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Expect a debate on the cost of living for a long time to come

Inside Politics: Plans finalised today on alleviating impact of inflation and energy costs

The Government has spent a week seeking to play down expectations about what might be in a package of measures to help households struggling with the cost-of-living.

Whatever emerges from this afternoon’s meeting of senior Ministers aimed at signing off on the plan, don’t expect the Opposition to offer the Coalition too much credit.

As Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said earlier this week of the Government's efforts to dampen expectations: "I think they've already told us that whatever it is we're going to be disappointed."

And that’s the dilemma the Government faces today as it finalises plans aimed at alleviating the impact of inflation and spiralling energy costs, particularly on the lowest income households.

It wants to make a noticeable impact on the pressure on households in a way that avoids fuelling inflation further and without the need for a national mini-budget.

As Jennifer Bray and Jack Horgan-Jones report today, deliberations on what to do are coming down to €450 million package, the majority of which will be comprised of an increase in the planned household energy credit from €100 to €150 or €200.

Doubling the credit would cost €400 million.

The Cabinet committee on economic recovery is also expected to look at bringing forward a planned increase in the working family payment brought forward.

Officials were also weighing up a longer fuel allowance season – which is already due to run until April, but no decision has been made.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that new measures to be introduced this week to tackle the rising cost of living would not be reserved for the unemployed and those on low incomes.

“It is important to acknowledge that middle-income people – those who on paper may have average salaries of €40-50,000 – are also struggling to pay the bills, because often they have to pay mortgages, childcare, all those things,” said Mr Varadkar.

It remains to be seen if support for middle-income workers will go beyond the universal energy credit cutting electricity bills.

Expect the Opposition to slate whatever is decided at this afternoon’s meeting of senior Ministers.

Among its demands include increases to the minimum wage, VAT cuts on fuel (which the Government has ruled out for fear of losing Ireland’s derogation for the existing lower VAT rate permanently), cuts to rent and a ban on increases and scrapping of a planned increase in carbon tax.

Expect the Government to point to the global nature of the cost-of-living crisis and efforts it has already made to support incomes – everything from more than €1 billion in tax cuts and social welfare increases in last year’s budget to waiving fees for the Leaving and Junior Certificates – as it unveils the additional measures.

And expect politicians and households to be talking about the cost-of-living crisis for a long time to come.

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Playbook

The Dáil kicks off with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar taking parliamentary questions at 9am followed by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue at 10.30.

Leaders’ Questions is at noon.

Amongst Government business in the afternoon is the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022.

Topical issues is at 7.12pm.

And there’s a debate on proposals to allow remote parliamentary voting at 8pm.

The Seanad will debate the cross party Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill 2021 at 1.15pm aimed at protecting unencumbered access to facilities providing abortions.

National Broadband Ireland are at the Public Accounts Committee at 9.30am. Jack Horgan-Jones has a preview here.

The full Dáil, Seanad and Committee schedule can be found here, here and here.

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