Cabinet colleague criticises Burton's PRSI plan


A FINE GAEL Cabinet member has criticised Labour Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton’s proposal to increase PRSI contributions, which was defended by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at the weekend.

The senior Minister, speaking on the basis of anonymity, said the Government had already agreed Ms Burton’s department should reduce its spending by €600 million in 2012. The comments indicate friction between the Coalition partners on budgetary matters.

“To the man on the street, a PRSI increase is the same as an increase in income tax. The Government has agreed that spending in social protection has to be reduced by €600 million next year,” the Minister said.

“It’s simply not credible to try and pass off a PRSI increase as a spending cut.”

Other Fine Gael figures indicated they were heeding the advice of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who last week warned colleagues about making “solo runs” in their public pronouncements. Minister of State for Small Business John Perry said he had no comment.

Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes said Ms Burton’s comments related to her area of responsibility but the Government had learned from mistakes ahead of its first budget. Discussions should take place “in private around the Cabinet table”, he told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

Fine Gael backbencher Mary Mitchell O’Connor said: “The Taoiseach has asked us not to be discussing budget details in public, and that’s what I’d try to do.”

In her speech at the weekend Ms Burton warned initial drafts of the actuarial review of the social insurance fund showed a significant shortfall of about €1.5 billion. Mr Gilmore said Ms Burton was right to draw attention to the shortfall.

Chambers of commerce umbrella body Chambers Ireland and the Construction Industry Federation were among the groups that objected to Ms Burton’s proposal.