Saturday 16 December 2017

Labour unhappy with detail in finance briefings

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

LABOUR last night refused to detail exactly what it wants from Department of Finance briefings -- even as it criticised the information it is getting from officials.

Finance spokesperson Joan Burton accused the Government of not providing the information it used to reach the conclusion that €15bn in cuts and taxes is needed to reduce the deficit to 3pc by 2014.

She said the Opposition needed the Government's growth forecasts -- but Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said the €15bn was based on average annual growth of 2.75pc over the next four years.

A Labour spokesman -- who could not outline exactly what the party wanted from its meetings with finance officials -- later described this as a "guesstimate" and said growth and employment figures are needed for next year. Labour and Fine Gael also refused to say if they agree with the €15bn outlined by the Government.


Both parties, as well as Sinn Fein, held further briefings with finance officials yesterday. Sources said the briefings focussed on tax and spending -- such as on public sector wages, health and social welfare -- but no new information had been provided.

FG's Michael Noonan said department officials were being "very open" in briefing him but Labour now says it wants to see "the template" for the Government's four-year plan to bring the deficit down.

"We don't know what level of detail it will contain, or how it will be presented," Ms Burton said. "Not only are they withholding the template, but they are also withholding other basic economic information from the public and the opposition parties."

But a spokesman could not give any specifics when pressed on exactly what the Labour Party is looking for from its briefings from senior finance officials.

Ms Burton also refused to give an "off the cuff" figure for the amount of spending she would cut next year.

Mr Noonan said he is looking for detail on the impact of various growth forecasts on the deficit and the effects different approaches to tax and spending would have on employment and growth.

A spokesman said the party is not ruling out the €15bn figure and said it may end up accepting it "if it tallies with our own calculations".

Irish Independent

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