The Government will indicate in the coming weeks which cost of living supports can be continued, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
Mr Varadkar said not all of the Government’s measures, which are due to expire at the end of February, can be continued but promised there would not be a “cliff edge”.
The Taoiseach was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Wednesday, who said the cost of living crisis “hasn’t gone away” and for many households “the situation is in fact getting worse”.
Ms McDonald said people are making hard decisions “just to make it to the end of the week” and that the European Central Bank (ECB) was set to hike interest rates for the fifth time next week.
The Dublin Central TD pointed out that the reduced VAT rate for gas and electricity comes to an end by the end of February as well as the reduced rate of excise duty for petrol, diesel and home heating oil and the ban on energy disconnections. She said four weeks later the moratorium on evictions runs out, adding “this presents the perfect storm waiting to happen for workers and families”.
The Sinn Féin leader said households needed clarity and certainty about what was going to happen next while also calling for the introduction of “a targeted, tailored and time-bound mortgage interest relief for struggling mortgage holders”.
In response, the Taoiseach said the cost of living crisis was an issue that was “very much” coming up on the doors and that while incomes were rising in Ireland, the cost of living was “rising faster”.
“What that means in real time is that a lot of people, if not most people, are worse off this year than they were last year as a consequence of that,” he said. “We are seeing inflation slowing, it is not as high as it was a few months ago but there is a big difference between inflation slowing down and prices going down. It’s just that prices are going up less fast than they were earlier and that’s not a good situation to be in.”
The Fine Gael leader pointed to a number of measures introduced by the Government including reducing the cost of childcare, increasing the pension and social welfare payments as well as the reduction of income taxes.
He said the €500 rent tax credit was available to hundreds of thousands of renters and that “a lot of people have not applied for that and we would really encourage them to do so”.
Mr Varadkar said a number of measures would end at the end of February and that the Government would “not be able to continue everything”.
“We just don’t have the resources to do so,” he said. “But there isn’t going to be a cliff edge, and what will happen over the course of the next few weeks is the relevant ministers will sit down with the Minister for Public Expenditure and the Minister for Finance and we will work out which measures we can continue and which ones we can’t.
“We will try to do that as quickly as possible in the next couple of weeks so that people have certainty long before the end of February and that’s the work that we’re doing at the moment.”