Noonan fails to rule out cuts in social welfare
Finance Minister Michael Noonan last night repeatedly declined to rule out social welfare cuts in next month's Budget.
Mr Noonan pledged the Budget would be tough but fair as he outlined how €1.45bn would be cut from day-to-day spending next year.
"These cuts are real. One person's cut is another person's public service. We're not making light of this. This Budget is going to be hard on people," he said.
The Coalition parties made a firm promise in the Programme for Government not to cut social welfare rates: "We will maintain social welfare rates."
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has reiterated this promise on a number of occasions and Taoiseach Enda Kenny has also said the commitment remains.
Although he stood by the commitment not to increase income tax, Mr Noonan would not be drawn on the status of the pledge.
"I can't get into that until Budget day," he said.
Mr Noonan said Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin would outline details of cuts and reforms in the run up to the Budget.
Mr Howlin wasn't at the publication of the four-year budgetary plan yesterday, but Mr Noonan said he was speaking for both of them.
The review of spending by departments is expected to generate some of the cuts required next year and some of these savings will also carry over into the following years.
Mr Noonan said some of the measures, such as payroll reductions, will have a low impact in 2012 but would yield bigger savings over the following years.
SIPTU president Jack O'Connor said the balance between cuts and tax hikes was an improvement on the previous government.
But he added that it does not sufficiently transfer the burden to those most in a position to pay.
"There is more scope for taxing the rich while the reductions in public expenditure should be implemented in such a way that the wealthier sections of society carry more of the burden," he said.
"Essentially there is a need for a strategy that involves investment for jobs and growth without compromising the national finances."