November election looms as Kenny to reveal key pledge

Radical welfare changes on payments to benefit working families, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton at the opening of the Workday offices in Smithfield on Wednesday. Photograph: Rollingnews.ie

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton at the opening of the Workday offices in Smithfield on Wednesday. Photograph: Rollingnews.ie

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who is leaning strongly towards calling a November general election, will tonight unveil a key element of Fine Gael’s manifesto by pledging no one will receive more in welfare payments than they could earn at work.

Mr Kenny’s decision to announce the “working family payment” plan at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce annual dinner will further fuel speculation he intends to call a general election shortly after the budget.

It means a November election is now very much on the cards but the precise date will depend on the timetable for getting the Finance Bill and the Social Welfare Bill through the Dáil.

Officials in the Department of Finance have already been told to draw up a slimmed down version of the Finance Bill giving effect to the budget changes that can be passed quickly through the Dáil.

Speech

In his speech tonight Mr Kenny will pledge to change the welfare system to ensure people at work can be sure of being better off than if they were on welfare. A similar commitment was included in the British Conservative Party’s successful general election platform earlier this year.

A new “working family payment” will be aimed in particular at families with one or more children.

Mr Kenny will outline how it will be targeted at low-income families by supplementing, on a graduated basis, the income of a household while at the same time incentivising more hours and full-time work.

A key feature of the payment will be to better align it with existing jobseeker supports aimed at creating a seamless transition from welfare to work for families while removing many of the welfare traps facing families with existing schemes such as the family income supplement.

The Taoiseach will outline why, in his opinion, such a scheme is needed.

“It is clear that the lack of a job in Ireland is by far and away the leading cause of inequality in our society. There are still far too many traps that lock parents in particular into welfare dependency. In many cases for couples with children work simply does not pay.

Radical approach

“This is why the next government needs to adopt a far more radical approach if we are to successfully help jobless households back into work.

“For these reasons I expect the theme of radical welfare reform, along with lowering the tax burden on low- and middle-income workers, to make work pay will be a key election issue,” he is due to say.

The Taoiseach will also outline why he believes the next government needs to do more for households trapped in a cycle of poverty in which nobody is working. He will claim the “working family payment” will be the helping hand up on to the career ladder for many unemployed parents.

Tánaiste Joan Burton is strongly opposed to an early election. A meeting of the parliamentary Labour party last night heard a “unanimous” preference from TDs and Senators for an election next spring.

At the meeting, Ms Burton repeated her position that the election should be held next year. TDs and Senators told the meeting it was imperative the banking inquiry complete its work and the legislation to give effect to public sector pay rises agreement was passed.

“There was a real sense of frustration that there is a feeding frenzy around November,” said one TD.

“It is starting to undermine the image of a unified and coherent Government. There is a real feeling the Taoiseach should come out and talk to Joan. It is starting to look embarrassing to us at this stage.”

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