Cuts in welfare to be part of next budget

 

CUTS IN social welfare spending will form part of the budget, according to Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore.

Mr Gilmore reiterated the commitment of the Government to reducing the budget deficit next year in line with the EU-IMF programme and said the targets would be met.

Speaking in advance of today’s annual gathering of the Labour parliamentary party he emphasised the unity of the Coalition parties in facing the economic crisis.

Mr Gilmore said he was under no illusions about the difficult decisions that would have to be made, but he said Ministers were clear in their heads about what they were doing and that was leading a process of recovery.

“We are now heading into the period for the budget of 2012. That is going to be difficult. We have committed to getting the deficit down to 8.6 per cent in 2012 and we will stick to that target.”

Mr Gilmore said that would involve significant reductions in public expenditure, along with increases in revenue and a widening of the tax base.

“That is going to be a difficult job we are going to have to do between now and budget day but we are committed to doing it.”

On the issue of welfare cuts, he said there was no avoiding the fact that welfare expenditure had to be reduced. Asked about his commitment in June not to cut welfare rates, the Tánaiste said that what he was doing at the time was repeating what was in the programme for government.

“Sometimes these things are often misinterpreted. There is no doubt that social welfare expenditure has to come down. Joan Burton has already done a huge amount of work on addressing the area of welfare fraud and overclaiming.

“She gave the Government a briefing on that last Tuesday on the very significant progress she is making on it. In addition to that there is the whole welfare reform agenda that is being pursued. Expenditure has to come down. There is no doubt about that. That will be done,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said that the programme for government would be honoured but he added that people had to be sensible about how it was done. He said that in its first six months in office, the Government had made considerable progress in dealing with the economic crisis.

“It is also fair to say that we have managed to secure a very significant restoration of the country’s reputation,” added Mr Gilmore, who pointed to the international media coverage of Ireland and the fact that Irish bond spreads had come down significantly.

“We have a lot more to do yet but I think there are grounds for considerable optimism now for the country. The reputation is greatly improved. We are seeing results for decisions we have taken earlier in the year.”