Thursday 23 February 2017

Kenny hopes €25 pension hike will lure 'grey vote'

Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The key element of FG’s ‘elderly package’ would be an annual €5 increase in the State pension until 2021. Photo:Depositphotos
The key element of FG’s ‘elderly package’ would be an annual €5 increase in the State pension until 2021. Photo:Depositphotos

Fine Gael will attempt to win the 'grey vote' with a package of promises that includes an extra €25 on the pension, a reduction in prescription charges and a 20pc increase in home help hours.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will today announce a series of measures costing €870m, which will be the party's second-biggest election commitment after the abolition of the Universal Social Charge (USC).

Sources told the Irish Independent the key element of FG's 'elderly package' would be an annual €5 increase in the State pension until 2021.

This matches the promise already made by Tánaiste Joan Burton on behalf of the Labour Party.

If fulfilled, it would result in the contributory State pension rising to €258.30 a week while the non-contributory pension would reach €247 a week.

Pensioners are considered a key demographic among all the parties as they are the mostly likely cohort to actually vote on polling day.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to say today that part of Fine Gael's 'Long Term Economic Plan' is to maintain the pension at around 35pc of the average income.

He will set aside €2.2m for additional home help hours which would result in a 20pc increase in hours by 2021.

The party also plans to reduce the maximum that can be paid by a single household for prescription medicine in a month from €25 to €17.50.

Mr Kenny will make the announcement today alongside Arts Minister Heather Humphreys during a visit to the Avalon Active Age Centre in Sligo.

He is expected to say that he wants "people's older years to be better years".

During a speech in Dublin he will also attack Fianna Fáil's record in the area, pointing out that Micheál Martin's party promised to raise the pension to €300 during the 2007 election.

Instead, he will say, by 2009 they had cut the Christmas bonus - and he will cite this to argue that they have no credibility.

Mr Kenny will also say he wants older people to be confident their State entitlements are "safeguarded".

The outgoing Government announced a €3 increase to the pension in Budget 2016 but it was badly received in some quarters with advocacy groups claiming it was an attempt to buy votes.

Fianna Fáil has said if it is in the next government it would seek to raise the pension by €30 a week and the Living Alone Allowance to €15.

In its manifesto, which was launched yesterday, Sinn Féin did not commit to increasing the State pension. It is promising extra funds for the fuel and telephone allowances.

Irish Independent

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