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No 'magic money tree' to help with fuel costs, says minister as pump prices jump above €2 a litre

Minister Heather Humphreys says remote working is a ‘sensible option’ for those looking to cut costs.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

DESPITE FUEL JUMPING above €2 a litre at many pumps across the country, the Government is reluctant to move on further reductions in taxes on petrol and diesel, according to Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys.

Speaking to reporters in Dundalk this morning, where she was launching a new voucher scheme to encourage more people to take up remote working in digital hubs around the country, the minister said the Government does not have a “magic money tree” to help cut fuel prices further. 

Asked specifically if the Government will intervene before the Budget in October to help ease the burden of the rising cost of petrol and diesel, Humphreys said the cost of living package has already gone a long way to help people. 

“There are limits on what Government can do. We do not have a magic money tree, there’s no doubt about that,” she said.

“The Government has already provided a support package of €2.5 billion and we have done a lot. I think for people to say we’ve done nothing is wrong.

“We have done a huge amount, we have the cut the excise on diesel and on petrol, we have cut the VAT on gas and electricity, we have reduced public transport fares by 20%.

“So we have done an awful lot already,” she said. 

When asked what price petrol and diesel will have to rise to before the Government steps in again, she said “we have already given cuts, in terms of the excise duty on the diesel and on the petrol”.

Stats released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) this week show that the wholesale price index for diesel and fuel oil have reached their highest levels since records began in 2000. Petrol reached record highs in February but has dipped slightly in the months since.

The most recent fuel price stats from the AA, which cover the month of May, found that the average pump price across Ireland for petrol was 191.9 cent per litre and diesel was 194.6c per litre.

The company calculates that the price of petrol before taxes are added is 91.25 cent per litre and for diesel it’s 104.3c per litre.

Cost of living

The minister stated that she is “obviously very conscious of the impact the cost of living increases are having” on people, stating that in the next week, her own department will be promoting a hardship fund that people that fall on hard times can access.

“There’s a major campaign underway at the minute on across the media to tell people that if you are in difficulty, contact your community welfare officer, social protection is there to help. So we want to make people aware of this,” she said. 

In order to save on fuel costs, the minister said people should consider remote working at home or in one of the digital hubs. 

“If people can work remotely, they will find a hub very close because there are so many hubs across the country now. So rather than travelling to Dublin, for example, you’d be able to stay here in Dundalk.”

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Humphreys said remote working is a “sensible thing to do” given the rising costs associated with commuting to work, adding that she believes it also provides for a better quality of life. 

It doesn’t work for all workers or employers, but it is a conversation that should be had with employers, she added. 

The minister said employers should be minded to offer such flexible work options to employees, if they so wish, stating “it’s actually an employees market at the minute” in terms of job opportunities. 

Employers who offer remote working are more likely to retain employees, she said, adding that it’s another add on in terms of their terms and conditions. 

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