Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Michéal Martin outside Government Buildings today Sasko Lazarov/
Cost of Living

The government has announced a new cost-of-living package. Here's what's in it

The new cost-of-living measures were confirmed today.

A ONCE-OFF €100 child benefit payment and a €200 lump sum for social welfare recipients will be paid out as part of the cost-of-living measures agreed by the Cabinet today.

Similar to the Christmas bonus payment, pensioners, carers, those on disability and working family payments, lone parents, and those on the widow’s pension will receive the €200 payment in April. 

In addition, those in receipt of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance will receive €100 extra.

It was also announced that the State exam fees – for the Junior and Leaving Certificate – are again being waived. These fees were also waived last year. 

The waiver means that a usual fee of €116 for the Leaving Cert exams and €109 for the Junior Cert exams will not have to be paid by students.

Reduced charges will apply to school transport of €50 per pupil at primary level, €75 per pupil at post-primary level, with a cap per family of €125.

The free hot school meals programme is being extended to all primary schools that have Deis status, along with all special schools. 

Excise duty cuts were due to be scrapped from next week which would have resulted in petrol increasing overnight by 23 cent and diesel by 18 cent. However, a phased restoration of the rates of excise on petrol, diesel and marked gas oil will take place in three stages over the coming eight months. 

This will see rates restored on 1 June by 6 cent per litre of petrol, 5 cent per litre of diesel and 1 cent per litre of marked gas oil.

On 1 September these rates will increase by a further 7 cent for petrol, 5 cent diesel, 1 cent for marked gas.

Rates will then be fully restored on 31 October with a final increase of 8 cent for petrol, 6 cent for diesel, and 3 cent for market gas oil. 

Today’s announcement comes as a number of one-off measures introduced alongside Budget 2023 were due to expire at the end of the month.

These include the energy credit scheme for households, with the final €200 payment due in March, the reduced 9% VAT rate for hospitality, as well as electricity and gas bills, and the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS).

Cost of Living 002 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar briefing media at Government Buildings today Sasko Lazarov / Sasko Lazarov / /

Business supports

Varadkar confirmed today that the TBESS is “being expanded and improved”. 

The Scheme will be extended to 31 May. 

The threshold for qualification will be reduced from a 50% increase in electricity or gas costs to 30% increase. This will be backdated to 1 September 2022. 

Announcing the new measures at Government Buildings today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “This helps businesses with their energy and gas costs. It means more businesses will qualify. They will qualify for more financial support, and it will be backdated to September.” 

The Government is to develop a grant scheme for LPG and Kerosene.

The 9% VAT rate for hospitality and tourism will continue until 31 August, but this will be the final extension. 

The 9% VAT rate on electricity and gas is being extended to the end of October. 

Varadkar said there may be a further electricity credit but any confirmation would be closer to Budget 2024.

Today’s package comes to a cost of around €1.3 billion. 

“As I think everyone knows, we’re experiencing a very major cost of living crisis of both in Ireland and globally,” Varadkar told reporters. 

“A lot of people are struggling to make ends meet, and businesses are grappling with rising costs,” he said. 

“Because of the strength of our economy, and the health of our public finances, the Government has been able to respond dynamically to help people, families, businesses and farmers to manage rising costs over the past year.”

Tánaiste Michéal Martin told reporters that inflation appears to have peaked and is now trending downwards. 

However, he warned that “we cannot take that for granted”, adding this may change if energy prices increase again. 

Package criticised

In the Dáil this afternoon, there was criticism of the Government’s cost-of-living package, with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald hitting out at the lack of action on housing.

“I can’t understand how the three men leading Government, after spending two months in talks could produce a package that is silent on housing,” McDonald said.

“We know that extortionate housing costs are at the very heart of this crisis and yet there’s nothing here for renters.

“There’s nothing here for mortgage holders either, battered by a barrage of interest rate increases. They’re forced to pay hundreds more in mortgage repayments and there is still more to come.”

McDonald called for the Government to introduce a rent freeze, introduce targeted mortgage relief and to extend the eviction ban until the end of the year.

With reporting by Christina Finn, Tadgh McNally, Órla Ryan and Press Association

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