for additional expenditure of some €58.1 million in gross terms for the Garda Vote, including an additional €50.489 million for the pay subhead of which over €42 million is for overtime.
This will bring the overtime budget for 2017 to over €130 million. By any standards, this is a significant sum, particularly when compared to the spend in previous years - €91 million in 2016, €56 million in 2015 and some €37.7 million in 2014.
Further, Budget 2018 provides for just under €100 million in overtime next year.
I am sure that the Deputy will agree that it is incumbent on Garda management to manage these substantial sums effectively for each financial year and I am satisfied that Garda management is acutely aware of the need to utilise the resources being made available to them in the most efficient and effective manner to ensure high visibility policing in our communities. This entails proper budgetary planning to ensure that the overtime requirements for any given year can be met in a managed and coherent way from the available resources. This House votes the resources available to the Commissioner of the day. It is his or her job as Commissioner and as Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote to manage those resources prudently.
I am informed by the Commissioner that all Assistant Commissioners and Executive Directors were requested to ensure that the usage of overtime for the roster ending on 3 December did not exceed the annual budget of €131 million which includes a Supplementary Estimate of €42.5 million.
I am further informed that there was no question of all overtime in the Dublin Metropolitan Region being cancelled for the remainder of 2017 as suggested by the Deputy.
It is important to note that overtime worked in December actually falls due to be paid from the 2018 budget and, as I have indicated, just under €100 million has been made available for overtime in 2018.
I have also been assured by the Commissioner that any misunderstanding that arose internally in relation to the availability of necessary overtime in the period leading up to Christmas has been clarified by the relevant Assistant Commissioner.
It is also important to note that overtime cannot be taken in isolation to the other resources available to An Garda Síochána.
For example, a further 800 Gardai will have been recruited by the end of this year and Budget 2018 also provides for this level of continuing recruitment. Provision has also been made for significant civilian recruitment which will allow for the redeployment of Gardaí from behind desks to the front-line to do what they have been trained and are being paid to do.
Indeed, some €1.65 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2018. This is an increase of approximately 2% over the allocation for 2017 and includes, as I have stated, almost €100 million for Garda overtime. Some €1.61 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2017 and €1.55 billion in 2016.
This demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.
I am sure that the Deputy will agree that Garda management must continue to deliver on the extensive Garda Reform Programme that is currently underway and extract maximum benefit from the opportunities presented by that Programme, which is supported by unprecedented levels of public funding.
The Programme is being facilitated by the Government’s vision of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.
In particular, the increase in civilians will provide extensive opportunities to An Garda Síochána to redeploy significant numbers of Gardaí from administrative duties to front-line duties thereby reducing the need for overtime proportionately.
Further benefits will accrue from the proposed increase in the Garda Reserve.
I would like to stress that, while this Government has not been found wanting in providing resources to An Garda Síochána, it remains incumbent on Garda management to manage effectively and efficiently the significant resources being made available to them.
My Department will, of course, be keeping all aspects of the Garda Budget under close review in conjunction with Garda Management during the course of 2018.