The cabinet has again deferred a decision on cutting the €1.5 billion allowances bill for public servants.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the issue was discussed at cabinet today but no decision was reached.

The spokesperson blamed the late start of the meeting this afternoon and said it was expected that 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 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 targetted at new recruits.

However, there again the scope for savings is limited as very few new staff are being hired for the public service due to a moratorium on recruitment.

Today the Irish Times reported 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.

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.

Last week, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the review of allowances had been more difficult than envisaged - but stressed that the government intended to meet its overall targets for cutting payroll.