Friday 24 January 2020

Labour uses fall in jobless to win deal on Budget

Joan Burton, T.D., Minister for Social Protection
Joan Burton, T.D., Minister for Social Protection

Fionnan Sheahan and Michael Brennan

THE Labour Party is using a drop in unemployment figures, and the public finances being on target, to seek greater concessions in the Budget negotiations.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore badly needs a strong Budget deal to calm nerves in his party, but Fine Gael continues to hold a firm line and stresses that there is not a lot of leeway.

FG is also insisting any available funds have to go towards job creation – not reducing the level of spending cuts.

Live Register figures to be released this morning will show a significant drop in unemployment of 20,600 over the past year.

The figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) are a continuation of a downward trend over the past 15 months.

TARGET

The Exchequer returns for the first three quarters of the year also show taxes and spending largely on target.

Labour ministers are arguing the figures show there is grounds to ease off on austerity next year as the economy will still meet the deficit reduction targets. "The figures are on trend and doing well," a source said.

However, FG is showing no signs of giving in to Labour demands for a substantial reduction in the level of cuts and taxes in the Budget.

The mini-Cabinet will meet this morning and discussions on reducing the Budget adjustment from €3.1bn are expected to dominate proceedings.

The Economic Management Council is made up of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Gilmore, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin.

Senior FG figures say the figures will "provide some leeway" in the Budget. "We need to deliver a primary surplus next year to ensure a successful exit from the bailout.

"But there's enough leeway to finance a package of measures to stimulate fast growth in jobs, with a particular focus on small businesses and the construction sector," a source said.

ADJUSTMENT

Labour TDs continue to demand the adjustment be reduced from €3.1bn to €2.5bn, but this is well below FG's expectations. "I'm surprised to see the €2.5bn figure still being mentioned," a source said.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton (pictured) briefed the Cabinet about the latest drop in the Live Register figures yesterday. The number dropped by 1,800 last month. It is the fifteenth month in a row that there has been a decrease, but the overall numbers of unemployed remain above 400,000.

The official CSO figures will show that over the past 12 months, the number on the Live Register has dropped by about 20,000.

However, analysts have warned that emigration is playing a role in the drop as many young people are leaving the country to find work.

The CSO figures will show that there are 408,000 people on the Live Register at the end of September.

Irish Independent

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