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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
cost of living crisis

Budget aims to help 'most vulnerable' and the 'squeezed middle', says McGrath

Cabinet could decide next week to bring the Budget forward to the end of September.

LAST UPDATE | Jul 1st 2022, 4:20 PM


THIS YEAR’S BUDGET, which is expected to be held earlier than usual, will aim to help the “most vulnerable” and the “squeezed middle”, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath told the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting today.

Childcare, pension hikes, housing and public transport were all up for discussion at the special meeting on Budget 2023. 

McGrath told his party members that the budget, which could be held in September instead of October this year, will include a cost-of-living package that need to be “substantial” and “implemented quickly”. 

There will be an emphasis on public services, such as access to health, housing, education, childcare, disability services, older people, as well as a welfare and tax package. 

McGrath said the budget will deliver an “immediate tangible benefit for most vulnerable”. 

He said working families will see a tangible reduction in health and childcare costs, and there will be improvements in key public services.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting and reacting to the recent electricity and gas price hikes announced today, the Taoiseach said “there will be a package” to help alleviate costs for people. 

“By the time that increase comes in, the gap between that and the budget will be relatively short,” he said.

Government is working on the best way to alleviate the pressure on households in terms of their disposable income and in a way that doesn’t further exacerbate the inflationary realm, he said. 

He said he also wants to ensure that the money doesn’t go into the pockets of those that don’t need the dig out. 

One of the key objectives of Government is climate action and also reducing public transport costs. 

Housing formed a big discussion point at the meeting, with members raising the Central Bank mortgage lending rules, and calling for people that pay extortionate rent having that fed into the amount they could borrow.

“I think also we’re conscious that a lot of smaller landlords are exiting the market. We’ve got to address that,” said the Taoiseach.

mcGrath said earlier today that it is possible there will be a “modest change” in bringing the Budget forward.

McGrath said the Government is examining whether it is possible to bring forward the date of the Budget and a decision will be made by Cabinet next week.

He said it is being worked through and the process of moving the Budget date is “very much under way”, with it likely being brought forward to the end of September.

“No decision has been made by Government yet to change that date and the issue is under consideration, but I would say this, there is limited scope to change that because the process of putting together a Budget is a lengthy and complex process,” McGrath told RTE Morning Ireland.

“We are working through that at the moment and the process is very much under way.

“So Government will make a final decision and I anticipate that will happen next week.

“We are very conscious of the genuine cost-of-living pressures that people are under and we have said that there will be a need in the autumn for a set of one-off measures to help people in the best way that we can.

“So if it is possible to bring it forward by a short period of time, within the limits, then we are examining that issue at the moment, but no decision has been made, and any change would be modest in nature in terms of date.

“I don’t think it will be fair to speculate on any particular date when no decision has been made.

‘Bringing it forward’

“It is possible that there will be a modest change in terms of bringing it forward. But that’s not definite until Government makes a decision and they expect that will happen next week.”

McGrath said the measures to be announced as part of the Budget package will be targeted at those most impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.

He said it will involve one-off measures, adding they will be substantial in scale.

While he refused to give details on some of the proposed budgetary measures, he did not rule out including an electricity grant of €200.

It has been flagged previous that a further electricity credit might be on the cards, however it is understood that if it is rolled out, it could be more targeted that the the previous round in April.

“I would like to just set out three broad priorities. One is those who are genuinely the most vulnerable, they will need the most help at this time,” McGrath said.

“But people who are working, working families will also need help because they too are feeling real pressure at this time.

“They will want to see us as a Government move to reduce costs in areas like childcare, transport, health, and to reduce the tax burden that they face as well.

“I think the third key priority is public services. The relationship between the state and the citizen works on the basis that all citizens pay some tax to the Government, even if they’re not working, and in return they expect the state to deliver good services, access to housing, access to healthcare, good disability services, home care services.”

Summer Economic Statement

He said the summer economic statement will be brought to Government on Monday, which will set out the resources available for the Budget.

It comes as Fianna Fail members are to hold a special party meeting on Friday to discuss the Budget and measures to address the cost of living.

“It is a very good opportunity for myself and the other Fianna Fail ministers and our Taoiseach to listen to our colleagues across the parliamentary party,” the minister added.

“This will be a policy-focused discussion with an emphasis on the Budget as you would expect, and I believe that there will be a number of key priorities emerging from that meeting that are very much in line with my own views, the views of the Taoiseach and indeed the Government.”

With reporting by Christina Finn

Press Association
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