Sunday 26 January 2020

Ministers asked by Howlin to find extra savings

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Brendan Howlin is going to Cabinet colleagues with his begging bowl asking them for extra funds from their departments.

The Public Spending Minister is trying to scrape together more savings to ease the burden of health and social welfare cuts.

The minister is asking a number of ministers in other departments if they can raise any more funds in their area to supplement their budget allocation.

During one-to-one meetings with colleagues this week and last week, Mr Howlin asked if there were any more services they could charge for.

The minister is understood to be asking Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, Environment Minister Phil Hogan, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan to look at areas under their remit.

Anything raised would then be used to supplement their budget and the savings would be used by Mr Howlin to reduce the cuts in health and social welfare.

"He's finding it harder to get the savings this year. Let's say he got €100m between five ministers. He'd be able to use that to cover the pressure points," a government source said.

With department budgets already being squeezed, Mr Howlin didn't get a hugely warm response to his suggestion.

But he may have no choice but to go back to some ministers again and tell them he is cutting their allocations by even more – and leave them to make up the gap.

Budget 2013 will see €3.5bn in extra taxes and spending cuts.


Meanwhile, the country's representative body for employers said proposals on statutory sick pay would damage jobs and growth.

IBEC spoke of plans to shift the burden of paying sick staff from the taxpayer to employers for the first weeks of sickness.

The group's director of human resources, Brendan McGinty, said the move would make Ireland less attractive to do business.

"Everybody agrees, I think, that jobs should be the number one priority and clearly the message needs to go out that such a move to introduce statutory sick pay, which has been mooted, would increase labour costs and reduce the capacity of those companies that we're relying on to maintain and create jobs," he said.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said no decision had been taken, but she wanted to see a situation where sick pay was well managed and targeted to those who needed it.

Irish Independent

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