A decision on cutting the €1.5 billion allowances bill for public servants has been deferred.

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the issue was discussed at Cabinet today but no decision was reached.

The late start of the meeting was blamed and the spokesperson said it was expected there would now be further discussion on the matter.

The Government has previously pledged to reduce the allowances bill by €75m in 2012, by €150m in 2013 and by a further €150m in 2014.

The 800 allowances range from qualification allowances for teachers, to rent allowance for gardaí, to underwear, keyholder and shoe allowances.

However, delays in bringing the matter to Cabinet and in reaching a decision on proposals to cut the cost of allowances have reduced the scope for savings.

In addition, it is expected that very few serving public servants will experience cuts in their allowances, with the reductions being targeted at new recruits.

The Irish Times reported today that the only allowance likely to be cut for serving public servants was that held by private secretaries for ministers and the Taoiseach.

At present a private secretary to a minister receives an allowance of €20,685 on top of their basic salary, while the private secretary to the Taoiseach receives €24,427.

However, if they serve for more than a year in that post, they retain half of the allowance for the rest of their career.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said last week that the review of allowances had been more difficult than envisaged.

However, he stressed that the Government intended to meet its overall targets for cutting payroll.

The Taoiseach asked ministers and Secretaries General of government departments, to see what further savings they can make under the Croke Park public service agreement, with a view to reporting back next week.

A Government spokesperson said the exercise was not a review of the deal, but was part of an initiative to reinvigorate the agreement in order to see what savings it could yield.