RE: We are all a bunch of layabouts
There's certainly a risk. There is, at the moment, a bit of a vacuum of sensible, considered policy discussion happening at the highest level. A lot of the discourse about transparency, openness and accountability is a race to the bottom, typified by random allegations of money being spent on "frivolities" such as staff training. As Michael O'Higgins says it is meaningless to highlight some random items of expenditure and use them to support a far more general thesis, that the AC is somehow a waste of space. It's one step removed from being an ad hominem attack.
Sadly this also comes across in the Spending Challenge website (have a read of that if you want to get even more depressed) - although there are some excellent suggestions they are swamped in a sea of ill-informed opinion.
It isn't really evidence-based policy-making at its best. There seems to be little understanding of the on-the-ground impact of the level of spending cuts we're talking about, and no real thinking about how unpopular spending decisions will be held to account and analysed. I'm not talking about just Ministers here - this applies to officials, civil servants and other politicians too, from all parties.
The question is whether things will get better or worse after CSR - you could be positive and think that CSR might provide some necessary focus to the debate, or there is the alternative possibility that everyone will just panic and Q3 and Q4 this year will be bedlam. I remain confident that the reason why things have been so febrile recently is that everyone *knows* that big cuts are around the corner but nobody knows the detail yet - consequently, this narrative has started to develop that "public services are inefficient" as a way to manage the process.