New figures to be published this week will show that the number of people employed in the public sector has gone below 300,000 for the first time in five years.

The figures are to be published in conjunction with plans for public sector reform, which are due to be agreed by Cabinet this morning.

The Programme for Government commits the coalition to reducing numbers in the public service by up to 25,000 by the end of 2015.

Numbers have already fallen and it is understood that figures to be published on Thursday will show that the total has gone below 300,000 for the first time since 2006.

The Cabinet will also discuss plans for shared services and e-government this morning.

A special Cabinet meeting yesterday agreed a target figure for the number of publicly funded bodies that are to be merged, abolished or reformed next year.

It is understood up to 50 such bodies could be affected.

Later today, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will face questions in the Dáil about bank interest rates.

The Government last week promised to introduce new legislation allowing the Financial Regulator to force banks to pass on ECB interest rate cuts to mortgage holders, but the regulator has made it clear that he does not want the power to do so.