By Cate McCurry, PA
The Tánaiste said he does not know how high energy bills will reach nor how long the crisis will last, but has pledged to help bring down bills through a range of budget measures.
Leo Varadkar said the Government will increase take-home pay, slash tax for working people, particularly middle income earners, and reduce the cost of childcare and energy bills.
Mr Varadkar made the comments as he attended the National Ploughing Championship in Ratheniska, Co Laois.
Government departments are finalising the key details of next week’s budget amid the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.
The budget is set to be announced on Tuesday in two parts, and will include a number of one-off measures to tackle the rising cost of living. The total cost of the package is to reach around €6.7 billion.
Mr Varadkar said the Government wants to help with the three elements of a household budget.
“One is how much you get paid, second is how much you get to keep after tax, and the third is how far does the money go,” Mr Varadkar said.
“We want to help with all three. So when it comes to how much you get paid, we’re supporting pay increases, the increase in the minimum wage, increases in public sector pay, increases in things like pensions and weekly welfare payments as well.
“The second is tax, and we want to reduce tax for working people, particularly those on middle incomes who pay a lot of tax at the moment, and the third is reducing the cost of things.
“That includes the energy credit. I hope it includes some measures to bring down the cost of childcare and the cost of putting a child through college for example.
“Also, the cost of rents which are disproportionately high in Ireland. So I think if we can help out in all three of those areas it will make a real difference for people.”
The Fine Gael leader added: “I’d love to be in a position to say to people that energy bills will be what they were last year. I’d love to make that promise, I can’t make that promise.
“We just don’t know how high energy bills are going to go or for how long, but we are going to help.
“One of the things that is going to help is at EU level, a change in the way that electricity bills are calculated and that’s going to take away some of the windfall gains from the generators and use that money to bring down bills.
“I think that will help although it might be a few months before people see that.
“Then the second is what we can do to help people with the bills themselves, offering a discount from those bills and that’s the other element.
“Government is here to help and will help in lots of different ways. I can’t make the commitment that prices will be what they were last year. Nobody can do that unfortunately.”
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said every individual and household can take measures to save energy, however he said he would not get into the details of telling the public how to run their homes.
“But demand of energy production is possible, it’s doable. We’re switching off the lights much more often in the office as well,” Mr Martin said in Ratheniska.
“Very simple things can be done to reduce overall energy use and consumption, with a bit more attention more generally across offices and across to workplaces and in homes.
“But each family would have to look at their own set of circumstances. It’s not about looking at what the other is doing and endeavouring to describe it. It’s giving general guidelines to people and people then will work it out.”
Mr Martin said the country needs to be as innovative as it was during the pandemic.
“We need to be innovative throughout the energy crisis as well and develop practices that reduce demand and reduce consumption and usage of energy,” he added.
“Many, many companies are doing that, and we’ll be doing that.
“I’ve met with retailers, for example, and some of the major companies are providing grants.
“There are things we can do in terms of maintaining production, but also reducing costs.”