Fine Gael rules out support for rescue strategy
FINE Gael last night ruled out a replay of the 1980s Tallaght Strategy which saw it support the Government on planned financial measures during a worsening economic climate.
Party leader Enda Kenny categorically stated "there will be no Tallaght Strategy", and instead accused Taoiseach Brian Cowen of failing to deal with a "bloated and inefficient" public service.
As the Government begins the process of devising the early October Budget, Mr Kenny said there was an onus on the Government to publish the full list of agencies which were now deemed irrelevant and could be amalgamated in a bid to save taxpayers' money.
Mr Kenny's claim that the Government remains in "denial" about the state of the economy came amid reports that the Government was drawing up plans for a state-sponsored fund to help low- and middle-income earners overcome the current downturn and buy a house.
It is understood that any reductions in stamp duty or a reintroduction of the first-time buyers' grant has been ruled out, as has the possibility of raising income taxes in a bid to boost revenue.
This week, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is expected to begin the toughest round of pre-Budget meetings with ministers in over two decades.
He will aim to advise them on their future spending power and the percentage in cuts required across each department so that there is enough money in the coffers to fund the social welfare costs resulting from rising unemployment.
Although he welcomed the Government's decision to announce an early Budget, Mr Kenny added that it was being introduced because it had been "forced on this Government".
"The Government is in denial of the state of our economy," he told RTE's 'This Week' programme.
"Corrective action should have been taken. Fine Gael's proposals were treated with contempt. We published a whole list of proposals and they were described by Fianna Fail as being vacuous."
He described as "absolutely scandalous" the decision of the Government to inject a "hundred thousand million" into the public service without anything in return.
Mr Kenny said his party would have, if elected to govern, taken a political decision five years ago to reform the public service, and that money spent on projects such as the failed Ppars pay system for the health service, and the €60m spent on the failed electronic voting system would not have happened.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore last night claimed that the Government had only offered "knee-jerk reactions" rather than a detailed economic plan.
"It's time to get real about the real economy. We need an economic plan -- a strategy for stabilisation and recovery in the real economy, not just in the public finances.
"Thus far, economic commentary has been dominated by the old knee-jerk reaction -- economy in downturn, let's cut public spending," he said.
"As the recession has deepened, as layoffs have mounted, and, crucially, as the prospects for next year worsen, it is vital that the Government now comes forward with a recovery strategy."
He cited the need to avoid the emergence of a new group of long-term unemployed and to create new opportunities for the construction industry through building schools.