Welfare cuts urged by Howlin’s department in review

Law Reform Commission’s abolition was also suggested in review

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin: his department argued there was merit in the options for cuts drawn up by line departments before the budget. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin: his department argued there was merit in the options for cuts drawn up by line departments before the budget. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform backed radical cuts to social welfare payments, suggested the abolition of the Law Reform Commission should be explored and urged increases in the plastic bag levy as part of the Government’s recent review of State expenditure.

As part of the review Government departments were asked to set out options for living within set spending ceilings and, separately, to say how they would operate with a further 5 per cent budget cut.

Many departments said additional cuts could not be made and pitched instead for significant funding increases. Others, particularly the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Health, set out a range of options for cuts but stressed that they were by no means supporting these measures.

In a number of cases the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, where the Minister is Labour’s Brendan Howlin, argued there was merit in the options for cuts drawn up by line departments.

Threat removed

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the Department of Social Protection had set out no options for reform of illness or disability payments, but believed there was scope for changes “such as time limiting invalidity pension and shortening the duration of illness benefit”.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform also said it considered there was merit in an option for abolishing the free TV licence scheme for new and existing recipients, which will cost €54.2 million this year.

“The introduction of the household broadcasting charge in January 2015 may provide the context for abolition – effectively transferring the cost from the state to individuals concerned. So doing should minimise any funding impact on RTÉ”, it said in its commentary on an option put forward by the Department of Social Protection.

It also said there was merit from a labour market activation perspective to an option for discontinuing entitlement to fuel allowance for new and existing long-term jobseeker’s allowance recipients.

It also suggested that “moving toward a more targeted form of child income support provides the greatest scope for long-term savings in this area”.

Bag levy

It also urged an increase from 22 cent to 25 cent in the levy on plastic bags.

Meanwhile, the official spending review papers also show the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had maintained that “to date no financial provision has been made within the multi-annual budget framework for the number of large financial trials which will take place in the period 2015-2017”.

The official papers also reveal that the State’s bill for compensating people who contracted hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood products could potentially reach €2.316 billion.

The Department of Health submission stated: “This actuarial forecast predicts that two thirds of future expenditure will go on awards made to the never-infected relatives of infected people, with only one third going on awards to those who were infected. According to this projection, as much money will eventually be spent on awards to never-infected relatives as to infected people.”

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