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Rises in Republic's state pension and social welfare payments on table for Budget

Among the measures expected to be included in Budget 2022 are a tax package for middle income earners, as well as welfare and pension packages
Cate McCurry, PA

Increases in the state pension and social welfare payments are among some of areas being considered by the Cabinet ahead of next month’s Budget.

Leo Varadkar pointed out that there has been no rise in the state pension for a number of years, and added that he wants to return to a “norm” in the Budget, where increases are made to the pension and social payments.

Speaking at the Fine Gael think-in in Co Meath, the Tánaiste refused to disclose any figures under consideration.

Among the measures expected to be included in Budget 2022 are a tax package for middle income earners, as well as welfare and pension packages.

Mr Varadkar said there will also be financial aid packages for businesses, particularly sectors that have not yet fully reopened.

He said the costs will be negotiated between now and Budget Day.

“I’m not going to mention any numbers because I imagine both Heather (Humphreys) and Michael (McGrath) would string me up if I did, but that’s going have to be negotiated between now and Budget Day,” the Fine Gael leader said.

“But the reason why Fine Gael is calling for that pension welfare package to be in the Budget is because there hasn’t been an increase in the state pension now for a number of years, hasn’t been increased with the basic weekly payments.

“I think it was acceptable at a time when the cost of living wasn’t rising; it now is – we’ve seen a return to inflation.

“Anyone who pulls into the petrol station, anyone who goes to supermarket will tell you that the cost of living is rising again.

“There are a number of priorities for the Budget. One obviously is to reduce the deficit, which we need to do, but not too quickly.”

He also said there will be additional investments in public services and infrastructure.

“We’re not going to put any figures out at this stage,” he added.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the government plans to significantly reduce borrowing over the next two budgets.

The minister said he will make "tough decisions" over its emergency expenditure programmes, like the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), to reduce emergency borrowing.

"Anything that is going to be delivered on Budget day will be absolutely in line with the promises that were outlined in the summer economic statement. It envisages a very steep reduction in our borrowing between this year and next year, followed by another reduction in borrowing the year after that," Mr Donohoe said.

"I'm well aware of the high level of debt that we have. I'm really aware about the need to get our public finances back to a safe place.

"It will be affordable and will all be inside the context of reducing borrowing and getting our borrowing down to below the level at which we're paying for investing in our future in less than two years' time."

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys also said she is "very aware" there has not been an increase in social welfare payments in the last two years.

"I'm also very conscious that the cost of living is going up, so all of these issues will be taken into consideration when I'm doing my budget negotiations, and of course I will be discussing those with the Minister for Public Expenditure (Michael McGrath)," she added.

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