Govt looking at ‘range of charges’ over cost of living
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Government will look to see what it can do to alleviate pressure quickly on those who are hardest hit by inflation.
He said this is “not going to be a mini-budget” but it will look at a range of charges from health to transport to see what it can do.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, he said there will be no increase in the base rate of social welfare but there are other mechanisms they could consider such as fuel allowance.
Mr Martin said he hopes by the end of the week they can announce these proposals following further discussions this week. “Work is being done on this.”
He said it is finding the balance between “targeting” and “speed” at which they react as the Government understands “people are suffering”.
“I don’t have specific timelines”, he said when asked about when people will benefit from measures, as that will depend on specific mechanisms.
He indicated that some measures may be once off and others may be sustainable in terms “of reducing charges for people”.
He said different people are impacted in different ways and they have to focus on protecting those on low incomes.
“We did increase the fuel allowance in the Budget and eligibility for the fuel allowance and brought in targeted social welfare measures,” he added.
He said the backdrop of people struggling with the cost of living is one of “very significant inflation” over the last six months.
The Taoiseach said while economically there has been a tremendous rebound from the pandemic, people are feeling the brunt of this inflation cycle.
He said this action will be on top of what was outlined in the Budget.
“There is a range of measures we are going to examine,” he explained, adding it will include “home heating, fuel and basic necessities”.
He said the increase in carbon tax will happen on 1 May.
However, he said this week the Government will be announcing a major retro-fitting programme which will reduce home heating bills by €400 or €500 a year.
He said the grants will be very extensive and the funding for this comes from carbon tax.
Climate change cannot go off the agenda, he stated, adding “other measures cushion people against the costs of increases in fuel, home heating, car fuel and so on”.
Earlier, Fine Gael TD and Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said the Government is responding quickly to the rising cost of living and is flexible in its approach.
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Ms Naughton said it is looking at a range of measures to support people and not just those on lower incomes but also to include those “in the squeezed middle”.
“This week the sub-cabinet committee will be meeting,” she said and added that they will have proposals in the coming weeks.
Part of the focus will be on an energy rebate scheme as it is one area that “can encompass as many people as possible,” she added.
She said social welfare payments will also be considered.
Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly accused the Government of “failing to grasp” the scale of the problem and said there are “no specifics at all” outlined by the Government to address the cost of living crisis.
She said the cost of childcare and rent are two issues that need to be addressed urgently, and said the situation is “beyond a crisis at this stage”.
People need measures to be implemented to alleviate the pressure they are under as the cost of living is spiralling out of control, she added.
Labour Party TD Ged Nash stated there is “no urgency” from the Government regarding this “real world crisis” and said they do not get the extent of the problem of how people try to make ends meet.
He said the reality is Ireland is a low paid economy with 23% of workers considered to be on low pay and that is why so many people are struggling.
Aontu leader Peadar Tóibín outlined that the spending power of most families is €2,000 less this year compared to last year due to inflation.
He also referred to the issue of Ireland being “the sixth most expensive state in the EU”.
“The only thing keeping warm is the Government’s hands, as they are sitting on their hands in a time of great need.”
He also criticised the Government for not asking the EU for a reduction on VAT. “It is an incredible situation.”
He said public services are very expensive in Ireland compared to most other European countries.
The €100 electricity grant needs to be focused on low and middle income earners and that giving it to high income earners is wrong, he argued.