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Spain: Government Study To Reform Public Services
Source: http://www.theleader.info/article/36418/spain/national/government-study-to-to-reform-public-services/
Source Date: Monday, October 29, 2012
Focus: Citizen Engagement, Internet Governance
Country: Spain
Created: Nov 01, 2012

The government's objective is to improve the running of public services, avoid duplication and reduce bureaucracy. The government has also approved measures to draw actual retirement age closer to the legal retirement age and avoid older people being ejected from the labour market.

The Council of Ministers agreed to set up a committee to reform the public administration services, which will include representation from all ministerial departments, the aim of which is to establish a comprehensive reform programme of these services.

The Vice-President of the Government, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, stressed that this is the last step in carrying a complete audit of Spain's administrative structures so that they generate quality, become more efficient and do not overlap. "It is a question of better management to provide better services and, above all, being more efficient and making much better use of public resources".

The committee will need to issue the corresponding report prior to 30 June 2013. Its proposals and reports will comply with the mandate from the Conference of Regional Heads of Government on speeding up the operation of public administration services.

The Vice-President of the Government asserted that the broadest possible consensus is being sought for this reform, and hence there will be dialogue with all the political groups. "In this respect, all of the public administration services must be forward-thinking; it is not a question of looking at what we have from a point of view of our patrimony but rather of how can we design an administration of the right size that still provides good public services", she stated.

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría explained that on Friday the working plan was approved with a structure divided into four sub-committees. The aim of the first is to avoid duplication and avoid various ministerial departments overlapping in exercising the same competence. The second aims to achieve administrative simplification. "We must draft better laws, well articulated and, above all, more flexible and faster procedures with less bureaucracy", stated the Vice-President of the Government.

The third committee seeks better management in human and material services and resources, as would occur if procurement were centralised. "We will perform an audit of public contracts at a Central Government level in order to unify and achieve better prices", she indicated.

The Vice-President of the Government announced that the fourth committee will analyse the plurality of existing public and regional administration bodies to determine how many exist, what they do and if any can be eliminated or merged. She also reiterated that a process of eliminating public bodies is already being carried out. "We have spent the last 30 years setting up new bodies but not eliminating any; that is what we are going to do now.

This is an audit from top to bottom of the public administration services; a mechanical task to draw up a map of what we have, which has never been done before but now is undoubtedly the time to do so".

Procedures for collective dismissals
The government has approved a regulation to develop the procedures that companies must follow to perform collective dismissals, suspend contracts and reduce working hours on economic, technical, organisational or productive grounds, or for causes of force majeure.

The Minister for Employment and Social Security, Fátima Báñez, explained that the regulation develops the provisions established in the labour reform starting with the elimination of the requirement for prior administrative authorisation for collective dismissals, which will be replaced by the notification of the business decision to the labour authorities. She also asserted that the Royal Decree establishes a consultation period as the essence of the whole collective dismissal procedure. It is a question of guaranteeing that workers are informed so that they can come to equitable solutions with their employers.

Fátima Báñez announced that a new feature of collective dismissals when affecting more than 50 workers is that the obligation to prepare an external placement plan to facilitate their reincorporation into the job market.

Workers aged over 50
The Council of Ministers approved a Royal Decree on the economic contributions to be made by companies showing a profit that carry out collective dismissals affecting workers aged 50 or over.

Fátima Báñez pointed out that the main objective of the measure is to moderate "the impact of the premature and unfair expulsion from the labour market of older workers". "We believe this to be contrary to the government's policy on the matter and the recommendations of the European Union. Furthermore, these are the workers with greatest experience and we feel that it is unfair for them to be discriminated against on grounds of age", she said.

The regulation endeavours to reduce the economic impact of dismissals on the public accounts because public funds are used to pay unemployment benefits. It also seeks to guarantee the Social Security system and draw the actual retirement age closer to the legal retirement age, according to the Minister for Employment.

The minister highlighted that the regulation will be applied to companies with over 100 workers that have recorded a profit in the previous two years that perform collective dismissals which include workers aged 50 or over. These companies must make an economic contribution to the State to offset the impact on the system to protect the unemployed. According to Fátima Báñez, it is not a question of preventing companies from adjusting their workforce, but rather that this adjustment should not be a burden for the State.

Toledo Pact
The government agreed to submit a report on the sustainability of the public pension system and the voluntary extension of working life to the Parliamentary Committee to Oversee and Assess the Toledo Pact Agreements.
The report shows that one in two retirements that take place in Spain are early retirements, according to Fátima Báñez, who also pointed out that there are imbalances in the configuration of semi-retirements and that abusive situations are common in the use of replacement contracts.

The minister stressed that the government seeks "to draw the actual retirement age closer to the legal retirement age, extend active working life voluntarily, discourage early retirement due to its prejudicial effect on the economic system and the viability of the system and adapt current regulations to the aging population in line with the measures taken by the previous government in this respect".

Current affairs
During her press briefing, the Vice-President of the Government referred to the extension of the ICO [official credit institute] liquidity line authorised by the Delegate Committee for Economic Affairs on Thursday. "This aim to help entrepreneurs, particularly retail trade, with a fund of 9 million euros and a maximum of 30,000 euros  per client", she said.

The journalists asked for the government's assessment of the data from the Active Employment Survey (Spanish acronym: EPA) announced this morning. The Vice-President pointed out in this respect that when data shows an increase in the number of unemployed, this can never be positive, but that precisely because of that, this represents an incentive for the government to move forward and to work as hard and as quickly as possible". She also mentioned positive data regarding the Spanish economy which, according to the indicators, is gaining in terms of competitiveness and shows dynamic figures in sectors such as exports and tourism.

As regards the operation of the code of good banking practices, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría referred to a future performance report, and ratified that if, as a result of this work "it is necessary to turn the screw once again, then this will be done".

In respect of the non-participation of the public workers trade union CSIF in the general strike called for 14 November, she highlighted the independence of this trade union which sees this as a political strike. She also positively assessed the call from the State Secretary for Public Administration Services to promote dialogue.

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