€5 pension hike 'to win back the grey vote for FG' in Budget 2017
Published 24/09/2016 | 02:30
The old age pension will be increased by up to €5, while hikes in the fuel allowance and the living alone allowance are also expected to be introduced in Budget 2017.
The Budget will include a suite of measures aimed at winning back the grey vote, Fine Gael ministers have confirmed.
The Government is set to announce plans for a €100m homecare package in a move sources say will significantly ease the pressures on the country's hospitals.
The Christmas bonus will also be paid again in December and kept at the same rate.
And cuts in the prescription charges will take effect next year for the over-70s, the Irish Independent has learned.
Independent Alliance Minister Finian McGrath is also seeking substantial funding increases for older people and those with disabilities.
"We are pushing senior citizen issues and we are pushing disability issues. We haven't had our final meeting with Paschal Donohoe yet but those are areas we are looking at," an Independent Alliance source said.
However, there are growing tensions within Government circles this weekend over Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar's demands for a €5 increase in the old age pension.
Increasing the old age pension by €5 would cost over €80m next year.
Some Cabinet sources say they are concerned that if such an increase is delivered, it will kick their demands into touch.
With a substantial amount of the €660m in spending available going towards health, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe may limit the increase to just €3.
However, Mr Varadkar is facing a major dilemma because Fianna Fáil has sought the full €5 next year.
One Cabinet source last night pointed to the backlash the Fine Gael/Labour Party government received last year after the then Social Protection Minister Joan Burton opted for a €3 increase.
"It (the pension) is the subject of tensions. There is the view that if you do anything less than a €5 increase, it's going to go down like a lead balloon," the minister told the Irish Independent.
But last night, Fianna Fáil's Social Protection spokesperson Willie O'Dea said his party would not accept anything less than a €5 hike.
"It should be at least €5 - in fact, anything less would not be realistic," the Limerick TD said.
However, prominent Fine Gael backbencher John Deasy hit out at the focus surrounding appeasing pensioners.
The Waterford TD said the focus should be on tax cuts for the squeezed middle.
"These are the people that deserve a break in particular," Mr Deasy said.
Meanwhile, further meetings will take place between ministers and Fianna Fáil's front bench spokespeople next week as the Budget process intensifies.
Fianna Fáil sources say they have not yet finalised their Budget plans and that talks that have taken place to date have been "business-like" and "professional".
However, there is expectation at senior level in both parties that the issue of the Budget will be at the centre of tensions ahead of October 11.