An additional 350 public servants were employed in state agencies last year despite government commitments over two years ago to rationalise the 600-plus state agencies.

Gaeltacht minister Pat Carey is among the worst offenders when it comes to increasing staff numbers in the agencies under his remit. In Waterways Ireland, staff numbers increased from 355 last year to 367 this year while the number of employees in An Foras Teanga, which promotes the Irish and Ulster-Scots language, rose from 68 staff last year to 74.

Other bodies to up staff numbers include the Northside and Southside Limerick Regeneration Agency, which went from six to 16, and the Private Residential Tenancies Board, which increased staff numbers from 55 to 69.

The increase in numbers suggests that while some agencies may have been abolished or merged, staff are being shunted around to other agencies or back to government departments.

Wages are by far the biggest cost of state agencies, with a paybill of €600m in 2010. So the savings from cutting the actual agencies will be minimal unless staff are also cut.

But the government cannot arbitrarily sack agency staff when their agency is abolished. They can offer a voluntary redundancy package but this would require significant upfront costs for the exchequer and has not been offered to date.