Politics

Cost-of-living measures will ‘only scratch the surface’, Opposition says


Measures due to be announced by the Government on Thursday to help tackle the cost of living “will only scratch the surface”, Sinn Fein has said.

The party has called for a €200 cash payment for those earning €30,000 or less and €100 for those on between €30,000 and €60,000 to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said no matter what the Government announced later today “it’s not going to be enough” and that the Opposition’s press releases are “already written”.

Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the State needed to get “money into people’s hands now” and that the Government didn’t understand the challenges facing ordinary workers and families.

“If you needed an example of that; we had a minister [Sean Fleming] going on national radio telling people to stop complaining while behind closed doors you, the Taoiseach, the leader of the Green Party and your Cabinet colleagues signed off on an €86,000 increase for a senior public servant who is now on a salary of nearly €300,000.” The Dongeal TD said the €100 electricity credit still hadn’t been delivered and won’t be “for weeks to come”.

Mr Varadkar said combined with a €1 billion cost of living measures in the budget, the additional package due to be announced on Thursday would be worth between €1.4 and €1.5 billion.

“That is a lot of money that the Government is saying we need to give back to people to help them with the rising cost of living but I know as well as you do that no matter what we announce today, it’s not going to be enough,” he told Mr Doherty.

“Your [Sinn Fein’s]press release is all already written; inadequate, not enough. I could write it for you, in fact it was probably written days ago.

“But promises are cheap, and promises are easy, and the public, more and more are seeing through you.

“They see what you’re not doing in Northern Ireland to help people with the cost of living and they know that promises are cheap. It’s so easy for any opposition party to say they’re going to do twice whatever the Government is going to do but people see through that and they know it’s not honest.”

Bertie-nomics

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the Tánaiste was engaged in “Bertie-nomics”, “trying to convince people that you can cut their taxes and tinker around the public service and that would all be fine”.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said the package of measures due to be announced were “token measures” and would be “a drop in the ocean compared to what ordinary families are having to grapple with”.

He said it was time for the Government to “shop around for some new ideas” and that a mini budget was needed as well as rent freeze and pay rises for people.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the country was facing a cost of living “emergency”.

“Working people, pensioners, the least well off, are being absolutely crucified by the stratospheric increase in the cost of accommodation, rents, energy prices and all sorts of other costs of living rising,” he said.

“What absolutely infuriates me is that the Government pretends like this is like the weather, that ‘it’s not really to do with us, it has something to do with international pressures, it’s not our responsibility and we can’t really do anything about’.”

Package

The Government will today unveil a package worth up to €450 million aimed at tackling the soaring cost of living for households countrywide.

Officials were last night finalising details of the plan aimed at offsetting rising inflation with relief expected for electricity bills, low-income families and those struggling with fuel costs.

Mr Varadkar told his party last night that the measures would be “substantial”, helping those on low and middle incomes.

Under final proposals being discussed last night, the household energy credit could rise from the planned amount of €100 to either €150 or €200. A doubling of the energy credit would push the overall cost to the State up to an estimated €400 million.

Sources confirmed that more targeted action could mean a planned increase in the working family payment brought forward.

Officials were also weighing up a longer fuel allowance season, but no decision has been made. And several sources cautioned that it is already due to run until April and may be left that way.

Detailed announcement

The Cabinet committee on economic recovery will meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss the measures and sources said a detailed announcement is expected afterwards.

There is a strong view in Fine Gael that middle-income households should be included in the package. Mr Varadkar said that new measures to be introduced this week to tackle the rising cost of living would not be reserved for the unemployed and those on low incomes.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath briefed the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party on inflationary pressures last night. He told TDs and Senators that there should be a focus on measures already taken – such as childcare fees being frozen, free GP care for six- and seven-year-olds, alongside discounted travel for younger people and changes to welfare payments.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the meeting that inflation is driven largely by international factors, however, he said the Coalition is “acutely aware” of its impact on households.




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