Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government Phil Hogan avoided protesters awaiting his arrival by using a back entrance to enter the venue for the MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal.

About 50 people protesting against the household and septic tank charges ran from the front of the Highlands Hotel in Glenties to the rear when his car drove in.

They were chanting ''can't pay won't pay'' as they pushed against a line of gardaí trying to stop them reaching the minister, who is due to address the conference.

A small number breached the garda line but did not enter the hotel.

Earlier, former Fianna Fáil minister Noel Dempsey told attendants that if the public service stopped dealing with correspondence from politicians for a year it would free up 17,000 weeks of public and civil service time.

Mr Dempsey said about €9m will this year be eaten up answering parliamentary questions tabled purely about local constituency and parochial matters.

He said that this would be a disgrace at any time, but that in times of austerity it is a scandal.

The former minister said there is no chance it is going to change any time soon because politicians would not forgo their right to send correspondence as this would mean they would not get re-elected.

If they decided to stop this would be futile because others would up their level of correspondence. He said this is just one example of the self-perpetuating, in-built inertia in the electoral system.

Mr Dempsey said that instead of doing what they are supposed to do, the majority of our politicians, once elected, pander to the local interests when they are not “feeding the media beast”.

He said that in our system it is considered a virtue to focus on the local rather than the national.

The number of TDs is not the problem, he said, rather it is what they do, or more accurately, what they do not do.

Mr Dempsey said our system encourages opposition for the sake of opposition.

He said he supports Minister Hogan’s approach to reforming local government.

However, he said it needs to go further, suggesting the abolishment of regional authorities and regional assemblies. He said they have no real powers, responsibilities or functions.

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform told the school how the reform plan is changing the public service.

Robert Watt said flexible redeployment is ensuring that staff resources are being assigned to where they are most needed to meet operational priorities and eliminating the need to recruit new staff and securing substantial savings.

He said that new roster arrangements will ensure more gardaí are available for frontline duty at peak hours.

Additional working hours are being implemented in schools and universities resulting in fewer in-house training days and more teaching hours, he said.

Recently agreed proposals for mobility between the public and private sectors will see the career break scheme being revised to permit participants to take up paid employment in Ireland for a career break of three years.

A scheme to permit one-year exchanges of staff between the Civil Service and the private sector will be put in place on a pilot basis and reviewed after two years.